GAINING knowledge solely for the sake of wealth or personal gain is a folly that many get tangled in. They think that they have reached the pinnacle of success once they land a good job and get a fancy title, says educationist Datuk Dr Paul Chan.
“However, the truth is all this is trivial, and if you do not make an impact on society’s well being, then you are living a life of insignificance,” says Dr Chan.
“A student should keep in mind that being significant, counting for something in society, and being a thought leader is the goal of higher education.
A model of the university’s campus in Subang 2, which is expected to be complete by 2013. — File photo
“I am a firm believer that it is not enough to teach a student the relevant skills in his or her field, while neglecting human values and ethics,” shares Dr Chan.
He co-founded HELP with his wife Datin Chan-Low Kam Yoke in 1986.
Malaysia now has 26 private varsities with HELP University College being accorded university status.
Teaching is a noble profession and every student is unique. There is no such thing as a bad student ... what the student needs is perhaps a different teaching approach. – DATUK DR PAUL CHAN
With the upgrade, HELP – an acronym for Higher Education Learning Philosophy – will now be known as HELP University.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin presented the letter to Dr Chan inviting the institution to be upgraded to university status last week.
He says the timing of the move was apt as HELP had enhanced access to higher education for more than 25 years.
“This is more than an issue of providing seats and placement for students to study.
“Looking at things in a broader sense, it also means innovatively introducing new programmes to meet the current demands of industries and the labour market,” he says.
HELP has around 10,000 students from 80 countries.
“I was once puzzled why the varsity named itself HELP but the branding is apt as the varsity is ‘helping’ in every sense; helping the people and the country by providing affordable education,” he says.
Congratulating the university, Mohamed Khaled says that the varsity had also contributed immensely through its corporate social responsibility initiatives.
After 25 years of providing Malaysians with easy access to education, the varsity recognises the importance of values and ethics, says Dr Chan.
He says the moral compass of an individual determines his deeds and contributions to society, and a healthy compass always points in the right direction.
The varsity strives to inculcate its students and graduates with its philosophy so that that they become an integral part of society.
“In our globalised world we must look at the big picture and our students must contribute to solving problems,” adds Dr Chan.
“The campus should serve as the grounds to cultivate, develop and nurture alternative ideas.
“It should be a source of innovation and inspiration.
“It is our job and responsibility as a university to teach students how to reason and think critically,” says Dr Chan.
With a new road map to the future, the varsity should forge on despite the challenges and give its best to the students.
Dr Chan wants the varsity’s staff to be passionate about whatever tasks they take on.
He is also aware that hiring faculty staff is more than just looking at a prospective employee’s credentials.
In fact, HELP has been hiring academic staff from varsities across the globe including big names such as the University of California, Berkeley, Oxford University, Imperial College London and the Australian National University, of which Dr Chan himself is an alumnus.
“Teaching is a noble profession and every student is unique.
“There is no such thing as a bad student ... what the student needs is perhaps a different teaching approach.
“It is our duty to engage and help them succeed according to their strengths.
“When one chooses to be an educationist, he or she must understand the responsibilities and implications that come with it.”
Dr Chan says that every student has his or her own inclinations and strengths.
“My son did not take up a conventional course, he picked up Japanese Studies which took him to Japan to further his studies.
“A student must be given that freedom to pursue his or her passions and build their talents in that field.
“At the same time, international exposure is also important,” he shares.
Dr Chan has more dreams for the varsity, among which is a plan to ensure that students get overseas exposure.
“We want our students to go abroad and gather the experience they need to mature. As is often said, the world is the real classroom.
“Our programmes will allow our students to spend a year or two overseas in order to achieve this goal,” he adds.
Dr Chan hopes that varsities in the United Kingdom, Singapore and Australia will send their students to Malaysia for exchange programmes.
“Our friendly invitation is an amazing chance for them to gain insights on culture and religion.
“At the same time we gain in the field of language and understanding of methods and common practices in their countries,” Dr Chan adds.
HELP University is also embarking on a project to set up a centre for adult learning, a common practice in Australia and the UK.
“The centre will offer flexible courses that can fit into the busy schedules of working adults. It will also be utilising the blended learning method.
“The centre will benefit the university as well as by allowing the working adults to share their knowledge with academic staff and other students,” Dr Chan explains.
Every university needs to have a focus. It needs to have a field in which it can excel and offer the very best courses and produce the best graduates, he says.
One of the biggest and most far-sighted plans in store for HELP University’s future is the establishment of the Elm Business School, he says.
“Elm stands for Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Management. This business school will be tied to the whole framework of the university.
“It will help students and lecturers develop their research finds or products and make them marketable,” he adds.
The school will have many functions apart from its traditional role of teaching and learning, he explains.
One of the first areas of research that Dr Chan wants the university to look into is the proper documentation of Malay entrepreneur success stories.
“Before any research can be done, documentation is the first step.
“I hope we can work with the relevant agencies,” he says.
Dr Chan, who enjoys reading and is a writer himself, is a man of many abbreviations as apart from Elm, he has also coined IIE.
“IIE stands for Integrity, Intelligence and Energy. These are the qualities by which we will be steering HELP University as it sails into new waters.
“We want to be transparent in the things we do.
“Help us to improve, share your ideas and add value to our institution,” says Dr Chan.
HELP’s new green technology campus is in Subang 2 and due to be completed in 2013. It will be a merger between man and nature to produce an environment that is conducive to learning.
“The new campus has been our aspiration for a long time.
“At only 9.3ha, it is rather small, but so are many renowned colleges in the United States,” he adds.
By AMINUDDIN MOHSIN firstname.lastname@example.org Sunday September 18, 2011