Chalking Up Class 飞跃晋级

Dr. Elizabeth Lee Fuh Yen

Senior Executive Director of Sunway Education Group

Born in Singapore, raised in Malaysia, educated in America, and trained in the UK, this recipient of India’s Visionary Women Leadership Award is a history-maker with lessons to teach. Deborah Joy Peter takes notes.

When contemplating the multifarious choreography indicative of Dr. Elizabeth Lee Fuh Yen’s passage through academia, the 1995 hit Ironic comes to mind. Absent ripped jeans, ombre vibe, and beanie on head, she is no Alanis Morissette. Yet, the multi award-winning Sunway Education Group (SEG) senior executive director, having by now tucked about 30 years under her belt, is by every stretch of the imagination, some indelible version of a rockstar.

ABOVE BOARD

Exposed to the field at a time when teaching was considered a white collar job with blue collar pay, she could have steered clear, but didn’t. Told that the profession was befitting of a lady just because the hours were short and its nature family-friendly, the career chaser should have reconsidered; instead she stood her ground. When the offer to practice in the United Kingdom was extended, it made sense to accept only she wouldn’t.

“I wanted to be involved with something rooted in multi-cultural studies, and therefore opted to major in English. It allowed me to return to Malaysia and serve my country by bringing the language home. That much was clear. I wanted to come back although I had something called a DES number and still do, which permits me to teach in the UK,” the SEG veteran explains, adding that infusing passion into teaching has been an endless pursuit.

Honour roll

Is there anything to suggest that the virtuoso described above isn’t every degree of audacious? Whether it was admirable persistence or sheer stubbornness only she knew, but when it came to crucial life decisions, Lee always chose going against the grain. Perhaps, being Singaporean-born had something to do with it, but the Kuala Lumpur raised educationist turned administrator is nothing if not a woman on a mission to revolutionise an entire industry.

Herself a Bukit Bintang Girls School alumnus, the Doctorate of Laws holder-an honorary title granted her by Nottingham University to mark the industry’s highest tribute-has been instrumental to Sunway’s evolution from a college to a full-fledged education group. Having served with the marque since 1992, she has spent more than two decades carving out its niche as one of the most prestigious institutes of higher learning across the world stage.

Top tier

“We have different education institutions now. We have Sunway University and Sunway College. They are very separate. Next, we have Sunway Le Cordon Bleu, our institute

of culinary arts. It is the Le Cordon Bleu of Paris. Then, we have the Sunway International School. Also, recent years have seen truly rewarding partnerships forged with numerous globally-acclaimed institutes like Monash and Cambridge.”

In fact, Sun-U brought the Oxford Symposium to Malaysia in 2015, where for first time the conference was hosted in the heart of Southeast Asia, reeling in the participation of a great multitude of students and teachers. In the same token, the 2014 Asia Leadership Camp aimed at impacting young leaders that rolled out in collaboration with Harvard proved a momentous feat for the brand as well.

“My credo changes every day. It’s never the same thing. You know those Keep calm and … expressions? It’s very fitting, I think. Sometimes, I tell frustrated parents that the children will grow up. They do grow up. So it is this idea of keeping calm and letting the moment pass.”

EASTERN DISTINCTION

While she began as associate director before being named executive director some time later, in her current and latest capacity, her myriad of duties includes looking at strategy in terms SEG’s positioning, direction, and next phase. Sharing in chairman and founder, Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr. Jeffrey Cheah’s vision, Lee opened up about the group’s ultimate goal to emerge as the ‘Harvard of the East.’ But what does that mean exactly?

“It basically means that Sunway University will become a force to be reckoned with in education, so that it is recognisable and internationally renowned. Over here, when Harvard is mentioned, everyone knows. So if we’re over there and Sun-U is mentioned, everyone will know. That’s what we mean by Harvard of the East—that we’re a credible institution marked by our stamp of distinction,” Dr. Lee reveals while gleaming in sheer excitement.

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当注视着李馥彦博士陈述着她纵横学术界的各式各样繁琐经历,令人想起1995的流行歌曲“讽刺”,但没有破洞牛仔裤、渲染氛围或有小圆帽在头上,她不是Alanis Morissette。然而,这名获奖无数的双威教育集团高级执行董事,30年来深藏功与名,与摇滚巨星一样具有不可磨灭的代表性。出生于新加坡,马来西亚成长,前往美国接受教育,在英国接受培训,她是印度“远见女性领袖奖”的获奖者,也是历史创造者。

在旧时期,教学被认为是蓝领薪资收入的白领工作,但她没有刻意回避。这个职业适合女性,时间短又是面向家庭。而当英国实习的申请被延后,她才有了接受的意识。

“学校是一个奇妙的地方,无论你是否喜欢,但学生们从错误和测试的边界学习。有时候,他们会走错,但他们必须得到明确的方向。”

“我想扎根于多元文化的研究工作,因此选择英语专业。当我回到马来西亚,也是将语文带回家与报效祖国。我想回来,虽然我有所谓DES number(师资培训)在进行中,这能让我在英国教学。” 她补充说,把热情投入教学一直是她无止境的追求。

无论是因为具备令人钦佩的毅力或纯粹的固执,只有她自己知道。但在人生重大决定关口,李馥彦总是做出背道而驰的选择。出生在新加坡,但她却在吉隆坡教育集团执行管理任务,成为行业中稀有的女性教育家。

她作为吉隆坡武吉免登女校的校友,同时获得诺丁汉大学授予的最高敬意-法学博士学位荣誉称号,而采取针对性的政策,让双威从一家高等学府蜕变为全面的教育集团。自1992年开始的服务与品牌意识,以 20多年积极的创业心态打造双威成为登上世界舞台的高等学府。

“我的信念每天都在改变,
没有重复性,适当的冷静和表达。有时候,我告诉沮丧的学生家长,孩子长大了,他们也必须跟着成长。因此,这也是保持瞬间冷静的方法。”

站上顶层
“我们现在有多元层次的教育机构,设有独立的大学和学院校园。接下来,我们有双威巴黎蓝带厨艺学院,也是来自巴黎的蓝带厨艺。然后,近年来双威国际学校也与具备价值的合作伙伴或全球知名机构合作,如剑桥与莫纳什大学。”

事实上,2015年双威将牛津研讨会带来马来西亚,这是类似研讨会首次在南洋中心举行,这个文教盛典引来众多学生和教师的参与。而在2014年举办的亚洲领导干部训练营,是与国际名校哈佛合作的项目,培育年轻领导人,这是重大壮举。

当她开始任命为执行董事,以本身的能力担任多项职责,包括寻找双威教育集团下一阶段的定位、方向和策略。而她也与董事长兼创始人丹斯里谢富年博士共享愿景,最终目标是成为“东方哈佛”。

“基本上意味着双威大学将成为不可忽视的教育力量,哈佛是家喻户晓的名校,而我们的目标是让每个人都知道双威大学,这就是所谓的东方哈佛,我们是一个可靠的机构,具备与众不同的标志印记。” 说到这里,李馥彦的目光热情闪烁。

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