Observing the mind-shift in Malaysia about the benefits of the arts, over the last twenty years, has definitely evolved dramatically.
Receiving an award from Y.B. DATO' SERI MAHDZIR BIN KHALID, the Minister of Education at the end of 2017 was a really special night for Tiara and I. The awards night was a beautiful dinner and Enfiniti Academy was the only service provider present, ie. We were the only organisation present that was not a foundation / yayasan or charitable organisation. The whole team at Enfiniti Academy was being recognized as an Outreach Partner for MoE, for our ongoing work to provide a Highly Immersive Program (H.I.P.) in under-performing and also rural schools.
We began our collaboration with MoE with the encouragement of PEMANDU and PADU back in 2014, after Dato' Seri Idris Jala visited the academy Black Box during Performance Class one semester. He squeezed in unannounced, sitting with all the parents and was so impressed with what he saw, he called us for a meeting at the PEMANDU offices.
Under MoE, the English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC) arranged a pilot English Speech and Drama Camp for 23 schools which were underperforming in English. In fact, these schools were predicted to FAIL SPM English. Many A+ results in SPM English and excellent feedback since, we have conducted our workshops with the support of Yayasan Sime Darby and in collaboration with several organisations, and conducted our workshops in 55 different schools, 1 training college and 1 university in 7 different states around Malaysia: Kelantan, Terrenganu, Pahang, Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Johor. And according to feedback and impact reports, despite many challenges, we are getting substantial results.
We also had the opportunity to conduct training for MoE with English teachers from our public schools. So we are observing and are very honoured to be part of a very real National Transformation. Since we are witnessing the change in how Malaysia approaches learning, first-hand. We are witnessing the change in mind-set about the Arts, which is gaining new recognition for its benefits to human beings. Skills we sometimes take for granted like confidence, communication, creativity and critical thinking. Skills we now very much require in the global and knowledge economy. Our future leaders will be the ones with the best creativity in ideas and solutions. It has been incredibly exciting seeing this transformation slowly taking place in our younger generation and I can't wait to see what the future holds.
*TAKEN FROM NATIONAL TRANSFORMATION PROGRAMME (NTP) ANNUAL REPORT 2017
Highly Immersive Programme Raises Students’ Exposure to English
The Highly Immersive Programme (HIP) supports the development of a highly-immersive English language environment in schools, and features four main activity types: In Class, Out-of-Class, Extra-Class, and Outreach. The English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC), as part of the MOE, acts as the HIP secretariat. IT oversees HIP implementation as well as programme monitoring and sustainability. Moreover, ELTC conducts support visits and evaluates the success and impact of the HIP. It engages with state- and district –level English language officers in problem-solving HIP challenges and discussing the way forward. These language officers also assist ELTC in monitoring HIP in schools.
As Work Stream Leader for the programme at ELTC, Dr. Kalminderjit Kaur d/o Gurcharan Singh’s role is four-fold: planning the funding, activities and rollout of the programme in schools; providing orientation to schools; planning strategies for monitoring and evaluation; and organizing engagement activities such as colloquiums, symposiums and discourses which serve as a platform for HIP schools to meet and share best practices as well as discuss strategies for long-term programme sustainability.
Dr, Kalminderjit, as she is commonly addressed, believes that the success of HIP at any individual school depends on the commitment and support from the school head, teachers, students and the surrounding community. “We must ensure that the correct information about HIP is received by schools. Then, the entire school community must buy into HIP for its success. This means that school heads and teachers especially must be committed to the programme’s outcomes. Additionally, continuous monitoring must be carried out at the state and district levels.”
Dr. Kalminderjit believes that HIP has been showing positive results. “It has seen the development of an immersive, language-rich environment in the implementing schools. Students have developed confidence and a positive attitude in using the language in a fun and non-threatening environment. The entire school community is engaging in English language activities in and out of class and parental involvement in students’ language-learning activities in school has been enhanced.”
Through the various HIP activities, students are now more exposed to the English language. “Studies have shown that increased contact to a language directly impacts language proficiency improvement.” Dr. Kalminderjit points out, adding that increased student participation in activities involving the English language signified that students are more confident in using English.
There are, however, some aspects of HIP that could be further improved. Dr. Kalminderjit believes that the students’ use of English could be better tracked, and that the school heads who spearhead the programme could demonstrate greater continuous and sustaining support.
“My hope is that our education system produces students that are able to communicate competently in English internationally, demonstrating critical and creative abilities using the language.”
Speech and Drama Course Gives Innovative Spin to Learning English
One hallmark of the HIP is its use of innovative ways to keep students engaged in learning English. Among these innovative activities is a speech and drama course conducted in a non-classroom setting with students in 20 schools across four states. Enfiniti Academy in collaboration with the Sime Darby Foundation brought this week-long workshop to students who would otherwise have little exposure to using English. Enfiniti Academy is part of Enfiniti (M) Sdn Bhd, an internationally recognized production company.
Enfiniti (M) Sdn Bhd, Joanna Bessey designed the workshop and is one of its instructors. According to her, the workshop was designed to enhance communication and soft skills, and to present exercises that boost the students’ confidence to speak in English.
“Enfiniti Academy’s highly-experienced teachers and methods as well as our award-winning theatre professionals ensure students can follow the specifically-designed drama toolkit,” Bessey explains.
The drama toolkit is part of a speech and drama activity workbook that Bessey also developed. The workbook acts as a teacher’s guidebook while the workshop is conducted. “With the book, schools can eventually establish their own speech and drama clubs to continue the programme,” Bessey enthuses.
As part of the workshop, the students plan, produce, and put on their own skits. In the process, the students learn how to adjust to change, work together as a team, deal with time pressure, share their own ideas, tell stories and speak grammatically-correct English — all with clarity, confidence, and emotion. “And they do all this while having fun,” says Bessey.
Mohd Jamil bin Ismail, father of Nurul Huda Najihah who is a student of SK Pengkalan Baharu in Perak, agrees. “My daughter found that this workshop made it easy for students to learn English. She enjoyed herself attending the workshop.”
SK Pengkalan Baharu is one of the 20 schools that participated in the ENACT workshop, and Mohd Jamil thinks that the workshop is a valuable programme which he hopes can be extended and be held after school hours as well. “Although her English is good, my daughter does not have many opportunities to speak in English. This workshop gave her a great chance to be able to express herself in English.”
Richard Mark s/o Ricky, a student from SK Runchang in Pahang, found the workshop enjoyable and wishes there could be more such activities in English. “Most of my English practice is in speaking with my school friends, but we don’t do that often,” he explains.
His adoptive mother, Rohaya, believes that he has shown definite signs of improvement in his English skills. “He never used to sing in English, but now I hear him doing so every so often at home.”
Rohaya hopes that he will be able to better understand English through this and other initiatives in school.