Dr Maszlee Malik (right) greeting the HIP mentors and school principals at the certificates of appreciation award ceremony. (NSTP/AIZUDDIN SAAD.)

WHILE we hear many teachers are leaving the profession, we cannot say the same for Datin Siti Hendon Abdullah Bajrai. At the age of 83, she is still enthusiastic about teaching and learning.

She volunteered to join the Highly Immersive Programme Mentor (HIP Mentor) – a programme by Ministry of Educationto that engage retired English language lecturers or teachers who are willing to assist primary or secondary schools with English language activities on a voluntary basis.

She has also recently graduated from Unitar International University obtaining her Master’s Degree in early childhood education.

Siti Hendon was one of the 28 HIP mentors awarded with certificates of appreciation by Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik at the Perdana Leadership Foundation recently.

The pilot programme was conducted at 27 selected schools in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Sarawak and Sabah from July until September.

“Teaching kids today is not the same as teaching the kids in the 80’s, which is why I want to keep learning and upskill my teaching methodology,” said Siti Hendon who was a mentor at Sekolah Kebangsaan Kampung Tunku, Petaling Jaya.

With decades of experience in teaching English, Siti Hendon believes that reading is key to learning.

Datin Siti Hendon Abdullah Bajrai

“During my sessions, I purposely chose to focus on kids who can’t read. I started by introducing them to nursery rhymes to help the pupils to recognise different rhythms, rhymes and sounds. After that, I started to familiarise them with alphabets then guided reading.

“When I was young, I didn’t have a good command of English as well but, I forced myself to read. With proper instruction and motivation, it is not impossible to attract pupils to learn and love English,” she added.

“It is quite hard to gauge the pupils’ progress in reading within two months’ time. However, I noticed that there is a change in their learning attitude. The kids seem to enjoy English classes more,” she said.

Having retired as a lecturer in her 50’s, mentor Teen Pek Chin, 72, said the reason she joined HIP Mentor programme is because she missed classroom interactions.

“When I first came to know about it, I decided to give it a try. I thought that this would be a refreshing experience. Through this programme, I would like to share my knowledge and experience to the pupils.

“Despite this being my first time teaching in primary school, I find the experience very enlightening. Teaching the kids is not like giving lectures to adults. They are very active and you have to know how to engage them with the lessons.

“I like doing fun activities with the kids. Although some of them struggle to write and read, they love singing along to the songs I played I the classroom. Along the way, I helped them with the pronunciation,” said Teen who volunteered at Sekolah Kebangsaan Perdana Jaya, Selangor.

During the event, Maszlee commended the mentors’ effort serving as volunteers and partnering with schools to create the English language rich environment in the pilot programme.

“The HIP mentors programme epitomises the true passion of educators regardless of age. I am absolutely astonished that our volunteers are of 60 to 83 years old. All of the mentors are exemplary educationists who have proven that age is only a figure.

“The success of the HIP Mentors programme requires the synergy of various stakeholders, working together harmoniously towards a unison goal. The goal is for our Malaysia students to be proficient in English and to communicate confidently using the language.

“Students must be exposed to various types of English language activities and use English during lessons. Immerse students in the language and encourage them to use English in different contexts and situations,” said Maszlee.

HIP was introduced by the Ministry of Education (MoE) in 2016 with the aim to create a highly immersive, language-rich environment that promotes the use of English in school. Through HIP, students are exposed to the English Language through a variety

of activities and have vast opportunities to use the language.

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