The COVID-19 epidemic sweeping the nation has affected millions of students, whose school closures have more often than not caught them, their teachers, and families by surprise. Six days (please change according to publish date) after the government of Malaysia announced the Movement Restriction Order, we spoke to Mr Ian Gross, the Principal of Kinabalu International School in Kota Kinabalu to learn about their emergency preparedness.
Not completely, our School Leadership and Board had been meeting regularly to keep abreast of the ongoing situation. Daily medical checks and weekly community health updates have been in place at KIS since before the Chinese New Year. Seeing how other countries and schools were reacting we knew that school closures were likely to happen. We had policies in place and had staff prepare work in the case of an immediate closure. Our students are already used to online learning platforms that we use daily as part of our curriculum. With the Government’s announcement and thanks to our staff and community readiness, we were able to move quickly and start KIS Home Learning from the first day.
2. How did the school ensure they are getting the right input and support to handle the emergency?
Different members of staff have responsibility to liaise with the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health and feedback to School Leadership on a daily basis. KIS is also part of three school networks within our region, FOBISIA (Federation of British International Schools in Asia), AIMS (Association of International Malaysian Schools) and the recently formed EMISA (East Malaysian International School Association) and through these networks we are able to access a wealth of information from all member with the UK based examination boards as well as the Council of International Schools.
3. After the first week of online learning, how are the teachers at KIS dealing with edtech resources, learning new practices and streamlining new workflows?
We have a wide variety of experience across all of our staff and they have been fantastic. Some teachers who were not so used to the variety of technologies have been learning quickly from their colleagues so that all teachers are able to support our students online. There is a wealth of learning platforms and resources and the school has maintained the use of those it uses on a daily basis so as not to overwhelm our students.
4. What are the efforts to minimize challenges associated with online learning in order to maintain education continuity admist the MRO?
The difficulty is to make sure there is a good balance between screen time and other activities. All subjects have moved online including Sports, Art and Drama and the challenge is to make sure students are accessing their learning whilst not stuck to the screen all the time. I have just finished videoing a workout session with my daughter and she has to upload the video of the workout to be evidence of her participation in the class.
We made it clear from the start that students and teachers will follow their usual timetable they have in school. The only difference is the work takes place at home, whether it is the teacher or the student. This helps students (and staff) mentally understand their schedule is not disrupted too much and also allows us to continue the curriculum rather than just have random learning assignments that don’t always flow.
5. How are the students and KIS Community as a whole responding to the e-learning system so far?
Extremely well. It is not easy and we are learning alongside the students. Everyone has got the right attitude, taking the learning seriously, whilst enjoying themselves at the same time. It’s also a great way to socialise (virtually) and keep spirits up as they can’t meet each other as they normally would. We are encouraging families to send in videos and pictures of how it is going and it is clear to see everyone getting involved. I am really proud of our KIS Community and spir
6. Lastly, can you share with our readers out there on how parents and adults can support their children emotionally during these challenging times?
Talk and Listen to each other. The Controlled Movement Order, whilst frustrating at times, is also a wonderful opportunity for some family time. Watch a movie together, do some exercise together, play some board games together. We are always so busy rushing around in our normal lives we don’t always have quality time for our families. Now we can. If you are separated from your family because you can’t travel then get on skype or facetime or google hangouts. Chat online. Whatever you do though, make sure anyone living by themselves is also included where possible. At times like these we need to look out for each other.
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