Tuesday, November 8, 2011
The father of two and grandfather of five signed up for the Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) programme in September 2009
Like other learners of the University, Ally Teoh Cheng Hoe attends lectures and tutorials, reads modules, works on assignments and sits for examinations. And like them, he too has his challenges and aspirations. But, while other learners often speak of juggling work, studies and family life, and how the added qualification will help in their career, Teoh has a different perspective to share of his academic journey. This is because he has reached what the others have not. He is 73 and the oldest learner at OUM’s Melaka Learning Centre.
The father of two and grandfather of five signed up for the Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) programme in September 2009, and will graduate in 2013 if all goes as scheduled.
When asked why he opted for the programme, Teoh says, “I had a vague idea of what psychology was at the time. I knew that it had to do with the human mind, that psychology with its multifarious branches was linked to our daily activities and a variety of other disciplines. I thought it would be interesting to embark on this programme to learn more about it, and of course, to earn a degree.”
Teoh, who once worked as a general services clerk in the government sector, did not continue his studies after he completed his high school education due to financial constraints. His interest in martial arts led him to undergo taekwondo training under the instruction of Korean masters in 1963, and later attend international seminars overseas conducted by General Choi Hong Hi, the founder of taekwondo.
Despite holding the position of grandmaster in the Promotion and Advisory Committees of the International Ch’ang-Hon Taekwondo Federation (ICTF), and having established his own taekwondo centre, Teoh remains humble about his martial art knowledge and skills. “I am still learning. In fact, it was my immersion in taekwondo that inspired me to become a student again. It reinforces my belief that there really is no end to learning.”
Having decided to pursue his tertiary education, the septuagenarian now allots more time for study. “Previously, most of my time was spent on reading novels, articles and magazines. My days are now more structured. I start my day at 6.30am. My study period lasts two to three hours at a stretch. I then have lunch followed by a nap in the afternoon. Thrice a week, between 5.30pm and 8pm, I conduct taekwondo classes. At night, I study up to another two hours, if I am not too tired. I reward myself once in a while by going out for a dance and having a drink or two,” shares Teoh, who comes from a Peranakan background.
Being a learner at his age brings with it numerous challenges. “I left school more than 50 years ago. Starting from scratch once again presented a steep climb. But slowly I found my second wind; I am still struggling with memory problems and eye fatigue as only my right eye is functioning now.”
Initially, he found learning how to use the computer quite an obstacle but he says, “With perseverance, I managed to overcome it, though there are areas where I am still learning.” Not only that, lectures in Bahasa Malaysia can be a challenge for him since he only speaks bazaar Malay.
Certain health issues also intrude on his life as a learner. “The long Sunday tutorials from 8am to late afternoon are something I have to get used to. I catch myself yawning sometimes. I am sure the face-to-face tutors or anyone who happen to look my way would think that my yawning is due to boredom but it is actually due to lack of oxygen caused by an ischaemic heart condition. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease also presents some problems particularly during examinations.”
To alleviate these problems, he practises taekwondo and does light weight-training exercises thrice weekly, though there are times when he has to be hospitalised for a few days in order to stabilise his condition. “A positive disposition certainly helps,” says the man, who is also fond of playing the classical guitar.
Now in his sixth semester, Teoh has grown used to his study schedules and long hours surfing the Internet and myVLE, the University’s learning portal, for additional information. “The blended mode of learning is an attractive feature. Knowledge is disseminated via face-to-face tutoring, modules and e-tutoring,” he adds.
Teoh could have easily relaxed in his golden years but this gutsy learner does not believe in resting on his laurels. “Retirement is the best time to engage in learning. I strongly feel that as we grow older, we need to be cognitively engaged. Besides gaining knowledge, we may attain our ambition of earning a degree. We can pass knowledge and skills to others particularly the young who are under our charge,” opines Teoh.
In addition to that, Teoh believes that learning has made him a better individual. “The psychology modules covering various aspects of life such as human behaviour, child psychology and counselling psychology help me understand people around me better. I am calmer and more reflective. I believe I am more knowledgeable now and interact with people more meaningfully,” says Teoh, who has a new circle of younger coursemates sharing the same interest.
Teoh is also grateful to the staff at the learning centre who assist him in his studies. “OUM makes you feel like you belong. The discount in tuition fees for senior citizens is a most welcome feature,” he says, adding that he intends to pursue a Master’s degree should his health permit. Teoh is definitely an exemplary figure for both the young and the old, and is the epitome of lifelong learning.