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  • Writer's pictureStacey Chiew

AISM - Paving the way for the 22nd Century Learning

If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow. - John Dewy

Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all schools. The concepts and theories of learning have evolved and changed for the past ten years. Modern technology has transformed education in many ways and changed the way our children learn. This is the era where the ability of students asking more challenging questions is seen as more important than giving all the correct answers. Innovative teachers have shifted from a teacher-centred to a student-centred approach. If the world continues to change and our current education system doesn’t, then we are failing our children.

While some of the schools are focusing on raising the level of personalization in education, others are finding ways to engage their students in new kinds of learning experiences for greater justice.

According to Liam King, the principal of Australian International School Malaysia (ASIM), he believes the 21st-century education framework can help educators predict the future of education and skills for the 22nd century. He stresses that the mission of the 21st-century schools is to implement change and support the different parts of change that are happening now.

To Mr King, technology is only part of the equation of the overall changes. He believes successful transformation of a rich and meaningful learning experience can only take place with forward-thinking teachers, committed leaders and strong school cultures. He is confident that the leaders of tomorrow will invest more in the mental wellbeing of students and bring mindfulness into the classrooms.

In his own words, Mr King shares his views on what it takes to be a 21st-century principal, why Australian schools are highly sought after and why more parents are choosing international education.

Liam King, the principal of Australian International School Malaysia (ASIM)

1. How long have you worked at the AISM? Please tell us about your background.

I joined the Australian International School Malaysia this year in January and I have over 30 years’ experience in education. Prior to my appointment as Principal of AISM, I was the Deputy Principal at Kingswood College in Melbourne. I have also been the Principal of Stamford American International School in Singapore and Deputy Principal of the Australian International School in Singapore. I have been responsible for the development and implementation of curriculum policy and programs from Kindergarten to Year 12. One of the highlights has been the implementation of unique learning and teaching framework to equip students for the 22nd Century Learning called the LATTICE Framework (Learning and Teaching through Innovation, Collaboration and Engagement).

I hold a Master of Education - Administration, Management and Leadership, Master of Education - Research, Graduate Diploma Education Administration, Graduate Diploma Curriculum (The University of Melbourne), Bachelor of Education and Diploma of Teaching (Australian Catholic University).

I have experience in both primary and secondary classrooms and am passionate about developing learning and well-being in students. I am also a strong advocate of the relational element of teaching and the benefit to students that arise through strong connections.

2. In today’s changing education environment, what are the characteristics of a 21st-century principal?

Education has a long tradition of innovation and as John Dewy a famous educational researcher said: ‘If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.’ This sentiment has as much relevance today as it did when he wrote it in 1944.

Modern schooling has changed dramatically in the 21st century and so have the characteristics of a principal in a modern, collaborative and innovative workforce. principals need skills and knowledge to implement modern teaching practices that encourage critical thinking, collaboration and problem-solving. Therefore as the Head Learner in the school, they also need to demonstrate these characteristics.

3. What is the percentage of local and international students at your school? What is the school mission under your leadership?

The future is not someplace we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.’ (John H Schaar)

My vision as Principal of the Australian International School Malaysia is to build on the School’s current strong reputation to create a world-class school that is known for the quality of its programs, high achievement, strong pedagogical leadership and visible wellbeing. To develop students who are inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who make a difference in their world through respect and intercultural understanding. I encourage students to become active, compassionate life-long learners who understand other people and accept that our differences are what make us unique and special.

Currently, AISM has 45% local students and 55% expat students.

4. How AISM prepares students for the 21st-century world?

We prepare students for a 21st Century work through offering the Australia Curriculum which is flexible yet challenging and meets the needs of a mobile and globally focused multi-cultural community. It has been designed to be accessible to all students. We believe that:

· every student can learn, and the needs of every student are important;

· each student is entitled to knowledge, understanding and skills that provide a foundation for successful and lifelong learning;

· if high expectations are set for each student; even though the needs and interests of students will vary, we can adapt the curriculum in ways that respond to those needs and interests.

The key for us is to recognise that education is no longer just about the dispensing of knowledge. It is more than that and this concept is outlined by the UNESCO four key pillars of education:

• Learning to know

• Learning to do

• Learning to live together

• Learning to be

Our approach allows students the freedom to think, to challenge, to do.

In the final years of schooling, a significant feature of the Australian Curriculum is that students are given opportunities to be assessed in a range of ways other than solely by external examinations. Assessment has two components; 50% of the overall grade comes from a final examination set and marked in Australia, and the other 50% comes from school-based assignments, examinations and projects. This caters for all students and enables them to maximise their grades thus opening up a greater range of International tertiary pathways

5. Many international schools in Malaysia hire 30-90% expat teachers. From your point of view, why more and more international schools hire expat teachers? What is the percentage of expat teachers at your school?

International Schools hire expat teachers to reinforce the integrity of what they are offering, for us being an Australian International School we need teachers who are trained and able to deliver the Australian Curriculum so that we can offer an authentic experience to our students. We currently have 82% of International teachers at AISM

6. What is the main difference between the UK and Australian curriculum?

In the 1940’s the Australia Curriculum was modelled on the British Curriculum and at that time knowledge was scarce so there was a strong focus on content. In the post war era society was focussed on control and knowledge was powerful. It was important at this time across the British Empire for the curriculum to be consistent whether you lived in Birmingham, Barbados or Brisbane. The British system still follows this approach and has strong disciplines, subject boundaries and a significant focus on content.

However, in an era where knowledge is now ubiquitous times have changed and so must we. The Australian Curriculum is focussed on the 22nd century as we believe it is vital for children not to just learn content. A world class contemporary education should also prepare them for the challenging business of ‘being’ and that requires a whole new way of looking at learning and teaching.

Recently the ‘Foundation of Young Australians’ conducted research in career pathways and the findings of their study were clear that the days of a linear career (where we train up for one dream job, climb the corporate ladder, and then stay there for 40 years before retiring with a golden watch) are done.

Instead a new era has arrived where we are required to navigate our way through a career web. Young people today can expect to have a portfolio of work - they could potentially have 17 different jobs over 5 careers. In addition to the ‘Foundation of Young Australians’ are forecasting that by 2030 there will a significant increase in demand for digital literacy, bilingual skills, critical thinking and creativity. We believe an Australian Education will prepare students for this type of future.

7. Does having the word ‘international’ in a school’s name mean the school is able to provide a truly international experience? What makes a school ‘truly international'?

Providing an International educational experience is more than just having the word International in a school title, it is about the ethos and values of the school. It is about be willing to accept all nationalities, cultures and people for who they are and what they bring as people. It is about celebrating our collective humanity and looking forward to seek knowledge and understand one another. The more we do this the more we realise that our differences and similarities that bring us together and that fundamentally our needs are typically the same.

8. The mindsets of the Malaysian parents are changing as the majority of them are able and ready to accept the Western teaching philosophies. Why the shift?

I think that this shift is happening as we become more of a globalised society and they realise that participate in today’s society we all need to look outwards to understand one another. I think that they understand that their children are already participants and member of this global society and economy and if we are all to be successful we need to understand and cooperate with one another. There is no more realistic example of this than the moment with COVID-19 and the response that we need to take collectively to overcome this challenge. We can only do this together and we can only do this if the Eastern and Western world’s come together. The perfect platform for this to occur is through education.

Published in Dreamic Educational Magazine 2020.

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