Go­ing in­ter­na­tional at home

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Private & International School Guide - By NISSHANTHAN DHANAPALAN

PAR­ENTS find that in­vest­ing in an in­ter­na­tional ed­u­ca­tion paves a fu­ture for their chil­dren that is open to a mul­ti­tude of op­por­tu­ni­ties.

The child is de­vel­oped in terms of ed­u­ca­tion and school ex­pe­ri­ence (con­tent), the peo­ple they study and in­ter­act with (con­text), and char­ac­ter.

“I would say that in­ter­na­tional schools are by their na­ture dif­fer­ent from lo­cal pub­lic schools. In­ter­na­tional schools are steeped in the de­vel­op­ment of the whole stu­dent and a holis­tic ed­u­ca­tion,” says Ivan McLean, head of Mid­dle and Se­nior Schools of the Aus­tralian In­ter­na­tional School Malaysia.

“The teach­ing style at in­ter­na­tional schools can also be very dif­fer­ent to lo­cal schools. Rather than a di­dac­tic ap­proach, the lessons will gen­er­ally be more co­op­er­a­tive and en­quiry-based, with a fo­cus on in­de­pen­dence, cre­ativ­ity and a global out­look.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, class sizes are usu­ally much smaller and, there­fore, the stu­dents are at­tended to more in­di­vid­u­ally with lower teacher-to-stu­dent ra­tios.”

In­ter­na­tional schools gen­er­ally adopt and teach syl­labi based on the coun­try they are af­fil­i­ated to, such as the Ger­man and Amer­i­can cur­ric­ula, In­ter­na­tional Bac­calau­re­ate (IB), Edex­cel or Cam­bridge In­ter­na­tional Ex­am­i­na­tions.

Ra­jan Kaloo, di­rec­tor of ser­vices of elc In­ter­na­tional School, says, “An in­ter­na­tional school ed­u­ca­tion does not au­to­mat­i­cally equate to a bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion. In a Malaysian con­text, how­ever, it usu­ally means bet­ter ac­cess to English.

“We live in a world that is di­verse and whose bound­aries are be­ing eroded into what can be de­scribed as a global vil­lage. Work­forces are highly mo­bile and some of them are very hun­gry for suc­cess. The English lan­guage is in­creas­ingly seen as the lan­guage of com­merce, tech­nol­ogy and sci­ence.”

Lev­er­age and safety

Many schools boast state-of-theart in­fra­struc­ture that in­cor­po­rates tech­nol­ogy and life­style within the cam­pus. In­ter­na­tional schools are well equipped with fa­cil­i­ties that help aid learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences in and out of the class­room.

With smaller and more learn­ing-friendly spa­ces, in­ter­na­tional school stu­dents can ex­plore sub­jects and knowl­edge be­yond the con­fine­ments of their desks.

A study con­ducted in 2002 in Wash­ing­ton showed that en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions such as spa­tial con­fig­u­ra­tions, noise, tem­per­a­ture and com­fort im­pact stu­dents’ per­for­mance in school.

Ex­tracur­ric­u­lar fa­cil­i­ties such as swim­ming pools, fields, gyms, theatres and mu­sic rooms are an in­te­gral part of the teach­ing process to de­velop more well­rounded in­di­vid­u­als. They are also equipped with safety mea­sures.

Th­ese help stu­dents en­gage out­side class­room set­tings and brush up on skills other than those re­quired in the aca­demics.

“Par­tic­i­pa­tion in ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties helps them make new friends with com­mon in­ter­ests, chal­lenges them to work ef­fec­tively as a team and pushes them to think crit­i­cally about how to best achieve a com­mon goal, not to men­tion con­flict man­age­ment and prob­lem-solv­ing.

“Th­ese are the skills we want our chil­dren to have as they move to a suc­cess­ful univer­sity ex­pe­ri­ence and be­yond,” says Bill Iron­side, prin­ci­pal of Sun­way In­ter­na­tional School.

Of­ten­times, fa­cil­i­ties within a school be­come the bench­mark as to how “good” the school is and par­ents use that asa yard stick to jus­tify the cost of send­ing their child to an in­ter­na­tional school. The no­tion that bet­ter fa­cil­i­ties mean bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion is still a gen­eral per­cep­tion among many par­ents.

