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Remarkable 53-year-old Working Mum Graduates As Best Student, Honoured as Valedictorian

Cursory: Madam Hafizah Osman, a former media professional, graduated as the valedictorian of her colleagues after completing a master’s degree in learning and professional development. Supported by her family and financial subsidies, she developed a self-help toolkit for blended learning, used at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Madam Hafizah Osman, who had spent 21 years in the media industry in various roles, transitioned to the education sector in 2017 as the head of e-learning at the National University of Singapore.

In 2021, more than two decades after her last formal education, she decided to pursue a master’s degree program in learning and professional development (MLPD) offered by Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, in partnership with the Institute for Adult Learning in Singapore. On Monday, at the age of 53, Madam Hafizah graduated as the valedictorian of her cohort.

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When asked about how she managed work and studies, Madam Hafizah mentioned that she initially had reservations about the time commitment required. Having previously been a part-time student when she was single and without family commitments, she knew it would be a challenge.

“Before I took the plunge, I had some reservations, especially in terms of time commitment. Having had experience as a part-time student when I was single and had no family commitments, (I knew) it was… a challenge.”

Madam Hafizah earned her bachelor’s degree in language and linguistics from the Open University UK while working as a multimedia producer at Singapore Press Holdings from 1996 to 1999.

She became a teacher in 1991 after completing her A levels and obtaining a teaching diploma from the National Institute of Education.

Madam Hafizah expressed gratitude for the support she received from her family, including her husband and their 21-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son. Her husband, Mohammad Kamarurrashid Kamaruddin, played a significant role as her biggest supporter, while her children served as inspiration, especially as they pursued their own studies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My husband is definitely my biggest supporter, cheering me on. And my children were my inspiration as they studied through Covid-19,” she said

According to Professor Sarojni Choy from Griffith University’s School of Education and Professional Studies, Madam Hafizah stood out as a top student and an effective cohort leader due to her maturity and strong articulation skills.

Professor Choy described adult learners like Madam Hafizah as self-directed and experienced individuals who make practical choices that are relevant to their work.

Adult learners are particularly mindful of their time as they balance multiple aspects of life, including work, family, and community commitments.

“They are very protective of their time because they are balancing different kinds of lives – the work life, the family life, the community life and so on. Adult learners are very practical-minded. They want very clear connections between theory and practice,” said Prof Choy.

Financial support was another crucial factor in Madam Hafizah’s decision to pursue her master’s degree. Half of her MLPD program was subsidized by SkillsFuture Singapore, and her employer, NUS, covered approximately 20% of her tuition fees through its Talent Development Sponsorship program, aimed at facilitating continual learning and future readiness among its staff.

Considering the financial responsibilities of her family, with two children pursuing higher education, receiving support was essential.

“I have two grown children who are also pursuing higher education. I have to think of financing their education first and foremost,” she said

During the first year of her master’s program, Madam Hafizah engaged in online learning due to COVID-19 restrictions.

As the cohort leader, she faced challenges in maintaining online connections to ensure everyone had timely access to necessary information. In the second year, she and her course mates were able to effectively share ideas and learn from each other.

This blended learning experience led to her capstone project, where she and her team focused on understanding the resources needed to design high-quality blended learning.

They created a self-help toolkit that offers bite-sized content and resources for blended learning design, which has been utilized at NUS.

Currently, they are enhancing the toolkit based on user feedback to better support the community of adult educators within NUS.

Madam Hafizah’s husband, a civil servant named Mr. Kamarurrashid, expressed immense pride in his wife’s achievements, attributing her success to her determination and passion for lifelong learning.

He emphasized the importance of continuous learning, particularly for the older generation, to stay updated with technological advancements so that they are not left behind.

Madam Hafizah hopes to continue her learning, even if it is not through formal pathways.“You have to continue learning because the world is changing. It’s evolving every single second, and you cannot afford to be left behind,” she said.

Source: Thestraitstimes

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