Education DG: Embrace empathy development within curriculum

PUTRAJAYA (15 Sept): The Education Ministry director-general has encouraged teachers and students to participate in the #StandTogether National Kindness Week movement, as it helps students’ holistic development by building important social skills such as empathy.

In an exclusive interview with Star’s R.AGE team, Education DG Datuk Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim explained the challenges of imparting values and skills such as empathy, and how teachers need to be better prepared for it.

“It is most difficult to ensure holistic development, as we are very much focused on academics and making sure that students are prepared for tests, ” said Dr Habibah.

“The #StandTogether movement helps supplement what is not fully emphasised within certain classrooms, but it would also be best to embrace empathy within the classroom.

“For instance, to understand history, being able to internalise what happened in the past will allow you to learn better from historical events, ” she said.

The #StandTogether National Kindness Week will kick off this year on Sept 21, with thousands of students and teachers expected to participate online in various interactive learning activities and programmes, all free of charge.

Participants will also be equipped to become “Kindness Ambassadors” in their various schools and communities, in order to create a kinder Malaysia.

Dr Habibah added that kindness and empathy are already embedded in the Malaysian school curriculum, but she encouraged teachers to use a project-based approach to help students fully develop these values.


“Students will build up social skills and understand relationships when working together, which is beyond understanding just the content, ” added Dr Habibah.

The #StandTogether campaign was founded in 2017 by Star Media Group’s award-winning R.AGE team and property developer SP Setia, in response to the increase in severe bullying cases, especially for students online.

Other key stakeholders like Unicef Malaysia and the Education Ministry quickly came onboard to support the campaign, having acknowledged the desperate need for kindness and empathy-based education.

The movement usually culminates in a nationwide Kindness Week celebration on the first week of April, but this was postponed to September 21–27 and adapted online due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kindness Week will start with the nationwide Kindness Challenge, an interactive WhatsApp chatbot which will curate daily “Kindness Missions” for participants throughout the week.

There is also the online Kindness Workshop, a series of online training for students and teachers to experience kindness and empathy skills activities developed by #StandTogether partners Tribeless.

The Kindness Workshop is supported by Unicef Malaysia.

Students can also participate in the Kindness Leaders Programme, a six to eight-week online fellowship to equip a new generation of students (aged below 21) with empathetic leadership skills.

Students who complete the programme can then pitch for RM1,000 in grant funding for kindness projects in their schools.

To sign up for the #StandTogether National Kindness Week campaign, go to

Click here for the full interview with Dr Habibah.

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