Elements of English (EoE) Finalist for International School Award 2020
Among thousands of submissions from international schools all over the world, Sri KDU International School (SKIS) was the only international school in Malaysia to be shortlisted for the International School Award 2020 – Community Initiative Award.
The International School Awards are opened to international schools around the world to celebrate learning, teaching, community, pastoral care, leadership and strategic initiatives at international schools. They provide the opportunity for international schools to share best practice, creative endeavours, community participation, and innovation.
The project submitted – Elements of English (EoE) is a simple and worthy project that is entirely the brainchild of three SKISS students – Annabelle, Chantelle & Nadia which they started back in 2014.
In January this year, our Year 10 student Annabelle Chin, who is one of the co-founders of EOE and our Principal Mrs Margaret Rafee represented the school at the International School Awards Grand Finale held in London!
We managed to catch Annabelle to share more about the project.
Tell us more about the initiative.
Elements of English (EoE) offers English lessons to the indigenous community as a support for the socio-economic challenges of these students. Their school (Sekolah Bukit Lanjan) was the worst-performing school in 2013 in the state, with low attendance and no child ever progressing to Secondary 1. 
We decided to teach English as we were taught according to British international school standards that were thematic-based, fun and relevant. Improving the proficiency of English also instils better confidence, creates hope and opens the world to the children through the wealth of knowledge available in print. 
Five years on, this is now an established project passed on to a new generation of students having taught over 200 students, many of whom have progressed beyond Secondary 1. We have galvanised the wider community in stepping up to help the local school children. 
Finally, we have seen our students who participated become more socially responsible, disciplined and mature. They have now developed formal coursework, a syllabus and a handbook to facilitate any other groups of students intending to do the same.
What inspired you to start this initiative?
My two co-founders, Chantelle and Nadia and I had found out about these students and their lack of regard towards education. This included 80% attendance, a perception of UPSR as optional, etc. We started with the simple idea of teaching them English in hopes that it would open more job opportunities in the future, but the programme grew to have much more of an impact than we expected.
What were the main challenges?
These kids were sweet, but especially when we started, we constantly had to chase them back into the classroom. The older ones sometimes threw things like chairs at us, those were some of the ‘drama’ that we needed to face. 
We first started with older kids and gradually moved to younger kids as their habits and attitudes were cultivated from a younger age. This has made the current batch much better in terms of behaviour and have comparatively become less violent. Communications had with them is also another challenge that we needed to face. This is as we were having a language barrier since most of us are having English as our first language, while their native language is Malay. However, we insist to speak in English with them as this will also train them to speak in English.  
Student teachers meeting for teaching plan
What did you hope to achieve?
The situation is very sad for these Orang Asli kids that most were unable to pass their Primary Education. From this situation that they had, it is very hard for them even to secure a good placement in the future. And this was a complete cycle amongst their community. 
My team and I have always had the ultimate goal of breaking this chain. This project did not just teach them English, but it includes the importance of education and most importantly, by providing them with the confidence to speak out and try things out of their norms. 
We are already seen some early signs of achievement with our first batch of seven students who completed secondary education and sat for SPM. We are extremely proud of them. 
Our current batch has just finished Standard 2 with all As in their English exams!
What was most valuable about this initiative?
We have been informed that the students we teach are constantly being chosen for school teams, being very active in classes and achieving good grades. This isn’t just due to the materials that we have used to teach them. But this is due to the confidence and values we have instilled in them. 
EoE lesson through singing and dancing
What did you learn from this?
My team and I have learnt how to be very, very patient. Being a teacher is not an easy job. But I now believe that anyone can teach if they have a passion for it. 
We also learnt a lot of management skills, through communication among the student teachers, allocating materials and resources and making sure every class runs smoothly.
Student teachers attending training at Yayasan Generasi (Youth Centre)
Will this project continue?
We hope so! My fellow student teachers and I always try to keep the classes as consistent as possible. Unfortunately, due to the current pandemic, the classes were postponed but as soon as it is safe for both parties, we shall resume the classes as we all have been missing the kids so much.
EoE lesson on countries around the world
How did you feel when you learnt that your submission had been shortlisted in Community Initiative Category?
We were very surprised and I almost couldn’t believe it! Out of other international schools from the entire world, our project was selected as one of the top three best under the Community Initiatives Award! 
Though I knew how much of an impact this made to the kids, I was shocked that a small project like this would be selected. I would like to highlight that this programme was not at all just my co-founders and me, we have had over 30 teachers over the years and this recognition belongs to all of us and especially the kids who have been working so hard.
We here at SKIS would like to congratulate Annabelle and team for this excellent achievement and such a superb project! We wish you all the best and hope this project continues benefiting others! We are so proud of all of you!