Ms. Jane Kuok, Campus Principal of Tenby Schools Ipoh, has a prolific background in education, part of which includes extensive experience as a Council of International Schools (CIS) Accreditation Leader and as an advisor for the development of the International Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCEi) at Nottingham University. She is passionate about teacher training and is a fully trained tutor on the PGCEi courses run by Queen's University Belfast and Stranmillis University College and has led training for the Cambridge Diploma for Teaching and Learning (CIDTL) programme. She is currently completing her Advanced Diploma in Education with the University of Bath. Prior to her current position, Jane was the Principal of Tenby International School Setia Eco Park and has also served as the Head of Primary and Teaching and Learning Advisor at Garden International School in Kuala Lumpur. Jane is a very proactive and 'hands on' school leader, frequently seen in classrooms and greeting parents. She has high expectations of all stakeholders and brings a huge wealth of knowledge and expertise to the school. Jane is Malaysian but was born and raised in the United Kingdom. She is a graduate in Social Biology and Education from the University of Surrey and can be described as the epitome of a "third culture kid" who is fully aware of the challenges and rewards being faced by children educated in the international system. Jane shares with us here, her thoughts about international education.
1. What do you love the most about your job?
The children -they are the most important reason we do our jobs at Tenby Schools. It is so wonderful observing them blossom as individuals, becoming unique personalities that reflect qualities that we have termed "Tenbyness", such as confidence without arrogance, taking risks, and having the ability to adapt and be resilient. Several of our students have obtained places in prestigious universities, including Cambridge University and the London School of Economics in the UK.
2. Tell us more about learning in an international school.
Many parents make the decision of sending their children to an international school without understanding the ethos of an international school. Parents have their own perceptions of what education is and their expectations often reflect their own school experiences, which can sometimes be a very traditional, old-fashioned method of didactic teaching, with a large amount of homework and cramming for exams. Based on research on learning over the last 20 plus years, the 'traditional' methods work for passing exams for some students, but not when it comes to preparing them for tomorrow's world.
Learning today is about 'learning to learn', having an emotional link, being an active learner, questioning, adapting and applying knowledge, skills and understanding to learning scenarios. Learning should be about experiences beyond the classroom. It's about joining in with the school community, applying ideas and leading initiatives, being involved in a range of opportunities, excursions, experiences of the arts, sports, music, competitions and community services. It's about experiencing success and failure, and learning to deal with a range of emotions in preparation for life.
3. How can international schools provide a cross-cultural education to students from all walks of life, such as "third cultures kids" like yourself?
Third Culture Kids (TCKs) is a term used to describe children who were raised in a culture outside of their parents' culture for a significant part of their developmental years. TCKs have characteristics that make them more adaptable to change in different environments, they have a strong ability to build relationships and see situations from different viewpoints. Children who are immersed within the Tenby Schools' ethos are certainly exposed to such opportunities like that of a TCK. The learning environment enables students to explore international mindedness through topics taught within the curriculum and through exposure to activities beyond the classroom that allow students to integrate with one another e.g. Co-Curricular Activities, Model United Nations, Interact Club, Competitions, Tournaments, Excursions, overseas residential trips, celebrating different cultural festivities and making links with children in schools overseas. Embracing both the local Malaysian culture and celebrating the international cultures represented at the school enables Tenby students to develop as confident global citizens ready for the future.
4. In your opinion, what does it take to be a good teacher?
People often say, "You work half a day!" to teachers.
Well, being a teacher does not end when the children have gone home. Work is often completed after school hours, during weekends and holidays. It is a thankless profession where teachers need to be self-starters, excellent communicators, organisers and multi-taskers. Teachers are not just academically inclined; they need to be able to put their hand to a diverse range of tasks such as event organisation, moving furniture, budgeting and even counseling. The demands of the job are equal, irrespective of whether you teach at kindergarten, primary or secondary level.
5. What advice would you give parents who wish to enroll their children into an international school?
International schools are mushrooming in Malaysia, even in lpoh itself. Many, in my opinion, claim to be international and offer an international syllabus, but fail to reflect international delivery practices and ethos. Parents need to bear in mind what plans they may have for their children's tertiary education, as some qualifications on offer may not be recognised beyond Malaysia. Their choice of school will then be based on whether they wish to have their children study courses locally or abroad in years to come.
My advice to parents is to visit the schools under consideration, understand their philosophy and make a decision based on which school best suits their children. One 'good' school may be suitable for some, but not for others. Parents need to find a school that suits their children's needs and has a philosophy in line with their own to allow their children to flourish.