Every principal has the power to influence success in their schools. This is the fundamental idea guiding the Global School Leaders (GSL) – Malaysia pilot project – which our APC philanthropists have embraced in a mission to make a positive impact in the Malaysian schools.
Since last June, Asia Philanthropy Circle, along with the co-founders of Global School Leaders (GSL) Sameer Sampat and Azad Oomen have been meeting with organisations, philanthropists and eco-system funders as well as government agencies to share and seek partnerships for the GSL programme. Response has been positive – fundraising for the initial pilot of 25 schools is almost complete. Recruiting for the Country Director has been underway and it is expected the first hire will be announced by March. In addition to being one of the core funders, Datin Kathleen Chew, our APC member, has agreed to sponsor the incubation of the startup through the YTL Foundation, until the independent entity is set up. It is hoped that GSL will demonstrate the theory of change, that good principals will result in better prepared teachers and ultimately, result in improved student learning outcomes.
At the same time, APC members had also agreed that education transformation should not ignore the other 10% of children who are underserved – those with special needs. In January, APC members including Dr. Lee Oi Kum, sector experts and special needs education practitioners in Malaysia convened at our Roundtable to discuss building capacity of special needs teachers.
There are numerous stakeholder groups involved in special needs from the Social Welfare department to the Ministry of Health, but few have adequate performance and screening programmes targeted at early identification and screening. Dr Choy Sook Kuen and her team, from Oasis Place, a multi-disciplinary intervention services center, proposed to pilot a programme that would focus on building awareness and identification in the early years (0-4 years) so that development challenges can be “red-flagged” early. The programme targets training both parents and teachers at the childcare center, so that the circle of support for the child is consistent, both at school and beyond.
This is somewhat a shift from training capacity for specific teachers, to creating an inclusive environment where every teacher would acquire learns tools and skills to support special needs children in the childcare. Studies have shown that because of ‘neuralplasticity’ of the brain, early intervention produces better outcomes for children. This would ultimately give a longer runway for preparing the children for primary school, many of which are inclusive or working towards full inclusion.