Idrissi International School: A Homely School with a Mission for the Earth

“We Produce THINKERS-LEARNERS who have an inquiring outlook, the ability to articulate problems and issues, the habit of exploring alternative possibilities, the capacity to critically examine issues and ideas, good reasoning, and independent judgment”.

Located in a developing eco-region of Setia Alam, Malaysia, Idrissi International School is an eco-Islamic international school that follows the Cambridge International Curriculum as academic framework, while infusing Islamic and environmental education in all its lessons. Living in the name of Eco-Islamic International School, the students here are groomed to be multilingual. They communicate in three languages; English as the main medium of communication, their own Bahasa & Alam and Arabic.

The Inception Story

The journey of the school began on 15th January 2015 with just 48 students and 5 teachers. The intent and idea for Idrissi School was sparked when a national campaign to save Tasik Chini (Lake Chini) in Pahang was kicked off in 2012. At the time of the campaign, its eco-diversity and sustainability has been severely impacted due to nearby iron-mining, the damming of the Sungai Chini (Chini River) and development that has encroached on gazette reserve lands.

Seeing Tasik Chini at a deteriorating state, they realized that their education system had not done enough in order to raise awareness and cultivate a sense of duty to protecting and preserving the planet. The education systems and models focused much on the knowledge or the student, but almost none placed the earth at its core. And that was when the seeds of Idrissi School were born.

As a part of fulfilling our role as earth custodians of the earth, the school made environmental education mandatory, where natured-based lessons are part of the curriculum across all their schooling levels (preschool, primary and secondary). Idrissi School is the first in Malaysia (public or private) to have teachers and curriculum be the certified by the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Academy. The school also includes Financial Literacy (FLIP), with a focus on Islamic Finance, as part of their curriculum for both primary and secondary education.

All the above comes together with dedication and passion from the faculty of teachers and administrators.

About the Leaders of the School

Being an Eco-School, Adam Lars Testad was chosen as the school’s first Eco-Principal. His role is to help create a pedagogy and curriculum that places the earth and its ecology at its core, cultivating a sense of ownership and duty to the environment in the hearts and mind outs of Idrissi School students. Adam is a Swedish national who has a unique relationship with the nature. He cycles to school and knows every root and shoots of every plant. He looks after the design of the school buildings and compound, landscaping every nook and cranny to ensure that it embraces and embodies the eco element of the school. He also helps design the nature-based lessons across our curriculum to ensure the reinforcement and retention of the lessons. Adam’s childlike wonder and appreciation for mother earth has made him an endearing elder in the school, and his passion for the earth spills over onto every student that walks through his gardens and landscapes.

With the expansion of idrissi School, Education Manager, Julie Wong is put to take charge in gearing up the school further as the Principal. She looks after all the accreditation and certification aspects of the curriculum, along with crafting frameworks and subjects that delivers the unique Idrissi School experience.

Julie is a well-travelled and well-exposed teacher with a multitude of experiences that she harnesses in running idrissi School daily. A child of multiculturalism, Julie combines her years of German corporate management experience with her life- changing experiences helping run an international school in Libya as a teacher to the school. This allows Julie to craft and design a curriculum that balances the individual and the environment, without overlooking the spiritual and technical. She had been instrumental in helping the school obtain Cambridge and Carnegie Mellon certifications. Her life experiences and exposure has made her a compassionate and creative, which combined with her motherly nature, developed a safe, homely atmosphere for the students. Julie also embodies the adventurous spirit that Idrissi School wants to impart to its students – she is a certified deep ocean diver and a great Mediterranean chef.

Creating Environmental Awareness

The Idrissi School curriculum is holistic, focusing on character building through environmental awareness, and nature building through self-awareness. The school tries to find the balance between the eco and Islamic elements, while ensuring that they fulfill all educational accreditation and checkpoints.

The daily learning of the students are as wholesome as possible, filled with classroom lessons, hands-on experiential learning complimented with recreational physical activities. They don’t just work on their mental and physical well-being; they also work on nature and their spiritual well-being.

