IT’S not every day that you get to chill with the Prime Minister in a kopitiam. It’s even less often that you get to tell him exactly what you think about his education policy.

But that was pretty much what we were up to a couple of days ago when R.AGE was invited to a very candid nation-building brainstorming session with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

A whole bunch of young leaders were brought together for the session (including yours truly and R.AGE journalist Sharmila Nair), held at a coffee shop in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, where we were split into different groups to each brainstorm a couple of issues.

One of the issues our group was offered was: “How can we move away from an education system that relies on rote learning and tuition?”

We brainstormed the topic among ourselves, and when the Prime Minister arrived, he went from group to group to hear what kind of crazy ideas we had for him.

Ours was the first group, but before we could even start, the PM saw our given topic and said: “Ah, I’m very much for this. I hate this (rote learning)!” Doesn’t get more candid than that.

It was nice getting to see the PM so relaxed, and so open to what we had to say. But our ideas weren’t the main point of the event. While the PM assured us that some of the ideas would actually be implemented, it seemed like the session was more to prove that young Malaysians could achieve so much for the country, if only they put their heads together.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak discussing with a group of participants at a brainstorming session with young leaders and others in Kuala Lumpur.

And that’s why Najib was there to launch the Genovasi Challenge (, a new platform to encourage and crowd-source nation-building ideas from young Malaysians all over the country.

“I will make sure that your innovative ideas are rewarded,” said Najib. “We will offer attractive prizes for the best ideas. Not only that, we will also help you get resources to implement your ideas, so you can realise your vision of a better neighbourhood and community.”

The Genovasi Challenge is a series of challenges; the first one titled Connected Communities. Submissions will be accepted from now till Dec 15 on, and the best idea will win a whopping RM100,000. Anyone over the age of 14 can take part.

Detractors may see this as just another election gimmick, something which Najib himself dryly joked about at the event. But based on our experience with our weekly #RAGEchat Twitter discussions, we know that young Malaysians have plenty of brilliant ideas on how to improve their communities, and indeed the entire country.

So the bottom line with this challenge is that you could get the chance to do something that can really impact your local community, if you can figure out how to make your nation-building ideas practical and executable. That should be worth setting aside whatever scepticism we may have to take up the challenge.

Tell us what you think!

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