“Ef­fec­tive learn­ing can take place in any school re­gard­less of fa­cil­i­ties. Valu­able ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties may not need spe­cial­ist equip­ment or fa­cil­i­ties.

“Many schools are now ex­per­i­ment­ing with open en­vi­ron­ments and un­struc­tured spa­ces. How­ever, tal­ented ed­u­ca­tors can make learn­ing hap­pen any­where,” says Dr Ni­cola Brown, as­sis­tant prin­ci­pal of St Joseph’s In­sti­tu­tion In­ter­na­tional School Malaysia.

Dr Brown stresses that it is more im­por­tant for a school to have the right kind of ed­u­ca­tors who will be able to make good use of the fa­cil­i­ties pro­vided in con­duct­ing a plat­form that is con­ducive to ef­fec­tive learn­ing.

The lat­est learn­ing fa­cil­i­ties and tech­nol­ogy al­ways help in a school and the cost of a school of­ten di­rectly cor­re­lates to them, but they do not amount to much if the school does not re­cruit good teach­ers,” she adds.

Ed­u­ca­tors are what makes a school what it is as the heart of the class­room lies with teach­ers. Hence, in­ter­na­tional schools take great pride in en­sur­ing that they not only get in­di­vid­u­als who are great ed­u­ca­tors but also nur­tur­ers who can help de­velop and shape stu­dents to reach their high­est po­ten­tial.

“Good schools have ded­i­cated teach­ers. The best teach­ers work hard to im­prove their abil­ity to teach. They read and ex­plore the tech­niques used by others in a never-end­ing ef­fort to bet­ter them­selves as pro­fes­sion­als.

“Ef­fec­tive teach­ing de­mands that teach­ers be knowl­edge­able in their sub­ject area. They must have a de­tailed un­der­stand­ing of and pas­sion for what they are teach­ing,” says Mark Ford, prin­ci­pal of Gar­den In­ter­na­tional School.

Un­like pub­lic schools where teach­ers are civil ser­vants gov­erned by the Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry, in­ter­na­tional school teach­ers are hired and screened by the school it­self, the As­so­ci­a­tion of In­ter­na­tional Malaysian Schools and, in some cases, reg­u­la­tory bod­ies in their home coun­try.

It is also manda­tory for for­eign teach­ers in Malaysia to un­dergo back­ground checks prior to as­sum­ing their du­ties as ed­u­ca­tors at their re­spec­tive schools.

For his school, McLean says, “All our teach­ing staff must have a teach­ing registration in their home coun­try.

“In Aus­tralia, this also in­cludes the need to have a Work­ing With Chil­dren Check, which is a stricter check than straight­for­ward Na­tional Po­lice Checks. When work­ing over­seas, it is also manda­tory to have po­lice clear­ance from the coun­try of res­i­dence.”

He adds that child pro­tec­tion is the di­rect re­spon­si­bil­ity of the prin­ci­pal and sig­nif­i­cant penal­ties will be ap­plied if the strictest of pro­to­cols are not fol­lowed dur­ing the em­ploy­ment of staff.

The safety of chil­dren also in­cludes threats and risks be­yond ed­u­ca­tors. Safety in this sense in­cludes both phys­i­cal and health se­cu­rity. Many in­ter­na­tional schools pay ut­most at­ten­tion to en­sure stu­dents' well-be­ing.

Iron­side uses his school as an ex­am­ple to ex­plain the com­mit­ment in­ter­na­tional schools have in en­sur­ing stu­dent safety.

“We have a com­pre­hen­sive su­per­vi­sion sched­ule where the ex­pec­ta­tion is that our teach­ers are 100% present in our class­rooms. This in­cludes study hall su­per­vi­sion, lunch su­per­vi­sion and the re­quired su­per­vi­sion at all ex­tracur­ric­u­lar clubs, so­ci­eties and sports,” he says.

“Sun­way In­ter­na­tional School it­self is a gated school com­mu­nity with se­cu­rity per­son­nel that mon­i­tor all traf­fic in and out of the school prop­erty. They also mon­i­tor our cam­eras that are strate­gi­cally placed through­out the school.”

