By See Foon Chan-Koppen
Tenby Schools which started as a small international school in Ipoh, is now a rapidly expanding group of integrated schools comprising an international and a Malaysian private school on each campus. With the opening of Tenby in Miri, Sarawak, together with Tenby Schools in Penang, Setia Eco Park in Shah Alam and its parent in Ipoh, Tenby Schools can proudly stand tall as one of the largest educational groups in
Malaysia offering an international education with an affordability factor to make it accessible to many more young people.
“A United World At Peace – Through Education”
Tenby Schools’ origins lie in a small kindergarten opened in 1960 in the church hall of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Ipoh, Perak. The school was founded by Mrs Dorothy Nelson-Doig to cater to children of British planters, miners and soldiers. It was named Tenby after her hometown, a small fishing port in Wales.
Over the years, what started as a kindergarten evolved into an international school for both primary and secondary students and by 2001 a private Malaysian school was established to operate alongside the international school on the same campus. In July 2011, their first batch of A-level students achieved outstanding results.
The concept of an integrated school was not only well received by the local community; it is also the source and inspiration of the school’s vision of creating “A United World At Peace – Through Education”.
In 2005, Tenby Schools spread its wings to Penang when it took over the ailing Sri Inai School. The steady improvement and development of this school, culminated in the move to a new campus at Tanjung Bungah in August 2011, providing quality international and local education to the community of Penang.
The highly successful Tenby Schools Setia Eco Park in Shah Alam is the first purpose-built school within the group. In less than two years since its establishment in 2008, the school has become one of the most popular and dynamic schools in the Klang Valley. Today, the school hosts a student population of around 1,400 from Early Years to Secondary and is set to open a Sixth Form in 2012.
Shell Chooses Tenby
The latest addition to the Tenby Schools family is Tenby International School, Miri in Sarawak. One of the oldest international schools in Malaysia, the school was established by Shell for the children of its expatriates. When Shell made the decision to open the school to a wider range of students, it invited 13 providers of education both Malaysian and International, to present their operational qualifications and track records.
As testimony to their winning educational formula of an international education coupled with affordability, Tenby was chosen and in September this year, welcomed their first batch of Secondary students. The commitment from Tenby was to expand and take in both Malaysian and other expatriate children aside from Shell employees as well as to open a brand new campus in two years time.
A school planned for Johor will, on its opening in 2013, make Tenby the largest educational group in Malaysia.
The Tenby Educare group was founded by the late Dato’ K.K. Lim, a successful entrepreneur who was passionate about education reform and had dreams of “A United World at Peace – Through Education” which became the Vision for Tenby Schools. He wanted Tenby schools to be “beacon” schools, shining their light on dark areas of the educational system in Malaysia. This is reflected through its mission and actions, which are geared towards developing global citizens of the future who are culturally sensitive and respectful towards others. Tenby students are also groomed to be effective communicators and internationally minded lifelong learners.
Man at the Helm
I spoke to Robert Lloyd, Director of Education for Tenby Schools and the man at the helm, on the explosive growth and his plans for the group. Robert, a veteran educator with a Masters degree in Education from University of London, first came to Malaysia in 2001 as head of the Garden International Secondary School in Kuala Lumpur. He joined Tenby in 2008 initially to set up the Tenby School in Shah Alam. Now as head of the group, his mandate is to develop the brand and establish as many Tenby schools throughout Malaysia as is viable.
Robert’s interest in international education began when he was Principal at Hendon UK, a government school with a wide range of children from different cultural backgrounds and different mother tongues. A twinning programme with a school in Malaysia brought him out regularly and when the offer to join the Garden International School came, Robert took the job with alacrity.
Joining Tenby provided Robert with the springboard to turn his ideas into reality. “Tenby schools occupy a unique niche in the education scene in Malaysia. On one side are the International schools staffed by a preponderance of expat teachers, charging very high fees, most of which paid by the companies who employ expatriates and on the other extreme, much cheaper private schools staffed entirely by Malaysians offering an international curriculum. Tenby is in the middle with affordable fees staffed by a teacher mix of ⅓ expatriate and ⅔ Malaysian with both an international and national curriculum,” he said.
Stranmillis College Link
“I believe training is vital to our success and we put a lot of resources into training our teachers. We have links with Stranmillis College, a part of Queen’s University in Belfast where Professor George Beale comes out for a month each year to monitor and evaluate the quality of our teaching programmes. The rest of the time, the experienced expat teachers act as trainers and role models for the local teachers under the guidance of Dr. Goh Kok Kheng a former principal and experienced educationist from Penang who is responsible for training across the group. We even send some of our local teachers to the UK for intensive training,” he added.
English Speaking, Global Minds
But why would parents pay to send their children to Tenby Schools for the national curriculum albeit the fees being lower than those for the International, when the local schools are free? “We currently have 60% of our students enrolled in the International curriculum and 40% in the Malaysian. Our classes are small with a maximum total of 25 per class, compared to the local schools where classes are much larger. Where it’s a Malay or mother-tongue speaking environment in local schools, ours is all in English which helps to raise the level of English for those in the Malaysian curriculum. Consider also the priceless advantage of raising children in a multi-cultural setting where they’re rubbing shoulders with expats from all over the world. Our students learn to think globally and from a young age are taught to evaluate the consequences of their actions on other individuals, the community and the environment. If you’re preparing a child for the world stage when they leave school, be it for a foreign university or an international work assignment, then this is the kind of education you’d want for your child,” he enthused.
What of plans for the future? “We have begun to accelerate our drive for improved quality and have recently hired Denise Sinclair from the UK as School Improvement and Development Manager. Her designation says it all. We have also introduced Baseline testing for new students which are used by many international schools. This tests for Literacy, Numeracy and IQ, and will be the first time in Malaysia that it is used for children following the Malaysian curriculum.”
He explains that it is Tenby Schools’ aim to make international education and the opportunity for developing global citizens accessible to as many young people as possible by means of affordable fees and the provision of scholarships.
Well, if I had young children, I’d be rushing to get places for them.