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Two Malaysian Trust Schools have been named in the Top 10 World’s Best School Prizes. 

They are SK Kempadang in Kuantan, Pahang, and SMK Kampong Jawa in Klang, which are part of the Trust Schools Programme where education facilities undergo a whole-school transformation. 

Did you know: Trust Schools are public schools that are jointly managed by Yayasan AMIR and school principals, under the umbrella of the Ministry of Education (MOE). The schools are empowered by the MOE to effect change within their communities.

Yayasan AMIR

Respectively, they were recognised for Innovation, and Overcoming Adversity, two out of five types of accolades offered in the World’s Best School Prize which launched this year.

They are now in the running to win a share of US$250,000 (RM1,098,375 at the time of writing).

A new way to recognise inspiring schools

The World’s Best Schools Prizes was launched this year by T4 Education (T4), a global education organisation, in partnership with Yayasan Hasanah, Templeton World Charity Foundation, Accenture, and American Express.

Catalysed by the pandemic, the World’s Best Schools Prizes was created as a grassroots movement to help build the systemic change needed in education systems around the world. 

According to T4, over 1.5 billion learners were impacted by school and university closures. COVID-19 had vastly exacerbated a global education crisis that already existed before the pandemic. In fact, the United Nations had warned that the global education progress was too slow to achieve universal quality education by 2030.

Image Credit: SMK Kampong Jawa

World’s Best Schools Prizes is set out to tell the stories of inspirational schools that are transforming the lives of their students and making a difference in their communities. This way, schools can share their best practices and have their voices heard to help improve the system. 

For further context, T4 is a community of teachers and schools around the world who are part of a digital media platform for the benefit of teachers. Here, educators can network, collaborate, share good practices, and support each other’s efforts to improve learning. 

Meanwhile, Yayasan Hasanah is the impact-based foundation of Khazanah Nasional Berhad (Khazanah), the sovereign wealth fund of Malaysia. The grant-giving organisation facilitates the transformation in five focus areas including education, community development, environment, knowledge, as well as arts and public spaces.

What are the stories of the two Malaysian Trust Schools?

Sekolah Kebangsaan Kempadang

Image Credit: Sekolah Kebangsaan Kempadang

In 2021, primary school SK Kempadang in Kuantan, Pahang was faced with double trouble. With the majority of students coming from B40 households, teaching and tracking the students’ progress during the pandemic was already difficult.

To add, UPSR was scrapped by the Ministry of Education (MOE), in favour of regular school-based assessments. Abolishing UPSR left the school without access to real-time student learning data, data that’s supposed to inform future lesson planning to support all students.

Being part of the Trust Schools Programme, the school innovated a suitable solution for their context, creating something they call SMARTZOOM. It’s a fully automated tracking system that follows students’ progress in their studies. 

All Malaysian teachers have designated Google accounts linked to MOE. Hence, SMARTZOOM uses that data from Google Sheets and Chrome to devise detailed lesson plans customised to fit their specific classes. 

Image Credit: Sekolah Kebangsaan Kempadang

To aid teachers and panel heads in using SMARTZOOM, they were given training materials via YouTube videos and workshops for the transition. 

SMARTZOOM is the reason SK Kempadang was nominated for the Innovation prize in the ​​Top 10 shortlist for World’s Best School Prize. And looking at the school’s Facebook page, the school already seems very active online, likely engaging with its students, parents, and teachers.

Since SK Kempadang became a Trust School in 2015, its enrolment rate has increased by 6% or 7% every year. 

SMK Kampong Jawa

With 75% of students coming from lower-income households, SMK Kampong Jawa, Klang was once associated with urban poverty, poor attendance, vandalism, and students groomed into gangs.

In 2017, the body of a murdered woman was discovered outside SMK Kampong Jawa, which only served to worsen the public’s perception of the school.

Through the appointment of a new principal in August 2020, they were able to turn the school’s tainted image around in 632 days through the implementation of the Trust Schools Programme.

Image Credit: SMK Kampong Jawa

SMK Kampong Jawa adopted an intensive data-driven approach to attendance and made over 500 phone calls to parents to understand the home environments of students. For those that still didn’t attend class, school counsellors would personally make home visits. 

Since then, it’s seen scores improve by 20% and it was given an award for the highest online attendance during the pandemic. 

The online classes were made engaging to students by experimenting with breakout rooms and collaborative learning structures that offered peer-to-peer support. This ensured small group sessions were productive and engaging. 

Furthermore, based on the school’s public e-magazine, plenty of self-driven transformation gotong-royong initiatives were implemented. The teachers and students spruced up classrooms, offices, science labs, and more, in February and April 2021.

Image Credit: SMK Kampong Jawa

The school also began networking with local charities to help those who were struggling financially. SMK Kampong Jawa was even able to help a student’s family move to a better home. 

It’s no wonder that SMK Kampong Jawa was recognised for Overcoming Adversity in the ​​Top 10 shortlist for World’s Best School Prize.

Moving forward, the school intends to continue face-to-face and virtual lessons in its classrooms.

Who will win the US$250,000 prize?

There will be a total of three top finalists for each of the five World’s Best School Prizes, which will be announced later this year. The five different prizes include: 

  • Community Collaboration, 
  • Environmental Action,
  • Innovation, 
  • Overcoming Adversity, and 
  • Supporting Healthy Lives.

After a public advisory vote, the winner of each prize will be chosen based on set criteria by a judging academy. The judges will involve distinguished leaders around the globe including academics, educators, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, government, civil society, and the private sector.

Results of the World’s Best School Prizes will be announced in October this year at World Education Week. The prize of US$250,000 will be equally shared amongst the winners of the five prizes, with each receiving an award of US$50,000 (RM219,675).

All 50 shortlisted schools across the five prizes will share their best practices through toolkits that showcase their “secret sauce” to innovative approaches. They will also be sharing step-by-step instructions on how others can replicate their methods to help improve education everywhere.

It’s good to see more Malaysian public educational institutions and educators being recognised for the change they’re trying to achieve.

For example, in 2020, we had teacher Samuel Isaiah awarded the Global Teacher Prize, and more recently, we had Khalifa Affnan, a vocational teacher from the Keningau Vocational College in Sabah, announced as the winner of the 2022 Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards.

With our educators and institutions playing such crucial roles in developing the young minds and future leaders of Malaysia, the continuous appreciation shown for their efforts could hopefully further raise the bar and standards of our education.

  • Read other education-related stories here.

Featured Image Credit: Sekolah Kebangsaan Kempadang

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)