Take 350 teenagers and pack them into dense rows in tiny desks and what do you get? In Malaysia you get dead silence. In fact when I took this sepia-toned picture on my phone, a digital shutter noise went off, and half the students looked my way (much to my embarassment), because it was the only sound in the room.

The concentration and devotion to the task at hand that you see in this picture characterize these kids. Quite simply their future success is on the line. They know it, and behave as if it matters every day. If they are successful, the Malaysian government will fund not only this year, but four year’s worth of education at a university of their own choosing anywhere in Canada. If they fail to qualify – and qualification means a graduating average of 80-85% depending on the funding program they are under – they not only do not get to go to Canada, but their families will have to pay back the $5,000 from this year as well.

In return the students must agree to return to Malaysia and serve their country in some capacity – as engineers, technicians, pharmacists, etc – for five years. It is a good deal for the kids, and an expensive commitment from the Malaysian government to the success of the youth and the future wealth of the country.The armed forces in Canada have a similar program, but not nearly so broad in its scope.

Not all the students do return. Some take jobs in Canada and settle down there, which greatly enriches our country. Contrary to the widely misunderstood notion of immigration, foreigners do not steal our jobs, they create them, but that is a post for another day. Let me just say that I am pleased to be part of the effort that this country is making to raise the educational standards of its youth, and greatly admire the dedication to excellence of my students. I also wish them well on a very tough English exam! I will post your marks on BB7 early next week.