Malaysian teacher Samuel Isaiah has been listed as the top 10 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize 2020, a competition which recognizes educators who have made outstanding contributions to the profession.

The 33-year-old English teacher from Sekolah Kebangsaan Runchang in Pahang, was shortlisted from over 12,000 nominations and applications from more than 140 countries, for his work in teaching Orang Asli children at his primary school using advanced learning methods using tablets and computers.

The annual award, organised by the Varkey Foundation, carries a US$1 million (RM4.16 million) prize money.

According to reports, Isaiah's pupils embraced the English language and the use of technology on par with urban schools, using his methods.

The students' passing rate for the English subject at the school also rose to 80 per cent, compared with the previous 30 percent. Some of his students even scored A for their English in the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination.

Isaiah's indigenous students really bonded with him during his eight years' stint at the school, with many of them shedding tears when he left for the US last year to pursue a Master of Science in Educational Policy and Leadership (Global and Comparative Education) at the State University of New York, with a Fulbright scholarship.

The graduate of Universiti Utara Malaysia and Teachers Training Institute (Penang campus) made national headlines last year for going the extra mile for his pupils, such as travelling 200km daily from Kuantan to the school at the settlement, and even introducing the tree school concept, where he went to the Orang Asli settlement in Runchang twice a week after school hours, to conduct English lessons under trees.

Isaiah has won various awards before, such as the Best Teacher Award at the ASEAN-ELT Conference (2018), Best Innovative Teacher (2018, presented by the Prime Minister of Malaysia), the Star Golden Hearts Award (2019) and the National Hero Teacher Award (2019).

If he wins the Global Teacher Prize, Isaiah hopes to use the funds to upgrade his school's learning facilities and classrooms, and also empower other indigenous communities in Malaysia by collaborating with like-minded teachers on his methods.

Source:, New Straits Times, The Star
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