Alister Bartholomew – Beaconhouse Regional Director for Southeast Asia

Highly accomplished education specialist joins Beaconhouse to manage daily operations of schools across the region.

Photo: Beaconhouse

With over 40 years in education, Alister now oversees the daily operations of  Beaconhouse schools in Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. From holding senior positions in academic institutions around the world to independent consulting for global education, his expertise is well sought after. We asked for advice on choosing the correct school for a child and his thoughts on British education and the development of international schools in Malaysia. 

What has your career in education been like so far and what were the highlights?

I have had a career in education that has spanned over 40 years and have been lucky enough to have had some truly memorable experiences. I have been privileged to hold senior positions in various prestigious academic institutions in England, Scotland, Singapore, Kazakhstan and right here in Malaysia.  All the roles I served were meaningful – whether it was as a Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Director of Education, Headmaster or Chairman of Governors.

After 40 years in international education, what advice would you give potential parents regarding how to choose a school?

This is a question that I have been asked by many parents and friends, and I have found one thing to be of great importance when it comes to making this decision. Quite simply – parents must ask themselves what the best fit for their child is. To answer this, you need to understand your child, spend time with them and have discussions to understand their needs better. There is a plethora of education options available so there will always be a suitable option. 

Parents should consider the following factors when considering the right school for their child: 
-    What are your child’s interests and learning style – would something more fluid suit them rather than a conventional rigid system? 
-    Are they more comfortable with book learning or do they prefer to get their hands dirty and learn through experience? 
-    What language are they most comfortable learning in?
-    Do they have any other interests / hobbies / activities that the school can help supplement? 
A school incorporating a holistic approach to education and prioritises lifelong learning is of course ideal. Then there are factors that parents need to consider too – fees, distance to the school, schedules, curriculums, teaching methodology. 

Why do you think British education is so successful internationally?

British education has a long and storied past and there is no denying that it is one of the most prevalent education systems in the world. It is a system that has been around for a long time and its success can be attributed to history and how British education was assimilated across the world. But more than that, I believe the British education system has found great success internationally because of two key factors - innovation and flexibility. Education must be innovative, dynamic and adaptive and the British curriculum has evolved accordingly. 

What are your thoughts on the development of international schools in Malaysia and is the market saturated? 

I think there is still room to grow when it comes to this market segment. While it is certainly true that the market has steadily become quite crowded, I wouldn’t quite categorise it as saturated. The demand continues to grow, and this is a strong propelling factor for the industry. So long as demand continues to increase, I am confident that the industry will flourish. 

And while there is an abundance of international education options within the Klang Valley, a segment that is ripe with potential are the urban areas within the other states as well as suburban areas. As more families opt for a quieter life in the suburbs, the demand for academic options will increase, and we at Beaconhouse are ready to meet this growing demand. Our emphasis on lifelong learning has already proven to be very popular and we believe this sentiment will grow with the evolving education landscape.

What advantages does a Beaconhouse school offer students?

At Beaconhouse, we pride ourselves on our holistic approach to lifelong learning. We firmly believe that a child’s mental, physical and emotional growth is enhanced by meaningful engagements and experiences and cannot be confined to the four walls of a classroom. Beaconhouse schools take great care to ensure that the curriculum is well-rounded and provides students with many opportunities to learn in the classroom, sports field, science lab and music class. 

By combining our international expertise with local specialisation attained from talented teachers and advisors, we ensure students get the best of both worlds. By providing a solid foundation from preschool to senior school, we empower students to harness their talent and individuality, and become independent global learners.

What are the education trends for 2020 and how will Beaconhouse schools incorporate this into their curriculums?

Technology continues to drive the way we teach and learn. Whether it is artificial intelligence powered software or virtual reality focused learning experiences, technology will play a bigger role in the way students learn. At Beaconhouse, we are very interested in these methods and are actively exploring ways for us to integrate these cutting-edge technologies into our syllabus and curriculum. 

Why do you think so many parents in Malaysia are opting for a private or international education for their children?

I believe there really is one underlying factor that drives parents towards private or international education – quality. This covers everything from the curriculum, educators, equipment, facilities and environment. There is also the consideration of variety, flexibility and fluidity. Private and international educational institutions offer the power of choice. Parents today are more concerned, aware and involved in their child’s education that ever before, and want more say in how, what and where their child learns. Private and international education offers this power of choice to parents, which is why its popularity is surging.  

Tags: News & Features, Profile, Beaconhouse Malaysia, Preschool, Primary, Secondary
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