Sunday, February 03, 2008

Youth Article in The Star Education

After almost 5 years, - The Worldwide Malaysian Students Network featured in an article in The Star Education today, on 3rd February 2008. Thanks a lot to Sarah Chew from The Star Education for making this happens.

Several Malaysian youths including some ReCom members were interviewed by The Star, include Joyce Tagal, Ng Eng Han, Chong Wei Jie, Joel Neoh Eu-Jin, Shahril Sufian Hamdan, Ng Khai Lee, Ngai Jin Tik, Vincent Liew, Ong Jiin Joo, Florentyna Leow Chai Yeen and myself.

Several youth websites, like - The Worldwide Malaysian Students Network , Tin Kosong , theCICAK , UKEC , Youth Malaysia , Malaysia Students , CEKU were interviewed.

Several other youth-related projects were mentioned too. Among them, Discover US Education , Northeast Malaysia Forum, Malaysia Student Leaders Summit, Cathay Pacific International Wilderness Experience, Young Global Citizens Project etc.

The two full articles appeared in The Star Education on 3rd February 2008 are:-
The Star Education - Online With A Mission
The Star Education - Why Contribute?

Online with a mission

Stories by SARAH CHEW

Meet some young people who step beyond their personal blogs.

IF you think those who create websites and monitor them for many hours are geeks with thick spectacles, think again.

The Internet has become the stage, boardroom, library, playground and even mamak stall for a host of people, from Ivy League students to young entrepreneurs and secondary school students.

Young people feel empowered by expressing themselves via a medium they have mastered, which allows anyone and everyone, regardless of gender, race, physical attributes and social status, the opportunity to contribute.

While blogs have been the rage for many years, there has been a quiet but steady growth of websites set up by youths, mostly tertiary students, to network and spread knowledge and awareness. brings young people together and makes events like Youth ’08: We Are the Trendsetterspossible.

Helping others

Tinkosong was born when one of its founders, Yale University student Joyce Tagal, 22, noticed, from her personal blog post on Malaysian education, that many people voice complaints but offer no real solutions.

So Tagal, 22, and two other Malaysians in the United States, Harvard student Nicholas Khaw, 21, and Dartmouth College student Ng Eng Han, 22, decided to create a blog geared towards information on educational opportunities.

“In the beginning, we focused on providing information about overseas scholarships and the application process to US universities, based on first-hand experience and those of our friends’,” says Ng. “But now, we’re trying to expand it to other opportunities like camps, talks and volunteer programmes in Malaysia.”

Among some of the programmes advertised on Tinkosong are the Cathay Pacific International Wilderness Experience and the Young Global Citizens Project by the British Council.

The website founders actively network with Malaysians on events, such as the Discover US Education fair last year, and the upcoming Northeast Malaysia Forum (NMF) in Boston.

“We found many talented young Malaysians who have done interesting things but just do not have opportunities to interact with others. The NMF, as well as Tinkosong, provide venues where young Malaysians can seek advice,” says Tagal.

Another website that serves a similar purpose is Malaysia Students, where contributors share Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) exam tips. Chong Wei Jie, 20, started this site in 2005 while waiting for his SPM results.

“I was very frustrated with tutoring websites, where students had to pay to get help academically,” says Chong. “So I said to myself, why not create a blog where they can interact by asking questions, sharing opinions, and learning from each other?”

Now, Chong has bigger plans for a forum on Malaysia Students, which has an average of 650 daily visitors and 2,000 subscribers.

“I hope these websites get more publicity. When they are strong enough (in terms of readership) to gain attention from sponsors, activities like gatherings and competitions can be held, fully or partly sponsored.”

Neoh (centre) believes youths today have lots of potential but someone needs to guide them

Going places

Unlike most youth-oriented websites, which do not command enough readership to be noticed,, has an average of 70,000 hits a day. Just over a year old, it organised an exhibition and an entrepreneur convention for youths in Kuala Lumpur last month.

Its founder and project director, Joel Neoh Eu-Jin, used to run a business that connected companies with graduates and students seeking part-time work. In October 2006, he decided to go beyond that and set up Youth Malaysia as a non-government organisation.

“Initially the idea was to get the young to express themselves, but now it’s a ‘dotcom’ venture as more elements and programmes were added.

“Our slant is more towards entrepreneurship as there is a lot of potential among youths. We are very capable and creative in our own ways, but no one takes the initiative to develop those ideas.”

The website, Neoh explains, is a communication tool and platform for the organisation’s non-online programmes, such as the 1st National Youth Entrepreneur Convention 2008, and Youth ’08: We Are The Trendsetters, a lifestyle showcase held in KL last month.

“With ground work, you can build databases but these don’t allow you to communicate and get feedback from the youth community,” Neoh explains. “The website complements our programmes.”

In the future, he hopes to encourage young people to read more about social and political issues by forming a pool of writers, networking with other youth websites, and introducing Y-points which members can collect whenever they read articles on and its partner websites.

Neoh admits that it is not easy to create a website as marketing and promotion are involved. To make the site commercially viable, he gets sponsors to fund programmes and be involved in them. now has articles, updates, audio files, blogs and other materials posted by its eight permanent staff members and its 6,000 odd members.

