EtonHouse: Delivering Distinction through Inclusive Learning

Inclusivity in education at an early age plays a profound role in developing a child’s rational intellect and garners a comprehensive educational value. Schools across the globe are adopting, implementing and encouraging inclusive learning and we at The Knowledge Review, on our quest to discover such significant schools, have come across a list of The 10 Most Valuable Pre-Schools in Malaysia, 2019.

Featuring as our cover story is EtonHouse Malaysia (EHM), a Reggio Emilia Inspired International Pre-School. The institution was officially launched on 10th October 2010 based on the EtonHouse, Inquire. Think. Learn curriculum that provides high quality of research-based, inquiry programme to the Early Years education for the Pre-Nursery up to Kindergarten level students.

Two years after its inception, in the year 2012, EHM decided to embark on expanding its curriculum to providing the current International Baccalaureate – Primary Years Programme (IB-PYP) for Year 1 up to Year 6 students by registering the school with the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) as a candidate school. EHM received the official letter being regarded as a candidate school in year 2013.

In December 2016, EHM successfully obtained the authorized IB World School status and was officially awarded with a certificate by the IBO in January 2017. The school is now regularly visited by owners and Head-teachers from Thailand, Laos, India and Malaysia, to name a few, who visit the school as it has become the benchmark for schools accredited by the IBO in the last 5 years.

Mission and Vision

EtonHouse Malaysia’s vision is of shaping the future through education, whereas its mission is of developing confident and capable global citizens. Both vision and mission of EHM completes the IBO’s vision of providing education for a better world.

EHM has taken various initiatives to promote education. In addition to its new ICT lab, the school has renovated its library to include more than 200 new titles and extending its bilingual section to support an ever-expanding diversity of students and teachers.

The school offers exceptional student to teacher ratio in its classrooms so that students can develop positive relationships with their teachers. EHM understands and implements school-wide initiatives such as a piano in the corridor for children to play when passing by, during break or lunch time, provide an excellent avenue for inspiring love for music from an early age.

Footnotes’ supported by visual learning guru Oliver West takes place in the classrooms. ‘Spatial reading’ is being undertaken by teachers, helping children to grow in confidence through reading at a higher and more appropriate level in a particular way to suit the child’s reading style. ‘Maths No Problem’, the Singaporean maths approach, is also on the horizon for EHM to support the Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract approach that is happening already in mathematics.

Bequeathing Knowledge

Since August 2018, EtonHouse Malaysia’s voyage towards global recognition is being captained by Andy Ridgway, the Head of School.

Andy brought with him a wealth of International Baccalaureate and invaluable life experience, having spent 16 years at international schools in Zambia, Italy, Germany, Serbia and Tanzania. He is highly communicative and palpably amicable.

Primarily he has had a very positive impact on enrolment. Andy is a specialist in using Visual Learning strategies in the classroom, implementing the Singapore Maths Programme and has also brought along a positive energy to the whole school. Weekly coffee mornings with parents and being highly visual around the school, is a combination that has had a very positive impact on the school in general.

He is supported by a fabulous leadership team including Mei Tan, Gaik Im Foong, Kai Ween Lim, Finlay Beaton, Tarra Tanauan, Bue Lim, Febriana Tanudjaja and Eryn Sherman.

Andy embraces EHM’s Reggio Emilia approach of being a fully inclusive school. He has been monumental in setting up lunch time football tournaments, establishing girls’ and boys’ football teams, and with mathematics background, has set about further developing the teaching of mathematics at EHM.

Since Andy became the Head of School EHM has experienced rapid growth and for the first time in its history at many year levels, EHM aspirants have a waiting list to enter the school. The arisen necessity to acquire a third villa on the school site is indeed a testament to that growth.

In Sync with the Trends

We must react to the change in the skill set needed by our pupils to succeed in an ever changing job landscape. If we stand still as educational leaders, we fall behind. We must push boundaries, celebrate mistakes and be pathfinders in the world of education, not simply follow trends,” Andy expresses.

Currently, EtonHouse leads the way in Malaysia with regards to inclusive education. The school does not believe in pull out programmes, and all EAL support and SEN support happens inclusively in the classroom setting. Having appointed Febriana Tanudjaja as Head of ICT facilitation and the recent appointment of Cindy Utrera, an Apple Distinguished Educator the school has really taken forward steps in the upper primary school.

The teaching of STEM activities, such as Makey Makey along with the development of basic coding through Scratch, EHM is a fun to place to be! The school also envisions the introduction of ‘Primary Engineer’ in foresight, in a bid to enthuse primary age children to further engage with Physics and Maths at a younger age.

EHM acknowledges that children are natural engineers and is creating classrooms to celebrate that. A key part of this is that EHM understands that the nurturing enjoyment of STEM activities is evidently more important than anything else.

Beyond Classrooms

EtonHouse creates an environment where children express immense excitement while entering, and do not feel like leaving. Nurturing this love of being at school and love of learning is of paramount importance for EHM. The school environment as the Third Teacher also underpins all EHM does in the early years.

The learning environment whether it is outdoors in EHM’s palatial gardens or in the classroom, plays a key role in the Reggio Emilia approach. The fact that it is a problem solving, student-centred, inquiry based approach to early childhood education creates a deep learning interest from young learners.

EHM’s children exhibit inquisitiveness and eagerness to learn more. This is celebrated by the teachers and everyone who works with the children. The Reggio inspired inquiry based approach (IB) is imperative in preparing children for the outside world. The real benefits of this at an early age becomes evident as the child grows but we really see the full benefits of this education once the child goes to university. “A student educated with an inquiry based approach, sticks out clearly in a variety of environments once they are at that stage of their education,” says Andy.

On the Trophy Shelf

Resulting from EtonHouse impeccable expertise at pre-school education, families wish their children to stay. To cater for this, EHM has submitted candidacy for the introduction of the MYP to join the IB ‘Rolling Start’ programme in August 2019. However, when it comes to listing out EHM’s accomplishments, establishing competitive football teams and a swim team which represent the school at tournament level has been the most prominent ones.

The creation of a multi-sports court and a 6 on 6 grass football pitch have also gone some way to encouraging this upturn in sporting achievements. Taking the school to be a frontrunner in the country with regards to inclusive education has been of particular satisfaction for the team at EHM.

The building of a community; one where language is not a barrier was another accomplishment. Andy has weekly coffee mornings, and every month these are translated into Japanese, Mandarin and Russian with good attendance at all of them. EHM has hugely supportive families with regards to what it is doing and the direction the school is voyaging towards.

From a financial perspective, EHM has gone from strength to strength. The enrolment has now passed 200 with a wait list to enter certain year levels. A school that never before had over around 150, and where enrolment had dropped to below 120 as of July 2018, is now on the path to exponential expansion.

Currently EtonHouse Malaysia is negotiating for a third building due to the unprecedented growth it is experiencing. “We want to maintain the high standards of education, the family, nurturing, home from home feel to a beautiful school,” Andy states.

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