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Childcare expert shares her passion Print E-mail

Immersed in the field of childcare development and social entrepreneurship in Japan, Dr Wong Lai Yong is keen to share her knowledge and experience with Malaysians.

EVER since she was a teenager, Dr Wong Lai Yong has had an inherent interest in children’s education.

Today, she has acted on that interest by working in the field of childcare development and early childhood education in Japan.

“To be of some support to underprivileged children, especially in the educational field, has always been my passion and goal in life. Therefore, venturing into the childcare industry was a natural process,” said Wong, 38, via e-mail.

Noble cause: ‘My vision is for every child in the world to have access to at least primary education,’ says Wong Lai Yong.

Wong works in a leading Japanese childcare company in Tokyo as supervisor in the business development department. The company manages 76 children’s facilities like childcare centres and pre-schools.

Her role includes coordinating with corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments of multi-national corporations, small-medium enterprises, universities and hospitals to set up their on-site childcare centres, and developing new childcare-related services as well as training programmes.

How Wong ended up in Japan seemed destined from the start. When she was in Form Two, she wanted to pick up a foreign language.

“My father then suggested I study Japanese due to increasing Japanese investments in Malaysia back then. He had studied the language for three months when I was in Standard Six and it seemed interesting, so I took his advice,” she said.

From her first day of class at a private centre, furthering her studies in Japan became her dream.

She also developed a good grasp of the language and in 1990, went to Japan after she won a prize in a national Japanese speech contest.

In 1992, she was selected to visit the country again after scoring the highest points in a Japanese language test at the Consulate-General of Japan in Penang.

After graduating from Universiti Malaya in 1996 with a Bachelor of Economics (Business Administration, first class honours), Wong worked as a procurement officer with a Japanese company in Malaysia until 1997.

She then furthered her studies in Japan under the Monbusho Scholarship, doing her Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Keio University’s Graduate School of Business Administration in Yokohama in 1998, graduating two years later.

Wong continued to pursue her PhD in Business Administration at Yokohama National University’s International Graduate School of Social Sciences, completing it in 2004. While working on her PhD, she also started working as a freelance interpreter and translator, something she still does today.

After that, Wong secured a job as an early childhood education assistant at Kamiida Kindergarten, which comes under the Educational Corporation Naitou Academy, in Yokohama. In 2005, she joined her present workplace, initially working at the childcare centre and international pre-school managed by her employer.

“I wanted to absorb the knowledge and experience of daily operations by working with the children and communicating with parents,” said Wong, who wrote a weekly column on child-raising issues in Japan for Malaysia’s Oriental Daily from January 2007 to June 2009.

Currently, she is attached to her company’s business development department.

“I find my current job very meaningful. I believe that by supporting working parents and nurturing the next generation, we are contributing to the betterment of our society.”

In addition, she enjoys working with like-minded colleagues. “After years of service, I still consider myself fortunate to be able to work with so many people who want to make society a better place,” said Wong, who is also a professional child-minder (National Child-minding Association Japan), a certified babysitter (All-Japan Babysitter Association), a certified child-raising advisor (NPO Japan Child-raising Advisor Association) and has a Childcare Professional Qualification certified by the Japanese Government.

Care service

One of the special projects she has headed for her company was setting up a back-up care service last November for staff of a multinational company in Japan.

“It is a first-of-its-kind service offered by our company to a corporate client that combines a monthly childcare service, one-day childcare service and baby sitting service,” she said.

“Drafting the corporate contract (with an in-house legal specialist) and the Users’ Guide (Japanese and English versions), and coordinating with different operating departments were no joke. I learned (the hard way) how to direct people with different interests and concerns towards the same direction.”

Having accumulated much knowledge and experience over the years, Wong hopes to share it in Malaysia at three different levels – the government, educational institutions and the grassroots.

Issues she would like to highlight include learning through play and promoting inclusive education at the kindergarten level. (Inclusive education is about special needs children attending the same classes as other children.)

Besides being involved in childcare and childhood education, Wong recently embarked on voluntary work in social entrepreneurship, which can be defined as “entrepreneurial principles, ventures or activities driven by a social purpose”.

“Social entrepreneurship is a trend in Japan right now to cater to the diverse needs of the mature society. Although I have been interested in social entrepreneurship activities for quite some time, I actively got involved in it beginning last year,” said Wong, who lives in Yokohama.

“For years, I had been looking for ways to link what I learned in my major in business administration with my personal interest in (contributing to a) better society. Supporting social entrepreneurship activities serves exactly that purpose,” she shared.

One of two key pro-bono activities she has been involved in was doing a market research project with three other people to support a social entrepreneur who was starting up a childcare business.

The purpose of the project was to refine the social entrepreneur’s business plan in order to get funds from the Japanese Government’s Cabinet Office. The social entrepreneur recently succeeded in securing the funds.

Wong’s second activity was a research project on legal acts, looking at the terms and conditions of setting up a private graduate school with the purpose of increasing the school’s credibility and improving the curriculum to provide a better environment for those who want to become social entrepreneurs.

Currently Wong, who is single, is looking at starting her own social entrepreneurial activities or organisation.

She also aims to promote the pro-bono concept in Malaysia, particularly to incorporate it with the CSR concept.

Starting some activities or a non-profit organisation that matches Japanese participants in the Malaysia My Second Home Programme (MM2H) with Malaysia’s young generation is also part of her plans.

“While the participants lead a fulfilled lifestyle by being given the opportunity to mingle with the local community and contributing their knowledge and experience regarding their past careers, our young generation gains a wider perspective on career choice and (way of) life.

“This indirectly contributes to the empowerment of our future manpower and consequently our economic growth.”

Her long-term goal remains in children’s education.

“My vision is for every single child in the world to have access to at least primary education. It is a hard goal to achieve but I believe that by nurturing our younger generation, eventually we can all work together for the betterment of our society,” she said.

Note: When this article went to print, Wong had moved on to a new job as a researcher with an international corporate social responsibility consulting firm in Tokyo. However, her passion and goals in life mentioned in the article remain the same.

Source: http://thestar.com.my/lifestyle/story.asp?file=/2011/1/3/lifefocus/7414039&sec=lifefocus



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