We used to live in a much simpler world, some would argue. No internet and technology meant that children got to play in the playground, develop their motor skills and have an all-round education rather than just a thumb war with the computer / ipad / iphone etc.
So how do we educate our children in the 21st century? Generation Z , ie., those born after the year 2000, who have never known a time without technology. They hold information at the tip of their fingers. There is now no excuse not to know! They are the most well informed, tech-savy generation and will probably grow up to have careers that have not even been invented yet! So, how do we prepare our next generation for a future that seems so uncertain? A future with Brexit, the Trump Presidency and global terrorism?
I may not have all the answers, but what I have come to realise in my 15 years as an education counsellor, is that there is very little we can guarantee about the future. All we can do as parents and educators is to prepare the next generation with skills that will hopefully equip them to take on whatever the future holds. There are no longer secure lifelong jobs that our parents and grandparents used to have. A person going into the workforce in 2016 is predicted to have at least 17 career changes! A little too unstable for my liking but these are the stats!
In Kota Kinabalu alone, we now have alternative education to consider. Home-schooling has become quite the norm, and the rise of private and international schools has shown that parents in KK are looking for alternative education. There are still parents who will send their little ones off to boarding school in the UK, Australia, Canada or USA but for most parents who cannot ween them off too early, then international school or private home schools would be the option.
So how do we choose? Let us break it down here:
Public School – let’s start with the obvious. We are very blessed in Malaysia to have primary and secondary school choices in 3 languages. So if you are comfortable with the Malaysian education system which is now mainly in the Malay-language medium from secondary school onwards, then we definitely have enough government schools in KK to apply to. It is also important as a Malaysian to have your SPM certificates for many government posts as well as professional accreditation should you wish to work in that field in the future.
Private School – Should you feel that public school may not give as much attention to your child as you would like, seeing that typically the ratio of teacher to student is 1: 50, then there are a number of private schools in Sabah that offer the government syllabus and lead you to obtain your SPMs but at the same time have a better teacher student ratio.
International School – This option has become increasingly popular over recent years with institutions sprouting out everywhere in Peninsular Malaysia. In Sabah too, we now have the option to study IGCSEs and A-levels which are the British equivalent to our SPM and STPM qualifications.
Alternative school – This option is where it can get a little more complicated as one has to ensure that they are studying a syllabus that is widely recognised and accepted for progression into tertiary education.
Home schooling / private tuition – There are a number of tuition centres now that are offering IGCSE / A-level private tuition, enabling students to register and take the IGCSEs or A-levels as a private candidate. This can be a great way to monitor your child’s own progress and be able to pace his or her learning according to his or her individual strengths. A number of state or national athletes have had to opt for this option due to their rigorous training regimes. Some have chosen this out of necessity if their child is a slow learner or may have other medical issues that makes it tough to assimilate into a mainstream school environment.
Overseas boarding school - Finally, should you really wish to have an international education, then there are many boarding schools in the UK, Australia, USA, Canada and New Zealand open to receiving international students into their mix of local students. The environment of each country differs and at IEC, we always aim to find the right fit for the individual as education is really not a one size fits all.
What about the young ones?
Now that we have talked about the different education systems, mainly for primary/high school aged students; what about the Pre-Schoolers or Young Learners between ages 4-6?
The phrase for young learners nowadays is ‘information technology overload’!
Their minds are absorbing at possibly the fastest rate of any generation due to the overload of information that is available nowadays. Technology has taken over so much of our daily lives that it seems strange to think back to how we managed back in pre-internet days.
So how do you choose the right pre-school for your young learner?
I would highly recommend a young learners programme that has the right balance of play, creativity, fun as well as solid basics. Starting this coming Januray 2017, we at IEC are working to belp mould our young learners of today by creating a programme that will hopefully meet all of the above aspects and more!
Any good pre-school learning centre should have the following categories:
a) Language Skills: English, Malay and Mandarin are a must to learn in Malaysia and this is one of our key advantages as a country. The ability to master all three languages and communicate in them is something unique in our country and we need to continue ensuring our future generation are all 1 Malaysia citizens by teaching them all 3 languages.
b) STEM Skills: STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. These subjects tell us about how our world works and how we can improve and advance as a human race. We do not need to start only in primary school. There is so much to discover about our world early on as a young learner.
c) Creative Arts: If we just engaged the left brain and filled it with knowledge of mathematics and science and ignored the right brain; then the child will not develop fully to realise his or her full potential. Personally speaking, I feel schools focus too much on STEM subjects and ignore the importance of the arts and humanities. Introducing Social Sciences, Speech & Drama, Dance as well as Creative Arts will balance the knowledge and development of the child as well as instil important communication, leadership as well as creative skills necessary for their future.
So, before enrolling your child into a learning centre, do take time to go through their subjects, venue as well as teacher qualifications. Hopefully by choosing the right young learner programme, we can channel all that 21st century technology and information into constructive and conducive learning opportunities.
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Written by Jasmine Leong, former National Swimmer, is the Executive Director of IEC, a School of English Language as well as Further Studies Education Consultancy. She has 15 years of education service experience and is also passionate about performing arts, especially musical theatre and dance. Logon to www.iec.com.my to find out more about IEC’s courses and services.