Sailing across the great oceans, international education in Southeast Asian countries is picking up the pace for quality, multicultural-based, affordable education. Catching up with the advancements with a vision to make the world a global village, international schools in Malaysia are dictating the terms of quality and affordable education in the country.
While everyone was looking for options for international schools for the holistic growth of students, The Knowledge Review ventured out to find The Most Admired International School in South East Asia, 2023 where we crossed paths with IDRISSI International School and its Founder, Puan Zaliza Alias.
While discussing educational pedagogies, technology, multiculturism, internationalism, and globalisation, she expressed her vision of grooming the students to become able global citizens, saying, “As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child; hence, it will take a global village to educate children of different communities and backgrounds in the world that are characterised as diverse.”
So, without further ado, let’s dive deep into the inspirational story of IDRISSI International School and how it is educating its students to achieve greater heights and establish a name for itself as one of the most admired international schools in the country.
A Genuine Desire to Educate!
Unlike any inception story of prominent education institutes worldwide, the story of IDRISSI International School is a little different and stands out of the crowd. While the seed of genesis was incepted by the loving founders who are parents themselves and aspired to build a happy place for young minds to grow in a multicultural environment.
Emphasising the unique story of IDRISSI, the executive director of the school, Puan Zaliza Alias says, “It all started with our genuine desire to give children a different learning environment and let them no longer be confined to the four walls of classrooms. Just like that, IDRISSI International School has now become an eco-school with a five-star rating and a perfect balance of indoor and outdoor learning experiences.”
What started as a small dream, IDRISSI International School today has grown into a balanced school that pioneered the interlink between Cambridge International curriculum with the eco, character building, and value-based education.
A Resourceful and Effective Leader
The school is led by its founder, Puan Zaliza Alias who is also the executive director of GAINS Education Group and has a rich experience as an education consultant for various educational content on TV3, TV Alhijrah, and Astro, and other highest-rated educational animations in Malaysia, Omar, and Hana.
Highlighting her exceptional leadership qualities and her journey with the school, the school management postulates, “Despite nabbing various awards through her first step with an English-based preschool with Islamic values, Genius Aulad, she was never one to be easily contained. Driven by the need to improve every facet of education, she set up IDRISSI International School. Her experience, resourcefulness, and forward-thinking mindset in the education sector have made the school sustain through the pandemic and expand to a wider market.”
“However, the responsibility that leads the school towards its success does not lie solely on the shoulders of an individual, but it is on team effort which combines the strengths and dynamics of the team such as the teachers, students, parents, and management as one family,” the school management further added.
Embracing the Process of Life-long Learning
The school has very well realized the fact that great leaders are shaped by great educators. This helps them to become lifelong learners, which is an essential factor in the growth of a leader. Expressing her view about this, Puan Zaliza Alias says, “In my opinion, good educators and great leaders are lifelong learners who are open to new ideas, research, and educational practices. It is essential for one to inject the idea that learning does not end following one’s age, trend, or era. It is a life-long process. Just like how we need to refill ourselves daily with proper food to nourish our bodies, it is crucially important to embrace new knowledge and innovation to support the progress in classrooms and the workplace.”
Extending Beyond the Core Curriculum
When curating the curriculum of the school, special attention was given to the atmosphere they wanted to groom the students. Understanding that this impacts the students’ growth, Puan Zaliza Alias explains, “Having animal farms and herb gardens allow a representation and practical application of what was learned in the classroom into the outdoors and real life. The school, adhering to the Policy of Eco-Development Integration, has allowed the students and school to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through deeper and more rewarding activities such as beach cleaning, conducting sustainable events, public speaking on how students their age can make a change for a better environment and more.”
“This distinction in IDRISSI has put a new perspective into international education, as it extends far beyond the core curriculum,” she further explains.
Aiming for Holistic and Overall Development
Holistic growth of the students, along with their overall development, is one of the major factors that the school aims for. The school conducts various events to allow the students to explore different sectors of student life.
Explaining how the school helps students in their overall development, Puan Zaliza Alias postulates, “In addition to academic skills, the school offers eco, outdoor trips that encompass the earth, taking care of it, making archery mandatory, coupled with Value Education Programme, Quranic, FLiP, etc. that give students exposure to a well-rounded education. With an emphasis on students’ advancement, this includes how the school encourages students to learn by doing and understanding instead of rote learning and memorising.”
