Jude is a full-time student studying for his MSc degree in Education (Comparative and International Education). Before joining the department he did an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of New South Wales in Australia and then went on to do an MA in Cognitive Studies in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University in the USA.
What degree did you apply for and why was it important to you to study this?
I took a module on Comparative Education while I was doing my MA and really enjoyed it. For the past 4 years, I was working back home in Malaysia in the corporate philanthropy sector, focusing on education. I decided to apply for this course because I wanted to reflect on my experience and learn about systemic challenges in education around the world and how they can be addressed.
What do you plan to do once you’ve completed your degree?
I hope to stay on and do a DPhil, where my research will focus on comparing and contrasting the education and career aspirations of urban and rural youth in selected regions of Malaysia, against the backdrop of the government’s emphasis on STEM in the economy. Beyond that, I aim to continue developing research expertise in an academic or civil society setting. Eventually I hope to join the Ministry of Education back home and contribute to our education system.
What do you most value about the teaching at the department?
Although the terms here are very short and there is a lot of ground to cover, I really appreciate the flexibility that’s provided in the choice of formative and summative assignments. I didn’t realise that a lot of the learning, the deep reflections as well as the freedom to carve out my own academic interests would come from the assignments! The seminar-style teaching also provides a lot of room for us to learn from each other, tapping into the diverse experience of the cohort.
Why do you think it’s important to study education?
A significant part of the enterprise of nation-building and social development are rooted in education. The comparative education scholar George Bereday summed it up rightly when he said, “Education is a mirror held against the face of a people. Nations may put on blustering shows of strength to conceal political weakness, erect grand facades to conceal shabby backyards, and profess peace while secretly arming for conquest, but how they take care of their children tells us unerringly who they are.”
What’s the community like at the department?
People in the department are very friendly and helpful. The department is small enough that it’s very easy to get acquainted with the community and develop personal connections and friendships. I have met many wonderful individuals who are just as passionate about education and that’s very energising.
What has your degree taught you most?
I think more than anything it has taught me to be more critical and reflective of education phenomena. I am also learning to be comfortable with the complexity of education and to leverage on the interdisciplinary spirit of comparative and international education in dealing with such complexities.
How do you get involved in other research activities within the department and what are they?
On top of my own dissertation research, I am also gaining experience as a research assistant to my supervisor on a project related to incentives in apprenticeship systems across multiple countries. It’s great exposure in conducting conceptual analysis and preparing a manuscript for publication in an academic journal. Your supervisor is your first port of call for access to ongoing research activities that will greatly supplement course learnings.
What advice would you give to new postgraduate students on how they can get involved in the department community?
Read your department emails! It’s easy to be overwhelmed by everything that’s going on both inside the department and out in the broader Oxford community, but you get a lot of information about seminars, opportunities and happenings in the department community through those emails. The library is also a great place to get a sense of community; there’s definitely something to be said about the solidarity in collective anxieties regarding exams and assignments!
What further opportunities have you gained so far through your degree?
Part of the CIE programme involved a study trip to Paris where we visited UNESCO, OECD and IIEP. It was a great opportunity to get a sneak peek of the working day there and also learn from these organisations that we’ve been discussing about in class. Through the Oxford Hub I’ve also had the opportunity to volunteer as a tutor at a local primary school and serve as a visiting trustee for a youth charity working in an impoverished part of Oxford. These experiences are also very meaningful.
How has your College added to your experience at Oxford?
College is a great place to develop friendships and connections beyond the course. I have had the opportunity to meet and learn from so many people from different parts of the world who are pursuing programmes so different from my own, and that’s a truly enriching experience.