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Sunday, 9 December 2018


At the end of September, Kinabalu International School reopened for the new academic year and welcomed a new face to the school – Mr Ian Gross, the new Principal. We met with him to find out more about his background, his aspirations and sought advice on how best we can prepare our own children for the future world of education and work.

How long have you been teaching and where else have you taught? Have you been a Principal at other schools?
I became a teacher nearly 25 years ago and during that time I have been fortunate enough to teach in the UK, Czech Republic, Argentina, Thailand, Egypt, Bahrain and now Sabah, Malaysia. Having started as a science teacher I soon became a Head of Department and realised I enjoyed leadership and management within schools. It added a new dimension to the scope of my work and so I continued to progress up the career ladder. I have been in leadership positions, including School Principal, in a number of highly regarded and successful schools across four continents.

How are you settling into life in Kota Kinabalu?
Having lived in a number of countries previously, it was surprising how quickly we have all adjusted to a new city and a new life. Everyone has been so welcoming, friendly and supportive; it is as if we were returning to our home rather than starting fresh in a new one.

How would you describe the KIS community?
Supportive, caring, friendly, fun, open-minded and focussed.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Supporting and nurturing the next generation. Whilst it may be a cliché for an educator to say this, it is a cliché for a reason. I very much enjoy enabling and empowering others to achieve in whatever they are doing or working towards; whether it be our students or our staff.

What are the benefits to a local student of attending an international school?
An understanding of other cultures, global perception and understanding , supported personal and social development, greater participation in extra-curricular activities, a focus on global education, career and social opportunities… The list goes on. Feel free to pop into KIS so you can see for yourself how an international school environment could benefit your child.

You have moved around a lot in your teaching career and therefore needed to select schools for your children along the way, what advice would you give to parents when choosing a school?
Look for a school that has the education and the welfare of your child at the centre of its core purpose. Too many international schools are being built as an investment opportunity for the owners. KIS is one of a few international schools globally that is genuinely a not-for-profit school. All income generated by the school goes back into the development and running of the school. As the school develops, we make sure our mission and philosophy are used to guide our decisions and what is best for our children and the community at KIS.

What is your worst and best memory from your time at school?
Back in the last century when I was in school, the focus was on memory and obedience. Too much effort was made on facts and how much you could remember and then recall for exams. Students were expected to be quiet and not to question anything. The world has changed since I was at school, now children need to be confident in the skills of learning so they can continue to be life-long learners. Children need to have the skills to ask questions, as well as the skills for listening, information gathering and interpreting. As the world progresses and continues to change, we need children to be able to understand, adapt and thrive with these changes. My best memory? When I was five, my family dog, Timmy, followed me to school and stayed with me the whole day until I went home. I don’t think schools would allow that to happen today; but it certainly was fun at the time.

How do you envisage education changing over the next ten years?
I see schools moving towards an increased use of technologies to support learning. Exams will continue to move away from factual recall and focus on use of skills. Universities will become less rooted in bricks and mortar with more online courses becoming available to undergraduates. This will allow for greater choice of course and location for internationally minded students.

What must KIS do to keep up with this change?
It’s not so much about keeping up with change as it is about the preparation of our students to be able to face and cope with change. It has been said that schools are preparing children for jobs that don’t exist yet. It is imperative that we ensure the students at KIS have the skills and understanding to support them in an ever changing global environment, where they can be confident and successful individuals in whatever industry they choose to be in.

As parents it can sometimes feel that the world around us is changing so fast, both technologically and socially. The world in which our children will live and work feels unknown to us. How best can we prepare our children for the uncertainty?
It is uncertain for us as adults, but not for the children. Have belief in their abilities, support their goals and their ambitions. With the right preparation this generation will embrace the flexibility and resilience that is required of them. Make sure they are at a school that is approachable and gives you the information you require to help you to understand your child’s education and the direction it is taking them in, so that they have choices in their future. At KIS we educate and support our children to be adaptable and to be the adults of the future who will be making those changes; we are nurturing global citizens.

If you are interested in finding out more about Kinabalu International School, contact their Admissions Officer, Tina Koroh, to arrange a tour so you can see the school in action. Telephone: 088 224526, Email: or visit