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Principal wins leadership excellence award


Tham shows the award she won.

SIBU: SMK Chung Hua principal Tham Yoh Yin, 58, who has been striving to help the school tap into its full potential despite the odds has received the 2016 Special Chief Minister Award for Leadership Excellence for her efforts.

Tham said getting the award was not easy as her effort had to differ from that of other principals, besides showing continuous improvement in both academics and co-curricular activities.

Talking to reporters in her office yesterday, she said since she took over the leadership 12 years ago, the school had improved in many areas. For example, last year, the school was placed 27th for its performance in the SPM; the PT3 had improved for three years; the school came out tops for the STPM in Sarawak in 2011 and tops in Malaysia for the STPM in 2014.

Tham said the school had continued to move forward, and despite falling, had bounced back quickly.

She said for co-curricular activities, every year, the school would win at least 10 international competitions and many competitions at district and national levels.

SMK Chung Hua was once ranked among the top 700 schools in Malaysia. Five years after she took over as the principal, she managed to improve the ranking to 507th place nationwide.

“There are over 2,000 schools in the whole of Malaysia – if you make it around 500th, it means you are very good already as Chung Hua is an ordinary school with average students – we are not even cluster school, excellent school or smart school.

“Students are quite poor in BM and English as most of them come from Chinese primary school. There are a few good ones, but not many,” Tham pointed out.

She revealed that the school managed to solve physical problems such as termite infestation, flooding, insufficient fans, tables and chairs with the support from the board of management, old boys association, parents, teachers and former students.

When Tham first took over the leadership of SMK Chung Hua, the first thing she requested from the then chairman of the school board of management was that the school needed to be repainted with some repair work done on toilets, ceiling and so forth.

“I took the risk by saying if I did not produce any results for Chung Hua, then you can get me out. I promised him ‘You give me this first (fund to improve the school’s condition) and I will give you good results for Chung Hua in terms of academic, co-curricular activities and discipline of students,” she said.

Not only did Tham convinced the chairman to get funds for the school, but she managed to convince her teachers to accept her ideas and work as a team to improve the school.

For the students, she set tough rules for them to ensure good discipline.

“I remember that during the first assembly, I told the students and teachers there are thousands of diamonds (students) in Chung Hua that are left unpolished. Teachers can shape and polish their potential,” she said.

Tham invented the formula to be a winner with the school slogan ‘Outwit Others, Outdo Ourselves’ and a battle cry for every competition they went to.

With that winning formula, the school never comes back empty-handed.

That winning formula aimed at motivating students to do better had in fact helped one of her students who has learning disabilities to achieve her full potential. Last year, Wong Mee Hui scored at least 6As in the SPM despite her learning handicap.

“Even though she has learning disabilities, she could do so well.  I told her, you have to keep writing it down on a notebook and review it yourself as she easily forgets, and do mind-mapping as well,” she said.

She said Wong always had a notebook with her to jot down notes. The school did many intervention programmes with students, especially in English proficiency and invented many new programmes for students.

Tham presented many papers especially on Dual Language Programme and Oral Proficiency in English in secondary school.

She is a national presenter and being invited by many schools to give talks and present her papers. Apart from that, she is a tennis player for at least 25 years and had brought back many trophies for Sarawak.

Tham who had been in the teaching line for 35 years hoped that the award could inspire teachers to go the extra mile.

“I told them that I’ve shown the way, I’ve done it and now it’s your turn,” she said.

Chairman of the school board of management, Robert Chiew hoped the award could motivate teachers to continue to excel.

Robert also hoped it would serve as an example and motivation for other principals to always strive for excellence.