The Primary curriculum has Eco Programme subjects to match the Arabic, Quranic and Islamic Studies subjects across all six years (KS1-KS2). These subjects ensure that the eco and Islamic elements are delivered. These subjects are complimented by other accredited and certified program such as the STEM Robotics and FLiP. The Secondary curriculum maintains the same focus, while adding greater depth. On top of the balanced eco and Islamic elements and the complementary subjects in the primary curriculum above, subjects like Computer Studies, the Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics), and Geography along with the Humanities (History, Literature, Business Studies and Art & Design).

The methodology in delivering the above is collaborative, constructive, and co-operative based on individual performance. The lesson were personalized using Assessment Trackers, and employ a highly interactive delivery to empower the students to express and articulate themselves and their knowledge. Idrissi School makes it compulsory for the students’ evaluation to include projects and presentations. All such activities ensure an optimal educational upbringing for the students, with the requisite knowledge matched with the requisite life skills they will need later in life.

Extra-curricular activities adds onto the above educational curriculum, and is supplemented by a Health and Discipline program to ensure that the Idrissi School learning experience is maximized and consolidated.

When students explore the nature, they understand life better which helps to build their character into a well-grounded persona. From farm-to-folk, Idrissi School students learn every subject with environmental values, balanced between academics and joyful learning.

Distinct Academic Programs

One of the characters that set Idrissi apart is its curriculum. With the school simple “homely school with a mission for the earth” concept and the Eco-Islamic international school branding, they are slowly crafting a holistic and a balanced curriculum for the students to develop a better sense of self and the world – character building through environmental awareness, and nature building through self-awareness. This won the school the Eco Primary Education Award from PEKA (Pertubuhan Khazanah Alam Malaysia) in 2017, in an event graced by His Majesty the Sultan of Selangor.

The school teaches financial literacy from a young age via Money Tree’s FLiP (Financial Literacy Program). Money Tree is a leading financial literacy education provider in the region, specializing in providing lessons for school-going children and youth.

The schools advocate STEM via the Carnegie Mellon’s Robotic Academy program. As the first school in Malaysia to have teachers certified by Carnegie Mellon, Idrissi Scchool applies the Carnegie Mellon’s study results of using robots in classrooms to teach CS-STEM (Computer Science, Science, Engineering and Mathematics.

The college is also recognized as a conducive and holistic home for youth development by The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. This award is one of the world’s leading achievement awards for youths development and curriculum, applicable for anyone aged 14-24; it is voluntary and non-competitive.

Aside from the unique mix of the above certifications, awards and program, Idrissi School adds color to its curriculum by including other non-conventional character building program.

One such program is Traditional Turkish Archery program. Via a partnership with the Turkish Embassy – Yunos Emre Institute in Malaysia, where they teach traditional Turkish archery with the help of subject matter experts and authentic equipment (handmade bows) from Turkey. This is the first of such partnerships in Malaysia.

Annual events

Being a young school with a growing student base, faculty and expectations, IDRISSI does its best to offer extra-curricular activities that will complement the academic curriculum.

Some of its past events are the Eco-Science Exhibition where students are given booths to present on a chosen eco-subject or topic. They learned managing exhibitions, research and presentations in a safe space via healthy competition amongst themselves. Another event in similar spirits is the ‘Camp in The Cloud’. It is a combination of school Sports Day and International Night where they feature safe and healthy recreational competition via sports and cultural performances, featuring student performances of different cultures from around the world.

All these events are platforms and opportunities for the students to apply all their learning from the school in order to embrace change and fit in this world. It allows them to demonstrate their growth, showcasing the results of their character-building and knowledge-learning in a progressive and empowering space.

Another example of this experiential Idrissi School learning is the upcoming Golden Age Inventions exhibition. Organized by the school, it showcases over 20 booths of students presenting inventions and discoveries from the 1001 Inventions book that were made from recyclable materials via upcycling methods learned from their Eco curriculum.

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