Young voices

Khaw (left) and Tagal started Tinkosong for students to get advice on education matters. (ReCom), a networking forum and platform for Malaysian students around the world, started when Yeoh Chen Chow, Syamsul Hasran and Mohd Yusuf Abdul Hamid met at the Malaysian embassy in Washington DC during a meeting of student leaders held in conjunction with the 45th Merdeka Day celebrations.

“We were thinking of what to do to contribute back to Malaysia and we came up with this idea,” moderator Yeoh says.

The driving element of the website is its forums, which feature topics ranging from social issues and current affairs to scholarships and advice on education.

“Our popular topics are scholarships and university applications, as students who have gone through the process share with others, Besides exchanging trial papers and information, students connect with each other and we try to inculcate sharing – if you have gained from ReCom, give back to others.”

Yeoh explains that not only do students network, many also view ReCom as a source of information. One example concerns the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) shooting in 2007.

“A student who was studying at Virginia Tech reported on what was happening through ReCom. The media contacted him via the site to interview him,” he says.

“Some ReCom members have been inspired by the forums and have started their own initiatives, like conferences and other websites.”

Initially, most visitors to the site were students in the United States. But the numbers have gradually grown to include those in Australia, Japan, Korea and other countries.

ReCom’s members have helped in education fairs like Discover US Education-KL ‘07. Last year, they partnered with the United Kingdom and Eire Council for Malaysian Students (UKEC) to organise the Malaysian Student Leaders Summit, which attracted about 400 participants from over 150 universities in 18 countries.

Since ReCom’s inception in 2003, it has accumulated 14.6 million hits and 7,600 members.

The UKEC members have also started CEKU, a website that publishes student commentaries on issues in Malaysia and reviews of Malaysian-themed events in Britain.

Chief editor and Manchester University student Shahril Sufian Hamdan says CEKU’s main purpose is to encourage proper debate.

“The world is not going to change overnight because a bunch of middle class, educated boys and girls decide to write and discuss things online,” he muses. “The true purpose is to share our views and get feedback on them, to ensure that our idealism is contested and defended.”

As seems to be the trend, websites like CEKU have relations with similar youth websites, like, and their writers contribute to others as well.

“It’s all about being a platform for people to voice their thoughts. We’re not in the business to compete. We may do things a bit differently but our goals are the same,” Shahril, 23, adds.

Like CEKU, publishes commentaries by youths and students on sociopolitical issues and popular culture in Malaysia.

But it has a more specific aim – to engage them in intelligent discussion and the democratic process.

By 2010, Malaysians under 35 will constitute 65% of the country’s population, says co-founder Ng Khai Lee, quoting estimates by the US census bureau. “The question is, will enough of the voting youth be politically informed and educated?”

Ng’s wish, however, is for more of the young to get involved in writing their ideas and opinions.

“Most people are readers, some are commentators, and only a few are writers. If you have the potential to positively influence someone with your ideas, writing is a good tool to help you do so.

“I hope more people will write online, and write well.”

Why contribute?

STUDENT and youth websites help us grow and be “holistic”, says Taylor’s University College student Ngai Jin Tik, 18.

“I feel that these websites meet the various needs of Malaysian youths,” he adds, giving examples of websites like Tinkosong, which shares information on Malaysian education, and ReCom and theCicak, which provide a platform for the young to express themselves on “issues that affect us fundamentally, like corruption and human rights.”

MOHD MUSTAFFA FAZIL: One should act responsibly on websites.
College student Vincent Liew, 20, contributes to theCicak because it gives him the opportunity to air his views.

“I have opinions that I want to share with people. At the same time, it sharpens my writing and critical thinking skills,” he says. “It also teaches me how to argue intelligently.”

More than that, however, Vincent’s involvement with theCicak has made him politically aware and active.

“It opens my mind to know that people should not be influenced by the promises others make, and should be able to weigh the pros and cons before voting,” he says. “I’m joining MCA next month as I want to be more involved in political matters.”

Ong Jiin Joo, 27, adds that online forums like ReCom allow Malaysians living overseas to change their mindsets and participate in local issues in some way.

“For example, a national identity-based discussion tends to shift the perspective of Malaysians abroad and force them to take a stand on issues, even though they are not physically involved.

“This brings them one step closer to commit in voting, and to participate in the democratic process.”

Secondary school student Florentyna Leow Chai Yeen, 16, says: “What these websites represent is freedom – freedom of speech, freedom to broadcast information, freedom to assemble online, to read what you want and know what you want to know.”

However, Communications and Multimedia Content Forum (CMCF) of Malaysia executive director Mohd Mustaffa Fazil Mohd Abdan cautions that one should be responsible for the content uploaded and the comments made on websites.

“From the industry point of view, we do want more people to write on websites as it’s a good tool to learn.

“But everything can be misused, so there is the question of who should be the guardian. That’s why I believe in self-regulation, which begins at home,” he says.

The CMCF, which derives its powers from the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 (CMA), has a self-regulatory content code that some of the major media providers and industry players adhere to.

Besides the content code and CMA, other laws can be applied to websites because of media convergence.

“I think most people don’t know that other Acts have bearing because they only use a certain medium or are involved in a certain industry,” Mohd Mustaffa Fazil adds.

“We don’t want to regulate websites,” says Youth and Sports Deputy Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai.

“But we want youths with a mission for the nation, who are responsible in whatever they do.”

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