One of the issues facing education today is the lack of cooperation between educational institutions. Education’s ultimate goal is the pursuit of knowledge, but other motives can hinder that progress. Dato’ R. Rajendran, the Founder and Chairman of Koperasi Pendidikan Swasta Malaysia Berhad (Private Education Cooperative of Malaysia) also known as EDUCOOP, aims to tackle this problem. Dato’ R. Rajendran is a leading figure in the education sector having established himself for the last 30 years in the industry. Here, the enterprising and successful educationist and businessman speaks with Education + TVET Asia regarding EDUCOOP and gives his insights into the education system.
Dato’ R. Rajendran has been highly involved with private universities and colleges, and he also runs his chain of preschools under the ‘Krista’ brand. With some 100 kindergarten centres in Malaysia, it is the nation’s largest preschool chain. It also has a presence in Indonesia and an international office in London.
Having experienced a lack of cooperation among educational institutions for many years, Rajendran felt that education’s ultimate objective of the pursuit of knowledge was sometimes hindered or lost in the competition. He decided to move ahead and founded Koperasi Pendidikan Swasta Malaysia Berhad (Private Education Cooperative of Malaysia) also known as EDUCOOP in 2013 together with Mr. Lee Seng Chee.
Chaired by Rajendran, the primary objective of EDUCOOP is to provide services to its members and thus enable them to attain increased income and savings, investments, productivity and surplus through maximum utilization of economies of scale and cost-sharing with minimum risk. Its mission is to establish a strong network among members, empower them through education and training opportunities, enable them to enjoy welfare and financial assistance benefits, create investment opportunities for good returns, tie up with strategic partners for lifestyle activities for members and to inspire society through the cooperative’s dynamism and ideals. Members of the cooperative include university and college owners, professors, lecturers, trainers, teachers, childminders, parents, students above 18 years old and others involved in the private education industry. Through this cooperative, it is envisaged that the private education industry will unite and grow to be an influential voice and force in the nation.
“It was an idea to look after the welfare of people in the industry and ultimately society. I believe education is about meaningful cooperation among the providers and not about competition. Malaysia lacks programmes that bring education institutions together especially private education institutions,” says Rajendran passionately.
The cooperative helps to bring up weaknesses in the industry to the relevant ministries in the country. Its vision is to be a leading Malaysian private education cooperative.
The cooperative aims to look after the welfare of every private education institution in Malaysia. Some of the events carried out by the cooperative include forums and dialogues, education expos, workshops for skills development, National Teachers’ Day Celebration for private educators, inter-college debates and the annual Private Education Excellence Awards Ceremony.
EDUCOOP is the only body that recognises and honours outstanding teachers and professors from Malaysian private institutions through its Private Education Excellence Awards held annually in conjunction with the National Teachers’ Day celebration. “The objective of is to encourage better performance among educators and for them to go on to become world class ones. The Private Education Excellence Awards is to honour the nation’s top private educators in the country and give them the due recognition they deserve,” says Rajendran.
Rajendran’s heart is close to education, but he is also a successful businessman with several successful businesses. He is involved in business consultancy, events and media and property services. His free time is mostly spent helping associations.
He is the Chairman of Pertubuhan Amal Tanggungjawab Kemapanan dan Korporat Malaysia (a national body for sustainability and responsibility), Deputy President of American Universities Alumni Association of Malaysia, Treasurer General of Malaysia Global Business Council and Vice President of Malaysia China Chamber of Commerce.
He is also the Chairman of CSR Malaysia, a social enterprise that encourages big companies to do more for society. Its focus is on corporate sustainability and social responsibility, helping to promote and highlight some of the excellent social work being done by Malaysian companies. His team organises about 4 events per month. CSR Malaysia is recognised and supported by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development of Malaysia as well as the Ministry of Rural Development Malaysia.
“I am happy to give back to society. It is a big motivator for me to continuously work hard,” says the visionary entrepreneur with a smile.
Rajendran hopes to continue bringing more positive outcomes to the education industry. “As an educationist, I hope that all educators focus on giving quality education to their children or students without compromise. Private schools, colleges and universities should work together to have inter-school, inter-college and inter-university competitions for students and educators to foster healthy competition, breed success and raise the standard of education in this country. Education institutions should never see each other as antagonistic competitors but rather partners working together to serve the greater purpose of education.”
Here are further questions that were posed to Dato’ R. Rajendran together with his answers.
- Could you share with us briefly about your life?
I come from Sungai Petani, Kedah. I have always been passionate about education and obtained my tertiary education in the United States.
- EDUCOOP has definitely made its mark in the country and the region as the organiser of the Private Education Excellence Awards. How you feel about that?
It is very fulfilling to see outstanding teachers, lecturers, professors and even founders of institutions given due recognition. We do this as a voluntary project which makes it all the better. Just like how students have teachers as role models, here too we can have educators as role models to other private educators.
- What do you think has contributed to the success of EDUCOOP’s Private Education Excellence Awards?
This is why we have been able to attract some of the best educators to participate. And of course, without the passion and enthusiasm from the Cooperative’s Board Members in organising the event, none of this would be possible.
- How important are the members of EDUCOOP?
We are a small cooperative with exclusive membership. Everyone is important to the work and direction the cooperative takes.
- What is your view of the Malaysian education system?
Unfortunately, a lot of parents have lost faith in the quality of public education in the country. While our national language is very important for all of us to master, public schools are not focused on English. Even when they do, the standard is wanting. The mastery of English is important for our students to make an impact on the global stage. Sadly, the quality and method of delivery by teachers and lecturers are left to chance. There are also many other flaws especially those related to promoting harmony among all races.
- Do you have any suggestions for improvements?
I believe schools do not have to start so early. The current early start time affects the livelihood of parents who have work which starts later. I have met so many parents from the workplace who find themselves with unnecessary downtime after dropping off their kids. We also need a revamp of the education system and involve many ministries, especially the Prime Minister’s Department. Everyone has to be sincere in walking the talk to improve the standard of public education. A global mindset is needed in line with an increasingly globalised world while maintaining our unique Malaysian identity.
- What is the future of private education in Malaysia?
As long as the quality of public education continues to suffer, many parents will continue to send their children to private educational institutions. Most private institutions provide a good platform for students to acquire the skills that are needed for today and tomorrow. The future is good for private institutions.
- What advice would you give to students who are looking to pursue private education?
Choose a school of good standing that is within your budget. Be participative in classes and avoid unproductive activities. Respect your friends regardless of race, religion or where they come from.