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Malaysia Eyes National Education Reforms Based on Success of Pioneering US Program

Malaysia’s senior-most leaders meet at the New York Academy of Sciences with leading international experts counseling nation’s drive to become a high-income country.

Published May 18, 2012

New York, May, 16, 2012 —Malaysia is preparing national level education reforms based on tactics pioneered in the US that are successfully raising student success throughout the school system, from very early childhood through completion of university or college. The country's senior-most leaders met with State University of New York and New York Academy of Sciences officials in New York City today to discuss bringing Strive to Malaysia.

The "cradle to career" approach of the Strive framework involves, among many measures, identifying specific interventions such as daycare or home visits by social service workers that best prepare a child to start kindergarten on the right foot ("Success by Six"). The students are then helped to meet carefully tracked indicators of critical progress in, for example, math and reading proficiency along their educational journey.

US experience with Strive shows a given approach is not necessarily best in all circumstances; preliminary studies would be required in Malaysia.

But, armed with these important insights, community talent, time, and resources would be narrowly concentrated on tactics that produce proven, winning results.

SUNY and the New York Academy of Sciences signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the initiative with the Malaysia's Ministry of Higher Education, headed by Dato' Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin.

Malaysia is the first country looking to institute Strive at a nationwide level. SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher, who co-founded Strive in Ohio and is a member of Malaysia's Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council (GSIAC) and Chair of the New York Academy of Sciences, recently met with Malaysia's senior-most leaders and outlined the Strive approach to cradle-to-career education reform.

Chaired by Malaysian Prime Minister YAB Dato' Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, the year-old GSIAC is today comprised of international experts in education, economics, business, science, and technology, each volunteering to help the Asian country achieve an environmentally-sustainable, high-income economy driven by knowledge and innovation. 

Host of the meeting in Manhattan is the New York Academy of Sciences, which co-chairs the GSIAC Secretariat with Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) of the Prime Minister's Department and last year helped assemble international Council members from China, India, Russia, Japan, Korea, The Netherlands, the UK, and the USA, including two Nobel laureates.

Chancellor Zimpher notes that positive results are being documented in many education systems where Strive is being deployed, now including 27 US states and the District of Columbia.
Since Strive began in Cincinnati in 2006, that city, for example, has experienced a sharp 9% increase in kindergarten readiness, setting the stage for later success. The use of certified teachers, small class sizes, and summer learning enrichment programs are part of the early education strategy chosen there.

Cincinnati public school student math proficiency in Grade 4 is up 7%, Grade 8 math up 15% and college enrollment has jumped 10%.  

At the end of high school, one-on-one advice and simply helping students complete financial aid forms and scholarship applications, led to a profound 40% increase in college enrollment by graduates from one low-performing Cincinnati school compared to the year before.

An essential Strive pre-requisite, says Chancellor Zimpher, is strategic buy-in from hundreds of partners throughout the community—city government officials, school district superintendents, presidents of universities and community colleges, corporate leaders, philanthropists, and the executive directors of hundreds of education-related non-profit and advocacy groups.

"There must be a commitment to collaboration among pre-kindergarten, kindergarten to Grade 12, higher education, and workforce development for this approach to be successful," said Chancellor Zimpher. "Kids may do well in pre-school, for example, but unless that pre-school is working with the local school district to align expectations, most of them won't be ready for kindergarten. The same holds true for the transitions to high school, college, and career. These absences of collaboration cause what we call 'leaks' in the education pipeline," youths leaving the educational system before completion.

"The alignment of efforts involving all players throughout a community is a major enterprise but offers high rewards for students and educators alike," Chancellor Zimpher added. "We are proud that Malaysia is taking up this challenge at a national level and look forward to working with the country in making this program succeed in an emerging economy context." 

Prime Minister Najib notes that the proposed reforms would help ensure every child enters school well prepared, eliminate disparities in academic success, and link the community and family supports available to students—all important steps in the transformation of Malaysia's economy with greater human capital in science, technology, and innovation.

"This initiative will also address the lack of student interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics due to poor teaching of the subject matter, insufficient professional support and supervision, a lack of priority given to the subjects by schools, a lack of information on career prospects in science-related fields, and unattractive prospects for science-qualified graduates."

The Prime Minister said he was struck by a comment Chancellor Zimpher made on a recent trip to Kuala Lumpur that the challenges SUNY faces are similar in kind and in scale to those faced in his nation.

"A truly remarkable alliance has been initiated between the State University of New York and its Cradle to Career program, the New York Academy of Sciences and its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Education Initiative, and our education-related ministries and three of our leading universities.

"The notion that Malaysia and New York State would benefit by attacking many of the same problems in tandem, learning from each other's experiences, and leveraging the investments of the best practices going on throughout the world, as conveyed by Chancellor Zimpher's team in the sphere of education and the New York Academy of Sciences' team in the sphere of science, technology, engineering, and math, is truly inspirational."

Members, Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council (GSIAC) for Malaysia:

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States, educating nearly 468,000 students in more than 7,500 degree and certificate programs on 64 campuses with more than 3 million alumni around the globe. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit

About the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology
The Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee under the purview of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. MIGHT is an organization built on the strength of public-private partnership with more than 100 members, both local and international, from industry, government and academia. As an organization MIGHT is dedicated to providing a platform for industry-government consensus building in the drive to advance high technology competency in Malaysia. Please visit us online at

About the New York Academy of Sciences
The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With 25,000 members in 140 countries, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy's core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at