“On the other hand, the school believes that happy students learn better. Our curriculum is induced with a fun and happy learning environment so that the students will find love in what they are learning and believe in what they are pursuing. No matter how well-constructed a curriculum is, it is the students’ happiness that will keep them driven and engaged in achieving their learning goals at school,” she further adds.
A Global School for Future Global Citizens
It is not an unknown fact that international schools with recognised international curricula help bring education all across the world on the same page. Talking about building the genesis of such a global society, Puan Zaliza Alias explains, “As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child; hence, it will take a global village to educate children of different communities and backgrounds in the world that are characterised as diverse.”
“With so much of our life counting on how prepared we are for situations that face us, our role as an international school educator is to prepare children to be future-ready. A clear understanding of what a global village means will help them break through cultural, language, and communication barriers. In that respect, they will gain tremendous opportunities to work with different people, achieve bigger things and be better involved with larger communities regardless of age groups, cultures, ethnicities, races, religions, languages, and skin colours,” she further adds.
A Unique Eco-friendly School
The school’s infrastructure is situated in an eco-friendly environment to boost the oxygen levels in the atmosphere to better develop cognitive abilities and accelerate the growth of the students. Highlighting the facilities school offers to its students, Puan Zaliza Alias says, “The school offers an eco-friendly environment for the students to enjoy learning and feel at home. The facilities include air-conditioned classrooms, a science lab, a computer lab, an art studio, libraries, a garden, a mini petting zoo, a cafe, a basketball court, a futsal area, and boarding (EduCity campus).”
Creating a Positive Impact on Society
Education institutes are considered trendsetters in the world and have immense power for the empowerment of society. And IDRISSI International Schools being an emblem of empowerment, has contributed immensely to society since its inception.
Shedding some light on such impacts, the school management postulates, “Following the Cambridge International curriculum infused with eco and value-based education, our community, consisting of teachers, students, parents and staff has been actively involved in environmental actions; including Sembang @WWF, beach cleaning, rhu planting and other social actions; including Pandemic Passage Art Exhibition for COVID-19 patients, charity bake sales for an orphanage, education sharing with a refugee school and more. The school is also one of the Islamic Relief partners to help a lot of global communities around the world.”
Envisioning the Future
Laying the roadmap for the future and sharing some with us, Puan Zaliza Alias says, “IDRISSI School is part of the leading K-12 education ecosystem built by GAINS Education Group, which is also the holding company of Genius Aulad; the pioneer of English-based Islamic preschool in Malaysia of more than 20 years and Sekolah Tinta; a STEM school with the national syllabus. The success of IDRISSI School and all the schools in the GAINS ecosystem is highly fueled by the passion for filling the gaps and needs in different aspects of education.”
“Over the years, IDRISSI School has managed to attract global investors through its implementation of life values education and academic excellence, and it is hoped to spawn a good network of local and international campuses after Johor and Qatar. Always on the lookout for the betterment in education, we are also ready to dive into providing cutting-edge ed-tech solutions to be incorporated in teaching and learning at all our schools,” she further adds.
An Educator’s Advice
“From an educator’s and a mother’s perspective, venturing into education truly requires a relentless drive to help children get quality education and fill the gaps needed in the existing education system. With the shutdown of schools during the pandemic due to massive interruptions to in-person learning, new challenges arose. There was no one-size-fits-all solution when dealing with people, including teachers, students, and parents. This has called for schools to reflect on what works and shift from what’s not at such a rapid pace. Taking this lesson allows businesses in the education sector to build resilience for any unforeseen crisis and prepare a long-term plan to sustain.”
– Puan Zaliza Alias
The school also adheres firmly to the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) measure to ensure the school’s performance is sustained throughout the years. The adherence to the three values has brought positive effects on students, educators, and staff’s development to a greater degree.
The school envisions empowering children and youth to be the change. Change in this context includes how one looks at things and attempts to shift something based on environmental awareness, global issues, and world peace that are in line with universal human values and practices.