Real life approach to education
by Antonia Chiam. Posted on August 14, 2011, Sunday
THE process of learning is not merely confined to the four walls of a classroom and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme at Fairview International School ensures the students are given a holistic education beyond the traditional classroom environment.
Fairview students learn from young where real life education is concerned. The IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) for students, aged between 11 and 16, provides a framework of academic challenge that allows them to see and understand the connections between traditional subjects and the real world.
Part of this framework includes an annual excursion to places outside Malaysia with the objective to expose the students to various communities and lifestyles.
In early August, 68 MYP students from all four Fairview campuses in Malaysia (Wangsa Maju, Subang, Penang and Johor Bahru) arrived at Siem Reap, Cambodia. They were accompanied by six teachers.
According to Fairview Kuala Lumpur executive director Ann Ng, the school hopes to give students the chance to see some of the Eight Wonders of the World during their time at Fairview.
Siem Reap, famous for its Angkor Archaelogical Park, is one of many destinations the school lines up for its MYP students every year.
“It’s part of their holistic learning experience to see things outside the textbooks. What they encounter during such trip are things students don’t get to see in the city or experience in our own country.
“The students have to update their experiences in their journals daily and will present their thoughts and reflections at the end of the day,” she told thesundaypost during the trip to Siem Reap.
One of the key components of the trip was the community service the students had to participate in.
In the recent trip, they helped out at Spitler Primary School, a non-profit primary school, run by American-based Spitler School Foundation, and at Krousar Thmey Centre, an orphanage-cum-children protection centre.
“We would like to put it to the students that community work is not just for this one trip or other future trips. Besides providing them the opportunity for an eye-opening experience in a foreign land, we also hope to foster an understanding about community work so that someday, the students will be able to apply what they have learnt from these trips to their own local community,” Ng said.
MYP coordinator and team leader Karthigayan Gunasegaran said the community work was part of the IB MYP programme to cultivate positive values.
“Most city kids never experienced hardships. This trip will help them to look at issues from various perspectives and groom them to be international-minded.
“Whatever they learnt must connect to real life. By understanding that, they will learn to ask relevant questions and that, in a way, improves their study skills,” said the teacher from the Penang campus.
He added that the purpose of the trip was to highlight how Cambodia was affected by its decades-long civil war and how the war had changed the lives of the people.
It was also to highlight how the people are struggling to rebuild the war-ravaged nation that had fallen from its ancient glory.
“The Siem Reap trip is to show the students how fortunate they are to have what they have and how much they should appreciate their good life,” he added.
At the end of the trip, Karthi noted that some of the objectives of the trip were fulfilled as seen in the behaviour of many students.
“They were able to overcome the social and cultural barriers as they could mingle well with the local children.
“At the same time, we could see the students putting their communication skills to good use such as when they haggled with stall holders over prices at the night market. It proves language is never a barrier between fellow human beings.”
Karthi believes the trip had made a deep impression on the students, especially during their brief time doing community work.
“I’m sure some of them will come back to Cambodia as adults wanting to help out more. You can see the maturity level in some of these young faces.
“Such excursion takes them out of their comfort zone, making them more independent and adaptable to change which, in a way, helps improve their profiles further as Fairview students,” he said.
Meanwhile, the five-day excursion was a trip of many firsts for most the 13-year-olds.
Dawn Scholastica Adrian from Wangsa Maju campus said it was a totally different kind of experience from city life.
“I had the most memorable time with the local children at the primary school and the orphanage. At first, we could barely communicate because of the language difference but we could still have fun together. I think it’s most important we children can understand each other without the need for many words,” she enthused.
Given the chance, Dawn would love to help her local community.
“But I have a strong feeling of wanting to help Cambodians more. They are much more unfortunate compared to us,” she mused.
For Penang lass Nur Sabrina Rohaizi, there was an initial fear of going to Cambodia.
“The first thing I heard about the country was the unclean water and unhygenic conditions. I was very worried at first but then, fun replaced fear and experience proved it wasn’t so bad after all,” she said.
Sabrina had the most memorable experience at Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, famed for its Floating Village.
“Generally, the people are friendly and the place has a peaceful feel despite its bustling trading activities,” she said, adding that she would love to visit Cambodia again.
For some of the 13-year-old students, the trip was an extra special experience because they got to go overseas without their parents.
“Because we are travelling without our parents, we have to take extra care. Before the trip, I actually made some research online about the food. I found a lot of information about bugs as food and that really scared me but when I tried the crickets and grasshoppers, they are really delicious,” Khaw Ann Li confessed.
For community work, this Subang campus student is keen to help SPCA in Malaysia but is not involved directly yet as time does not permit such an activity.
Besides community work, the students toured a few places of interest, including Artisans D’Angkor Crafts Centre, Angkor Archaelogical Park, Tonle Sap Floating Village and the National Silk Farm.
They also had the opportunity to ride in buffalo carts and have a go at paddy-planting in one of the villages.
Fairview International School has full authorisation from the International Baccalaureate Organisation to provide primary, middle and diploma certifications – the only school in the nation to provide all three levels of the IB programme.
With an established track record for excellent academic achievements over the past 15 years, the school utilises creative educational instruments and employs outstanding educators to form a uniquely international learning experience.