Educational Privilege – How the Playing Field is Levelled at Sunway Education Group

The United Nation’s 4th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 4) on Quality Education emphasizes inclusion and equity as foundational elements of education policies. Malaysia’s multicultural, multilinguistic environment, require visionary policymakers and industry leaders to lead the way. How is Malaysia faring?

The United Nation’s 4th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 4) on Quality Education emphasizes inclusion and equity as foundational elements of education policies. Malaysia’s multicultural, multilinguistic environment, require visionary policymakers and industry leaders to lead the way. How is Malaysia faring? According to the World Population Review, Malaysia’s literacy rate stands proudly at 93.70% as of 2021, well above the global average of 78.46%. Hence, Malaysia is doing well on SDG 4 Indicator 4.1.1 by achieving minimum proficiency in literacy.

Apart from literacy, SDG 4 also focuses on ensuring equal access for all to affordable education. In Target 4.3, the aim is to improve participation rates of youth and adults in formal and non-formal education, including technical, vocational and at the university level. To this end, the Sunway Education Group and the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation has risen to address accessibility in both technical and tertiary education. Tan Sri Dr Jeffrey Cheah (pictured below), Founder and Chairman of Sunway Group and the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, not only embodies the firm belief of equal education opportunities, but actively proves that generous philanthropic contributions can provide generations with intellectual independence and brighter futures.

By providing scholarships to thousands of deserving students regardless of race, socio-economic background or gender, the Jeffrey Cheah Foundation continues to set an example of philanthropy’s potential in shaping an inclusive and affordable education. It is with these efforts that lives are provided with better opportunities, which will pave the way forwards for families out of difficult circumstances.

Another accessible and inclusive education example championed by Sunway Education Group is 42KL, a computer programming school by Sunway iLabs. Launched during the pandemic, 42KL offers tuition-free, industry-standard educational opportunities, regardless of students prior socioeconomic and educational backgrounds. The model is premised on an innovative project-based approach with modules set by the French coding school École 42. Students, without teachers, are placed within a learning environment where their passion and grit are key ingredients to work-readiness.

It is also worth mentioning given the current global pandemic, that despite financial difficulties and impacted motivation levels, half of the inaugural batch of 450 students selected to go through the Piscine (on-site assessment) from the original 3,000 applicants, remained committed to taking the final exam this year. The intensity of the 4-week program not only demanded a commitment of almost 10 hours a day, but also the desire, hunger and passion to pursue excellence. In the hope-stricken pandemic era, it is most inspiring to witness students’ commitment to education. This equal opportunity approach within the Sunway’s 42KL to meet technological demands of the future workplace shows that with the right set up, students can acquire the right skillset and graduate to lead Malaysia’s digital future.

At Sunway University, a Smart Sustainable Campus Committee comprised of academics, administrators and student representatives advocate for greater embedding of sustainability within the university’s core operations and educational delivery. Universities too must play a role in pivoting technical expertise and supporting the government in realising the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Part of this committee’s considerations is ensuring student services and campus resources remain accessible for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

As the world struggles to build forward better, society’s leaders must continue to stay mindful of the degree of both inclusion and equity in education. An excellent way to carry this forward is personal contribution to events that represent the creation of the future we want. It is imperative that those with educational and socioeconomic privilege make the most of it by helping others to gain skills and opportunities.