Bringing back the fun to school

Students enjoy coming to school- Bernama pix

By V. Shankar Ganesh

Education is supposed to be fun and filled with good memories of teachers, school and friends but somehow it seems to have drifted towards being examination based.

Pictures of stressed up students and stories about straight A students are now the norm with many accepting it as a price to pay for development. 

But is it really necessary? It may be good that they are given a good start but are we on the right footing? Are our children missing out on something that the previous generations had?

Well one school decided that it was time to change and daring to be different, the headmaster of SJKT Sungai Ara in Penang decided to apply a fun approach to learning at the school.

Its headmaster, S. Sangga, 57, said the fun approach did not conflict with the policies laid down by the Education Ministry.

Instead of burdening his 130 students with homework, Sangga emphasised on hands-on and practical learning which is more effective in improving their knowledge and skills.

“As the school is surrounded by game equipment including the games we paint on the floor, such as teng teng, snakes and ladders and more, pupils start to arrive as early as 6.30am although school only starts at 7.40am.

“They can read or browse the Internet on computers set up outside the classrooms. If at home they have no internet access, they can do it here. This is why our school has topped the highest achievement level in ICT. 

“Even during the school holidays pupils can use it, on condition they are accompanied by their parents,” he said.

Sangga told Bernama that since he was transferred to the school in April 2011, he had made many changes, especially involving teaching and learning in the classroom.

He said the 13 teachers at the school did not have any problem adapting as they were able to follow his lead because he also reduced their workload. 

“Now the teachers do not have as much work. In this school, we emphasise independent learning. Pupils will explain the topics given by teachers to fellow students. This will help them to understand better. If they learn in groups they will grasp faster,” he said.

According to him, teachers were also instructed not to conduct teaching and learning in the classrooms only but to take the pupils outdoors to explore and learn from what they see.

“Every Friday we will take pupils for walks in the surrounding area near the school where they can learn good values and explore what’s around them. On Saturdays we also take them to collect garbage in selected areas, becoming ‘trash heroes’. But this is by choice, we do not force them,” he said.

Sangga said since the school had many activities, he had to inform parents via Whatsapp on the activities to be conducted because the pupils were very excited and keen.

“There have been occasions when pupils got upset with their parents for not telling them about the school activities.”

He said the school did not grade pupils based on marks obtained in examinations. Instead everyone would receive prizes based on their talent and academic achievement.

Sangga said the school also carried out environmental protection and preservation activities to create a more comfortable and enjoyable school atmosphere.

So far the school has managed to achieve nine out of 17 objectives under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in an effort to educate students to love and care for the environment.

He said students were also taught not to use plastic and to collect recyclable items.

“The school has no plastic, we have banned the use of plastic. If pupils find plastic they have been taught to collect it to be recycled as eco-brick. Junk food and fast food are also not allowed. This is not only practised in the school but pupils also teach their parents to do the same at home,” he said.

Pupils are also taught gardening. The school has a garden planted with banana trees, flowers and so forth which creates an estimated profit of RM600 a month for the school. 

However, he said the garden was no longer producing as much yield as it used to.

Sangga hopes that after his retirement in three years, the pupils and teachers would retain and carry on with what has been practiced so far. 

During a recent visit to the school by Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik, he lauded the school for being an eco-warrior.

However controversy enveloped the school soon after when some 11 students took part in a global climate change protest after school hours.

There were criticisms against the school and authorities were also called to investigate it.

The education department later said no action would be taken against the school as no rules were broken.