Before I say anything else, first I want to say Thank You to everyone who has been incredibly supportive during these difficult last few weeks. And my apologies for once again falling behind on the blog posts.
This week marks the end of the month of Ramadhan, a month of fasting, abstinence and prayer for Muslims. Ramadhan is based on the moon, beginning on the new moon that marks the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. At the following new moon, the holiday of Eid al-Fitr (in Indonesian, Idul Fitri) is observed to celebrate the return to normal life. Idul Fitri here manifests not unlike what we think of as Christmas Holiday back in the West, so for us it means 10 days off from school while the families go visit relatives all over Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. What better time to tell you all about the school than when I’m away from it for a week?
Let’s start with the basics. Folks I’ve had the pleasure of talking to in person have already heard a lot of this, but a little background never hurt anybody.
I was was in the right place at the right time on this one, for sure. Kingston has just this year begun the process of accreditation for international standards, and has just recently moved to a new campus to accommodate what the administrators hope in a few years will be a full Pre-Primary, Primary, and Secondary school. At present we are Pre-Nursery through Year 7, with plans to extend all the way to Year 11 in the next 5 years depending on enrollment. In this expansion phase everything is a little topsy-turvey, while the school regains its footing after a big move and puts down roots with the (brand-spankin’) new secondary program. I think we’re doing a pretty good job despite all the upheaval, though it will take the staff a few years to accrue a properly-outfitted supply cupboard and get that real lived-in feel.
The school is running what’s called a “National-Plus” program, which means that it isn’t a full-fledged international school. Our students are Indonesian children rather than expats (mostly). Basically what we do is to run a curriculum in English that follows the international standards set by Cambridge University, and the core classes are taught primarily in English. However, our students are also expected to take the Indonesian National Benchmark tests, so alongside their English curriculum they do a dual, Bahasa-Indonesia curriculum that follows what they’re learning in English, as well. To give an example of what this looks like, here’s how a weekly class breakdown goes for my Year 7’s:
6 sections English language
5 sections BI (Bahasa Indonesia) – 2 Language, 1 Maths, 1 Science, 1 History
5 sections Mandarin language
6 sections Science in English
6 sections Maths in English
2 sections Geography in English
4 sections History in English
1 section Drama, 1 section Music (combined, in English)
2 sections Computer/IT studies
For Year 7, I teach the English-based science and maths, and am also privileged enough this year to teach the music/drama class as well since we have a slight teacher shortage at the moment. Such is the plight of a fledgling program in a new campus. (That, and a sometimes disconcerting lack of usable whiteboard pens. I swear they go into hiding when we are not looking.) Since this is the first year the school has offered courses at the secondary level, we’re building a lot of the curriculum as we go along. This is great fun and a great learning experience for me as a 2nd (ish) year teacher. I also get to teach the more developed Primary 5 and Primary 6 science courses, as well.
The primary classes have slightly fewer core subject classes in favor of what’s called the IPC, or International Primary Curriculum. The IPC is a set of project-based learning modules that integrate several subject areas into a long-term unit with a specific topic focus. (Yes, Mom, I jumped up and down for joy when I heard about this, too!) For example, Primary 5 this year is doing a module called “Moving to Mars” that incorporates their science, technology, PE, and English curriculae into a quarter-long unit on human space exploration, colonization, and human biology. It is going to be so, so cool. We’re going to “go” to Mars, figure out how to build a human habitat, learn how to exercise properly in an enclosed space, and write about our adventures as planetary explorers. Right up my alley, no? (Big fat Yes. Jim and Lisa, I hope you are reading this.)
Our students also participate in a variety of extracurricular activities, some fun and some… less fun. Two days a week we have what I like to call the “fun” ECA’s: our after-school periods range from Food Science (very popular), to Performing Arts (I teach the upper-level choir), to Athletics, to MUN and journalism. The other afternoon periods are devoted to extra classes in Mandarin, Religion (for the Indonesian Benchmarks), and a variety of Remedial courses for students who require extra help.
So, that’s the basic overview. As we get further into these posts I’ll try to regale you with stories of the Y7’s chasing a jumping spider around the room, trying to catch it so they could view it with a microscope (yeah, that happened); or the P6 students’ excitement at learning my favorite drama games (they play Zip-Zap-Zop outside at recess, how precious is that??); or my darling P5’s who cannot shut up if they try with both hands because they are too excited to tell me how the digestive system works (actually, I think some of them are just excited to be allowed to say the word “poo” in class). Yep, I pretty much have the best job ever.
Selamat hari raya Idul Fitri, y’all!