DIRECTalk:Hii King Kai: Shaping Holistic Education Planning to set up a technical college

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Mr. Hii King Kai, the new principal of Methodist Pilley Institute (MPI), said that the Institute will adjust its teaching method by adopting a two-way teaching method with the goal that the students will truly learn, rather than unidirectional lecturing.

On the expansion stage, in addition to starting the Finance and Computing courses, the Institute also plans to set up a technical college to offer civil engineering, welding, agriculture, care for the elderly and electronic technology courses.

“In this modern age one cannot just survive on single professional training but need to know a bit of everything. Likewise students need to be equipped in various aspects to meet the needs of society,” added Mr Hii.

How can a village boy who grew up drinking condensed milk and playing by the Seduan River at the age of 17, yet at 46 be promoted to be the Principal of MPI, the institute of higher learning in Sibu? Chief Editor Wong Meng Lei had a face to face meeting with Mr. Hii King Kai. (Q: Wong Meng Lei; A: Hii King Kai)

Q: Mr. Hii, could you introduce yourself in more depth?
A: I am from Ulu Sungei Merah, Sibu. I completed my primary school in SJK Nang Sang and my secondary education in SMK Tiong Hin. I went to Sabah Tshung Tsin Secondary School, Kota Kinabalu to do my A levels after which I went to the United States for further studies.

From 1992 to 1996, I completed my Bachelor in Business Administration and obtained a Master’s degree in marketing, finance and environmental management at the University of Tennessee, U.S. I enrolled in the University of Malaya’s PhD in Educational Leadership in 2014 and am expected to complete my studies by 2018.

I have been teaching in MPI for 15 years and this is my 16th year. I am now 46 years old and married with three kids.

Q: Can you share with us how you completed both Bachelor and Master degrees in only four and a half years?
A: It was not that I am a genius but mainly because I wanted to save on living costs so I worked extra hard to complete the courses in a short time. Actually my school results were not outstanding. Though not easy, life was fulfilling then.

As such I often encourage my students saying that for someone like me that lost out at the starting line, growing up drinking condensed milk and at the age of 17 still swimming in the Seduan River, if I can achieve this, there is no reason for them to fare worse than me.

Q: Tell us your working experiences before joining MPI?
A: I returned to Malaysia in October 1996 and worked for Minebea Co. Ltd., a Japanese company based in Penang. I was the first Malaysian senior marketing executive employed by the company since establishing its branch in Malaysia. I was in charge of the operation and sales.

Later my mother fell sick and my father had a fall that led to bone fracture while taking care of my mother. After much consideration I decided to return to Sibu to take care of my parents.

In September 2000, I joined the UCS, Sibu as the Dean of Student Affairs. I resigned a year later and joined MPI in October 2001 and was also responsible for student affairs. In 2012, I was also put in charge of the Department of Business Management. In 2016 I was promoted to be the Acting Principal.

Q: Why is it that you have a passion for education?
A: Because my father was a teacher. I have two brothers, the eldest brother lives in UK, my second brother is a pastor, so I am the one to inherit my father’s profession.

Another reason is probably that I have a burden for young people since school days. I want to do my best to help them. The education sector is the place where I can get in direct and close contact with the youth. Moreover I can be connected with the latest academic development with which I can help these young people.

With my major, I can teach finance, marketing and environmental science; in addition to teaching, I can also help the students to understand the social and political environment.

Q: How do you look at MPI?
A: MPI is a non-profit body set up to serve the community. MPI’s tuition fees have not been adjusted for many years. The Institute is also a harvest field for gospel works aiming to impart holistic education. In addition to imparting knowledge, MPI is committed in the cultivation of spirituality of the students. The Institute stresses character building and its teaching system contains elements of Christian values. All these are consistent with my educational philosophy. Moreover when I see that the students make changes, I have a great sense of achievement.

Of course I may not be as well-off as some of my friends who earn more money than me. Sometimes I also envy them but we have different purposes in life. I feel so proud when I can affect others with my life experience.

There was a student who did not manage to graduate from MPI. However when I came across him later he expressed gladness for MPI teachers who never gave up on him.

Q: How many students are there in MPI now?
A: At the moment MPI has over 900 students, of which 300 are from outstation among which over 100 stay in the hostel. Almost 70% of the students are Christians. Most of the teachers are Christians with some Catholics.

In every college there are always some students who do not like to study. Currently the biggest problem the students are facing is the mastering of language. The other problem is lacking of positive attitude in their studies. The Institute also imposes a certain dress code for the students. If any student wore unsuitable clothes to class, the student would have to go back and change his/her clothes.

For the boarding students we have a very efficient Warden. He takes good care of the boarders and ensures that all rules are closely followed. He acts tough and talks soft to solve all matters.

Q: I heard that MPI is planning to build new buildings in 2017, can you elaborate on this matter?
A: To upgrade the facilities of MPI, the construction of a new three-storey new classroom block is expected to begin by the second half of 2017. The budgeted construction cost is RM7 million. Upon completion, the Institute will have a library twice as large as the existing one and will have more free space for open classroom.

Q: 2017 is the first year you officially took over as the Principal, do you have any new plans?
A: The Institute will implement a new teaching method which is a two-way teaching method. The goal is for the students to really learn and grasp the essence of the knowledge, rather than unidirectional lecturing. When teaching, the teachers will not only teach according to the needs of the students but also to find out how well the students understand.

Through activities and responses, the teachers can find out students’ learning abilities; and then through extempore test, to further understand the students’ absorbidity. We must equip the students to meet the challenges of the 21st century; teachers should help the students in absorbing what is taught and not leaving it to themselves to digest.

Q: Do you think your plan will work? Will the teachers resist the changes?
A: I spent two days explaining to the teachers, so far, they responded well. Of course there will be a period of time for them to adapt to the changes. We are currently in the adaptation period.

We can no longer use the 20-year-old teaching methods to teach modern students. We must equip them to meet the future challenges. So for the good of the students we have to make changes even it is going to be hard.

Q: MPI has been offering a number of well-received courses such as accounting and early childhood education. Is MPI planning to offer new courses in the near future?
A: Frankly speaking, we are seriously considering this possibility. We will make an announcement after finalising our plan. What I can disclose now is that we will be offering new courses in finance, investment and computing.

We are also striving to expand our field, including the setting up of technical college. We are preparing to offer civil engineering, welding, agriculture, elderly care and electronic courses.

This is because we believe that in this modern age it is hard for someone to do well if one masters only a single skill, one needs to know a bit of everything. The students thus have to be equipped in various fields as to advance in their future careers.

Interviewed by Menglei
Recorded by April
Translated by KT Chew
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