A non-profit organisation is determined to get more corporations to make a difference in rural and high-need schools
IT was only three years ago that SK Wira in Kuantan, Pahang, was chosen as one of the primary schools to benefit from a programme to heighten pupils’ interest in Science.
Called Little Einstein, it was aimed at arousing students’ curiosity about Science through experimentation.
It was a big success as the youngsters still remembered the activities they conducted long after the three-month initiative had ended.
Headmistress Norhana Hashim was quoted as saying that many of her pupils harboured ambitions of becoming scientists after undergoing the project — a testament to its efficacy.
Little Einstein was launched under the banner of Beyond Borders, a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative by Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB).
MAHB is one of the 35 corporate organisations which PINTAR Foundation, a non-profit body, has helped match with some 292 rural and high-need schools nationwide in the last five years.
Beyond Borders is an example of a CSR endeavour that has been tailor-made for MAHB with guidance from PINTAR in the early stages.
“We provide members with a credible, ready-made platform for their CSR initiatives in the areas of human capital development. We have done a lot but not many people know about us,” says PINTAR programme director Karimah Tan Abdullah.
PINTAR (short for Promoting Intelligence, Nurturing Talent and Advocating Responsibility) Foundation was established in 2008 with the objective of improving the educational outcomes of Malaysian children in underserved communities, regardless of their location, social background and ethnicity.
The foundation targets schools that perform below 65 per cent in major school examinations.
“We do this because (the underserved) is a segment that no one is focusing on,” says Karimah.
The CSR programmes are developed based on four core modules — motivational and team-building programmes; educational support projects; capability and capacity building; and reducing vulnerabilities and social issues.
“We aspire to raise their educational level and instil good values in the young so that they grow up with the right moral sense even if they end up as blue-collar workers,” she adds.
It appears that PINTAR schemes have had a positive impact on students’ achievement in national examinations as reflected in the performance analysis of PINTAR students’ results in the last three years (see charts).
Some 68.23 per cent of PINTAR pupils from 166 adopted schools passed the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah last year compared to the national pass rate average of 64.93 per cent.
In addition, 1,617 Penilaian Menengah Rendah candidates from 16 PINTAR schools achieved a pass rate of 67.08 per cent.
While this is lower than the national average (69.58 per cent), it is a 5.28 per cent improvement for PINTAR students compared to 2010’s showing.
“Most of the companies involved in this (scheme) chose modules that are designed to improve exam results, mainly because their outcomes are very measurable,” says Karimah.
Besides acting as a consultant to corporations, PINTAR Foundation also runs initiatives that complement the school curriculum in the adopted schools.
The six projects — the English Literacy Programme (ELP), PINTAR Mobile Learning Unit, PINTAR BattleBot Challenge, PINTAR D’Arts Literacy Programme, Basic Life Support Training and PINTAR Go Green School Programme — promote good values and hone communicative, technical and creative skills.
ELP, for instance, seeks to strengthen the teaching and learning of English in schools through teacher training activities, appreciation of art and competitions related to literacy.
Interested companies can sign up to sponsor any of the six ready-made projects in adopted schools of their choice.
The UEM Group, for instance, had adopted 50 PINTAR schools in nine states since April this year under the ELP. The group hopes to develop a pool of 100 English language teachers who will be able to effectively deliver the new primary curriculum to 15,000 pupils.
Besides improved oral and written English language skills, students stand to gain self-confidence and an appreciation of literary texts in English from undergoing ELP.
In PINTAR BattleBot Challenge, students apply their knowledge of Science, Mathematics and Technology to construct a “battle bot” or vehicle made of LEGO pieces.
The battle bots then will compete against other robots on a battleground. The last robot standing wins.
This contest promotes creativity and helps nurture technological talents at a tender age.
As of April this year, 66 participating schools have already competed at the school level challenge, with the zone level expected to start in September.
Karimah believes that more schools can benefit from PINTAR projects if more companies in the private sector champion the cause.
“Most of the corporations supporting PINTAR initiatives are government-linked companies (GLCs). If you look at the number of companies listed on the Bursa Malaysia, only two to three per cent are GLCs. This means that the potential (for more schools to be adopted) is so high. It would be very good if we can get more of them to be aware of what we do,” she says.
She urges companies that feel duty-bound to help the community around them to exploit the tools and network that PINTAR Foundation can offer.
“What is the best investment that a company can make? Education. Education today means human capital for tomorrow, which translates to more workers for (the companies) too. It’s a win-win situation,” says Karimah.