Bin Adey Rahman Hamzah Nor
Transforming research into purpose
It was while he was working as a teacher in a remote rural area of Sabah, Malaysia— populated to a large extent by underprivileged families— Bin Adey Rahman Hamzah Nor became aware that only a small number of students progressed from elementary education to secondary or tertiary education. Determined to find out why provided Hamzah Nor with the impetus that would ultimately lead him to conduct his PhD research at the School of Graduate Studies, Lingnan University. “I felt the need to seek remedies and contribute to the betterment of these people," Hamzah Nor says. While his “More or Better?”: Finding the Balance between Equitable Access and Quality of Higher Education in Malaysia?”, research is on-going, he believes a lack of awareness about access to assistance and scholarships is the main barrier preventing people living in Sabah's remote rural areas from seeking secondary and higher education.
Having graduated with first class bachelor’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language from the Institute of Teacher Education, Malaysia and Master of Education in Teaching English as a Second Language from the University of Malaysia Sabah, Malaysia, Hamzah Nor took his time selecting where to pursue his doctorate studies before deciding that Lingnan was his preferred choice. He hasn't been disappointed. A regular visitor to Hong Kong since 2016, he was familiar with the city's international, multicultural environment, while Lingnan's reputation for academic excellence more than ticked the boxes. “Lingnan is a small but dynamic campus which promotes collaboration between students and lecturers and collaboration between students,” he notes.“Being at Lingnan has motivated and changed me. I'm inspired by the way people at Lingnan work hard to put their research into practice,” he continues. “When I was working on my Master's degree I was focusing on assignments, but being at Lingnan drives me to want to change things through my research.”
A doctorate student at Lingnan since August 2020, Hamzah Nor says his research journey has been defined not by one, but a succession of memorable experiences. “The feeling of organising my first conference will stay with me forever,” he says. Within a year of joining Lingnan he was able to publish two papers in collaboration with Lingnan University Vice-President, Professor Joshua Mok Ka-ho and Professor Weiyan Xiong at the School of Graduate Studies—both of which are Hamzah Nor's supervising professors. He also collaborated with a fellow sociology and social policy PhD student on a paper exploring the complexities of child well-being in Asia. While writing papers for academic publications can be a challenge, at Lingnan Hamzah Nor has found plenty of support as well as opportunities. “Prior to joining Lingnan I had no knowledge whatsoever about writing and publishing papers,” says Hamzah Nor’ who considers himself in a fortunate position to be able to seek advice from a wide spectrum of expertise. “Some say studying for a PhD can be a lonely journey, but at Lingnan I find this is not the case. I feel my supervisors and fellow students are always there to support me,” he says. A prime example is the opportunity to collaborate on research work with Cambridge University in the UK, which was facilitated by Professor Mok and Lingnan.
Adapting to the times
Like many other PhD students, the Covid pandemic has impacted Hamzah Nor research work, which has compelled him to become more adaptable and resilient. For example, unable to travel for interviews and to collect data he has resorted to using video platforms to engage with interviewees. A major challenge he has faced when conducting video interviews is the difficulty of reading body language. “Luckily I am an outgoing person so hopefully I can make people feel comfortable when they are talking to me, but doing interviews by video channels is certainly a lot different than face-to-face,” he explains. In spite of Covid-related social distancing requirements in place, Hamzah Nor appreciates the sense of camaraderie that exists at Lingnan. “It has been a difficult time for everyone, but throughout this period I am grateful for the support I have received, especially from my supervising professors,” Hamzah Nor adds. “Lingnan has given me a lot of opportunities and I don't take these for granted. Putting my research into practice would be a good way of showing my appreciation.”