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International Schools and the New Normal

Schools around the country are finally starting to reopen after the extended periods of various Movement Control Orders (MCOs). With the COVID-19 virus still very much present within the community, educational institutions are no doubt left with little choice but to adapt to the new norms in order to continue providing quality education in a safe environment. 

Ipoh Echo has recently reached out to several international schools within Ipoh to find out more about how they have been adjusting to the new norms. The common practices and SOPs shared among the schools include having all students and staff sign in, as well as conducting temperature scans and hand sanitisation before entry into school premises. Mask-wearing, of course, is compulsory. The schools have also been equipped with sanitising stations and all high-contact surfaces are regularly cleaned. Hallways, chairs and tables are marked to ensure social distancing at all times. 

The section below further illustrates the measures the schools have taken and are still taking to adjust to circumstances arising from the pandemic. 

 

EdQuest International School

Front desk and check-in point

Even before the implementation of the MCO, EdQuest International School has been utilising a hybrid educational system, in which lessons are conducted both physically and online. 

According to EdQuest’s Director, Harry Seggu, “The MCO has accelerated our school’s performance further. We have a digital system in place and when the MCO kicked in, our team of teachers and students went through the process seamlessly.” 

Primary students in particular are assigned online activities, though upon reopening, the school had to come up with new schedules as many students are unable to sit for long periods in front of the computer. Additionally, some online classes were scheduled at different parts of the day or even on weekends during the MCO. 

Socially-distanced desks in a classroom

The online lessons are recorded and accessible even at a later time, hence students can revisit them anytime as part of their revision. Through this, they can also progress in lessons at their own pace. EdQuest acknowledges that each student has their own personal learning journey, and their team of teachers continuously keeps track of their progress to make sure they do not fall behind.

 

Asia Metropolitan International School (AMETIS) 

Ever since schools were allowed to gradually reopen, AMETIS too, has been moving away from online lessons and returning to conducting physical lessons. Previously during the MCO, only the exam year groups attended school in person, while the rest of the students attended their lessons online. 

“Fortunately, we found that execution of interactive online learning has been successful, with good attendance of the learners,” said the Principal of AMETIS, Agalya Devy Balaguru in an interview via email. 

Chinese new year online assembly

When asked about aid provided to students who may be falling behind due to the online lessons, Agalya explained that extra classes, remedial sessions and tutorials were and are still being conducted to support the learners. During lockdown, additional one-to-one online classes were conducted for those who had difficulty following the regular online classes. 

To minimise close contact as much as possible, AMETIS currently practices a system whereby only the teachers move around between class periods. Dismissal time is also staggered and two different locations are designated for pick up after school, with students assigned to these according to year groups. Students are also only to spend recess within their classrooms. 

School check-in point

The staff at AMETIS have made the extra effort to plan out designated routes from one area to another within the school to avoid possible crowding of students within the hallways. Signs, information posters and arrows marked on the floor and walls are used to direct student movement. 

 

Fairview International School Ipoh

Fairview International School prioritises an interactive style of education that highly encourages student participation. As such, now that students are allowed to attend school in person, Fairview Ipoh primarily conducts physical lessons, as this provides a more conducive environment for their curricula. 

Fairview Ipoh’s Head of Campus, Michele Lum, admitted that due to the abruptness of the MCO March last year, there had been some minor hiccups in the transition to online lessons especially among the younger students who were not as familiar with technology as their older peers. Fortunately, the students have since been accustomed to the online tools utilised for lessons, such as Zoom and Google Hangouts. Fairview International School even has their own digital learning management system, the BeED, to further facilitate online learning by providing a centralised platform for grading and homework, taking attendance, sending notes, and communication, among other features. 

In light of the ongoing circumstances due to the pandemic, Fairview Ipoh has also implemented some new measures to ensure the safety of all staff and students. With the school canteen now allowed to operate, the chairs and tables have now been marked for proper social distancing. A cashless payment system is also utilised for purchases of meals. 

Students during break time

“It’s good that canteens are allowed to operate now, as the students would definitely appreciate some time away from the classroom and a breath of fresh air,” she expressed. To avoid crowding, recess is split into three sessions and divided according to class. 

 

Imperial International School Ipoh

Imperial International School Ipoh was already integrating online programmes even before the MCO, hence the shift from face-to-face classes to online learning was not a drastic one. 

The Principal of Imperial International School Ipoh, Katherine Claire Beadle, stated that the overall curriculum has remained unchanged even when the means of delivery were different when schools still could not reopen. Imperial Ipoh no longer holds online classes, though the school has begun to integrate more usage of technology in the classroom such as interactive smart boards. Learners have also reacted positively to the use of online tools and applications such as Kahoot to help encourage participation in lessons. 

Social distancing in the classroom

With students now able to attend school in person, they are highly encouraged to utilise the facilities available to them to make the most out of their time outside the confines of their home. The staff at Imperial International School Ipoh have made the effort to ensure that students can use the library on campus, as many have shown an avid interest in reading. As safety measures, all books are wrapped and are sanitised after each use. Students are also not allowed to bring library books home. 

Individual student art activity in class

Furthermore, Imperial International School Ipoh has a newly introduced sensory pathway exclusively for their primary students. “Younger children thus have the opportunity to spend some energy and get a bit of exercise in between classes while still staying in a safely distanced environment,” Katherine explained.

 

Students’ tenacity and parents’ cooperation

Each principal expressed utmost pride in their student’s tenacity to learn and grow even during challenging times. The overall reception towards online lessons during the MCO was largely positive despite there being some initial setbacks especially for students who were still unfamiliar with technology at the time.

Katherine of Imperial International School Ipoh even observed, “Through online classes, many students have grown more independent when it comes to learning, in turn not only growing to form their own opinions, but also to be more respectful towards views different from their own.” 

Even with the extended time away from school, students have shown great eagerness to return. Although there had been initial concerns regarding adherence to the new SOPs in place, they have proved to have little problems practicing the new safety measures and have simply integrated them as part of their daily lives in school. 

There is a general consensus among the principals that parents are also key players in facilitating a smooth transition into the new normal for the students. They have been highly cooperative in helping to ensure that their children attended their online classes, such as through providing support via troubleshooting or, in the case of the younger students, even physically being with them during lessons. 

Their support continues even with the reopening of schools, closely adhering to the new procedures that are currently implemented whenever they are in school grounds. 

Clear and direct communication through social media and mobile messaging apps have been cited to be of major importance as well for seamless coordination between all parties involved when it comes to execution of new arrangements.

 

EdQuest International School
Website: https://edquest.edu.my/
Contact: 05-281 2806 

Asia Metropolitan International School (AMETIS)
Website: http://cambridge.ametis.edu.my/
Contact: 05-543 0244

Fairview International School
Website: https://ipoh.fairview.edu.my/
Contact: 05-313 6888

Imperial International School
Website: https://www.imperial.edu.my/
Contact: 05-237 5188

 

Jia Huey

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