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FULBRIGHT ENGLISH TEACHING ASSISTANT (ETA) PROGRAM IN MALAYSIA

The Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA)* is MACEE’s largest Fulbright program. This is a specialized grant, a sub category of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, where American grantees teach in Malaysian public schools, typically in rural and small towns across the country. 

  • The ETAs are generally recent graduates from American universities who have gone through a rigorous selection process to serve as English Teaching Assistants in national secondary schools (grades 7-12) across Malaysia for a 10-month grant. While most ETAs are without prior teaching experience, they are often enthusiastic, innovative and confident young people who can motivate Malaysian students in their English studies. As a supplement to the existing curriculum, the ETAs have at least 25 contact hours with their students each week and to date the program has impacted tens of thousands of Malaysian students through: 
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    ETA Janice Feng with her SMK Pontian students completing their project for the art club

  • Classroom activities: ETAs assist English teachers for a portion of each class’s usual English schedule. For example, a class with five periods of English might spend one or even two periods with an ETA. ETAs have the freedom to make their own lessons outside of the local curriculum, although they may choose to draw on the curriculum if they wish.
  • Co-curriculars: ETAs may lead the English Language Society at their school or may organize and participate in other activities that interest their students. Many ETAs have special skills such as cooking, athletic ability, musical and artistic talent, or Scouting experience that they can apply to create or lead co-curriculars at their school.
  • English Camps: Special camps are organized throughout the year to promote English use and provide enrichment for students. These camps may have specific themes – ETAs have led camps with a photography theme or environmental focus. ETA camps are often collaborative projects between ETA schools and can involve ETAs, students, teachers and staff from multiple schools.
  • Community Engagement: ETAs immerse themselves in their local communities by participating in local festivities and activities. While ETAs are required to maintain their focus and commitment to their school, they may volunteer locally at orphanages or start projects such as community gardens and recycling projects. ETAs often connect with communities from home via pen pal programs. Through cultural exchanges like these, ETAs have a broad impact on their schools and communities.

* Note that the ETA program is not the same as the Fulbright Scholar grant (for applicants with PhDs) or Fulbright Student Research grant (for students researching for Masters or PhD programs), and they are therefore not a Fulbright Scholar. The use of IIE or U.S. State Department with ETA program is a misnomer. This program is simply known as Fulbright ETA and is managed by Fulbright Commissions across the globe and the U.S. Embassy when the former is absent. The Malaysian ETA Program is managed by the Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange.

 

BACKGROUND OF THE PROGRAM

The program began in 2006 following the an agreement between the U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia, James Keith and Terengganu Chief Minister, Dato’ Idris Jusoh. The ETA program was a collaborative effort between Yayasan Terengganu, Public Affairs section of the U.S. Embassy and MACEE. It was pioneered by 10 Fulbright ETAs who had just graduated from UC Berkeley, Stanford, Ball State, San Diego State, Pitzer, Ohio, Penn State, Davidson, Anderson and GWU. ETAs were placed exclusively in the state of Terengganu from 2006-2011.

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Najib Tun Razak and Barack Obama at the 2011 ASEAN Summit in Bali

In 2011, Malaysian Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak initiated a conversation with the U.S. President, Barack Obama about the possibility of reviving a program similar to the U.S. Peace Corp, which once existed up until the 1980s in Malaysia. While the ETA is a very different program in comparison to the Peace Corp, Malaysia would benefit from the having a native English speaker in rural and small towns all across the country. For many Malaysian students, this would be the first ever interaction with a native speaker. Following the meeting, the ETA program took off at the federal level in 2012, echoing the result of the discussion between the two country leaders the year before. The Malaysian Ministry of Education began to work with MACEE in managing the Fulbright ETA Program. The numbers shot up to 50 ETAs in 2012, later to 75 in 2013 and 100 the following year, where it stands today. To date, over 500 ETAs have been placed in states of Terengganu, Pahang, Johor, Perak, Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak.

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Under Secretary, Richard Stengel talking to students as ETA Sara Townsend and MACEE Director, James Coffman look on

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Secretary of State, John Kerry speaking with ETA Kelsey Grab’s students from SMK Ajil, Terengganu

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President Obama giving a shoutout to ETA in Malaysia during Town Hall Meeting

The Fulbright ETA program in Malaysia received many high profile visitors since its inception at the national level. The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry visited and met with ETAs and their students in 2013, U.S. Under Secretary, Richard Stengel visited the ETAs and their indigenous students at the MACEE office in 2014, and later that year U.S. President Barack Obama gave a shoutout to former ETA Kelsey Grab at the Town Hall Meeting at University Malaya and met with a few ETAs in Kuala Lumpur. 

As of 2017, the Fulbright ETA program is MACEE’s largest grant program and the 3rd largest Fulbright ETA Program in the world behind Germany and South Korea. 

 

OBSERVE THE PROGRAM

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ETA Owen Cortner and SK Cherok Paloh students

Over the years, MACEE has worked on improving the program and has since employed a team of highly skilled staff in managing the program which comprise of Malaysians and Americans who are experts in both Malaysian and American cultures. Part of the addition is the availability of social media and materials for prospective ETAs. MACEE maintains these resources:
- Blog: For ETA stories
- Youtube: see them in action
- Facebook: Interact and keep up-to-date

 

 

APPLY

Every year, recent college graduates are awarded grants to serve as English teaching assistants in secondary public schools throughout multiple states in Malaysia for a 10-month grant, typically from January until November.  No teaching experience is required. Applicants should be mature, flexible, independent, enthusiastic, and willing to serve as cultural “ambassadors.” Fulbright ETA grantees are typically placed in rural and remote parts of Malaysia. There is no research component to this grant.

The Institute of International Education (IIE) administers the application process. Please click here for more information and contact IIE about the application process. MACEE will only be in touch with a grantee once approved as a finalist. You may apply through your educational institution or at-large if you no longer have affiliation with your university or college. If you have any questions about being an ETA in Malaysia, you may contact Raymond at raymond@macee.org.my.

 

ALUMNI
If you are a former ETA and would like get in touch, please contact us at alumni@macee.org.my.