“We have a Safety & Health Com­mit­tee that meets reg­u­larly to re­view con­cerns that may arise and this in­formed group makes rec­om­men­da­tions to the school’s man­age­ment. In this way, our school is re­spond­ing to the grow­ing de­mands of stu­dent safety.”

A good mix

In­ter­na­tional schools have a di­verse group of chil­dren from dif­fer­ent coun­tries. In the past, this mix be­tween lo­cal and for­eign chil­dren was not en­cour­aged among Malaysians, fear­ing that lo­cal stu­dents would be­come too “west­ern­ised” and con­trib­ute to the ero­sion of their own her­itage and cul­ture.

How­ever, par­ents now un­der­stand the im­por­tance of chil­dren shar­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and knowl­edge with each other based on their dif­fer­ent back­grounds, which in turn boosts the pop­u­lar­ity of in­ter­na­tional schools.

“In the class­room, the op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­ter­cul­tural learn­ing in­crease ten­fold as class­mates from around the world share their per­spec­tive on is­sues and sub­ject mat­ter in a safe and tol­er­ant en­vi­ron­ment that is guided by the teacher. The re­sult of this is that we are grad­u­at­ing glob­ally minded stu­dents,” says Iron­side.

An ed­u­ca­tion ex­pe­ri­ence at an in­ter­na­tional school is worth the in­vest­ment you in­tend to give your child.

Dr Brown de­scribed an in­ter­na­tional school learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, say­ing, “The word of­ten used to de­scribe the ed­u­ca­tion in in­ter­na­tional schools is holis­tic. Ba­si­cally, this means that the ed­u­ca­tion of a whole per­son is not achiev­able with­out ac­tiv­i­ties to de­velop char­ac­ter and em­pa­thy in ad­di­tion to aca­demic pur­suits.”

“The way chil­dren re­late to each other and the wider com­mu­nity will in­di­cate how holis­tic their ex­pe­ri­ences have been.

“To be truly holis­tic, ed­u­ca­tion must be based on a com­mon set of val­ues that are wo­ven through­out the cur­ricu­lum. A holis­tic ed­u­ca­tion can­not be mea­sured by tests and as­sess­ments, it is much less tan­gi­ble than that.”

It is im­por­tant for par­ents to bring their child along and have a look at the schools be­fore mak­ing any de­ci­sion.

Many in­ter­na­tional school ex­perts ad­vise par­ents to take their time in find­ing the right school for their child as it not only has to meet their stan­dards but needs to be a per­fect fit for their child in terms of a suit­able cur­ricu­lum, cam­pus en­vi­ron­ment and cul­ture.

“Par­ents have a choice to ed­u­cate their chil­dren in many dif­fer­ent ed­u­ca­tional sys­tems and this is ul­ti­mately a per­sonal de­ci­sion for each fam­ily, based on what is best suited to each in­di­vid­ual child,” says R.B. Pick, Mas­ter of Mal­bor­ough Col­lege Malaysia.

It is also a great idea to visit in­ter­na­tional school con­ven­tions and ex­hi­bi­tions to get a taste of a va­ri­ety of schools and lis­ten to talks by ed­u­ca­tion spe­cial­ists in aid­ing your de­ci­sion-mak­ing process. It is all about giv­ing your child the best ed­u­ca­tion ex­pe­ri­ence that nur­tures her growth and re­alises her po­ten­tial.

In a nut­shell, as Pick puts it: “Key ar­eas for a suc­cess­ful school are di­ver­sity, a pupil-cen­tred vi­sion and ethos, proac­tive pupils both past and present, a creative en­vi­ron­ment, and a thriv­ing at­mos­phere.

“Th­ese are all as­pects that should be con­sid­ered, cou­pled with the more ob­vi­ous prece­dents such as aca­demic stand­ing, sport­ing re­sults, creative en­rich­ment and rep­u­ta­tion.”

Cut­ting-edge fa­cil­i­ties and glob­ally ex­pe­ri­enced teach­ers are some of the fac­tors why in­ter­na­tional schools are in­creas­ing in pop­u­lar­ity.

In­ter­na­tional schools cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­ter­cul­tural learn­ing among stu­dents of dif­fer­ent back­grounds.

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