GIVE your child a headstart in life

GIVE your child a headstart in life with education that grooms them to be well-rounded individuals able to take on challenges posed by the world of tomorrow.

The holistic American-style programme driving the new Shattuck-St. Mary’s (SSM) Forest City International School in Johor is designed to do just that.

Covering Pre-Kindergarten level to Advanced Placement (AP) High School offerings in Grade 12, it focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), as well as athletic and artistic pursuits.

Head of School Graham Gamble points to the emphasis on independent exploration of knowledge, as a strongpoint of American education.

“We empower children to trust in their own ability to question and make sense of the world. This, we believe, can unlock their potential,” Gamble said.

Set to welcome its first batch of students in August, SSM’s new RM1bil campus in Forest City will boast a diverse array of facilities, including WeCreate.

It is a laboratory where kids can hone their creative skills in a number of areas such as web design, architecture and wood working.

“As we take students from childhood to adulthood, the aim is to equip them with some of the key 21st century skills such as self-discipline and creativity.

“We want them to be able to determine their own paths going forward, whilst being concerned citizens who care about world issues and make their own contributions,” added the experienced academic.

SSM here will be split into several divisions - namely the Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle and High Schools. It also has boarding facilities.

Elementary School principal Wayne Burnett said students at this level are given a strong foundation for enquiry-based learning and problem solving.

“The focus is on Language Arts and Mathematics, as these are areas we have to get right from early on. It is learning to read and reading to learn.

“We’d like kids to think of themselves as readers and writers - somebody who can read a story and think of the underlying themes.

“We also want to take them to a high level of competency for Mathematics, so they can understand problems, figure out the steps to solve it and do the calculations easily,” Burnett points out.

And while English is the main medium of instruction, at SSM, students are also encouraged to develop their mother tongues to a higher level.

“For many students entering school today, English may not be their first language. By developing their mother tongues, it helps with their English.

“While the grammars are different, when you are proficient in one language you are able to adapt and see the differences and similarities with another.

“All of this is to ensure they have a good command of English that allows them to succeed at a high-level, English speaking university later,” added Burnett.

The gains at SSM are not just academic but also include invaluable life skills, according to Middle School principal Suzanne Herbert.

“We teach students to be analytical in their decision making, to read between the lines. With so much informational readily available nowadays, it’s important to question and determine what’s true or false.

“One also needs to be tech savvy for the future, able to work collaboratively or independently, be self-motivated in their learning, and have good speaking and presentation skills.

“While academic success is the primary objective, building these skill sets enable students to be successful in rapidly changing world,” Herbert says.

SSM’s teaching and learning methods are crafted around what research has shown to be the most effective. This includes making the transfer of knowledge and guidance, very personalised.

“By challenging children to solve a problem, it encourages them to do their own research and build up a knowledge base. Learning becomes more personalised and exciting. It inspires them to achieve the desired outcomes,” adds Herbert.

High School principal Joe Lingle echoed those sentiments, saying research has shown that students learn better when they are engaged.

“The traditional method where students sit in rows and take notes while the teacher talks, creates an exam-oriented mindset.

“We are more learner-focused instead by tapping into a student’s passions, and making it relevant for them. Not only does this reduce their stress, we find that they are also more satisfied with their education.

“Ultimately, the aim is to allow them to rise above the pack and attract the attention of top universities globally, and become leaders in their subsequent careers,” Lingle explains.

SSM’s Forest City campus, which opens on June 23, will ultimately cater for a diverse community of up to 3,200 students.

It has a sports complex with a full-sized football field, running track, Olympic-sized swimming pool and gymnasium.

There will also be a theatre seating 600, studios for ballet and music, science laboratories, libraries, a student activity centre and smart classrooms.

Its location - on one of four man-made islands at the southern tip of Peninsular Malaysia just across the channel from Singapore - makes it a great option for families living within the region.