Tenby Schools is part of the International Schools Partnership (ISP) and practises the core value of Amazing Learning, where through reliance and perseverance, excellence can be achieved. We speak to Liam Hammer about his experience working in international education, what his opinion is regarding what makes for a good international school and tips on what to look for when choosing a school for your child.
Tell us about yourself and what you have been doing within the field of education.
I’m a product of the Australian education system and have been working in the international education sector for 25 years. I’ve worked for schools in Australia, Thailand, Albania and Malaysia, using Cambridge (IGCSE and A levels) and International Baccalaureate curricula and consulted, visited and evaluated schools in Italy, Singapore, Vietnam, China, and India.
I graduated from The University of Melbourne and pursued a master’s degree in Education from Macquarie University, and then earned a Certificate of Advanced Educational Learnership from Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. I am currently pursuing a Doctor of Educational Leadership from Wilkes University, USA. I have also sat on educational boards in Indonesia and Albania that have hosted teacher conferences, advocated to governments for better legislation, and education ministries for more equitable and fair regulations.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in education?
An International career in education has been my passion since I was 16 years old. I’ve always enjoyed working with others, be it coaching sporting teams, teaching science classes or training teachers and principals. Every day in education is different, every day we are planting seeds, that may not sprout immediately, but sprout and grow they will. I feel honoured and humbled to know that I am helping to mould the next generation of politicians, businessmen, doctors and bankers.
How does working in Tenby Schools (Malaysia) differ from the other countries you’ve worked in?
I have worked with dozens of schools in three continents and in that time, I have learned that schools, students, and parents are very similar in needs, wants and aspirations for their children (to be happy and successful). Working and living in Johor is a pleasant lifestyle choice - green surroundings, relatively clean air and almost no bad traffic.
Working with Tenby Schools who are part of International Schools Partnership (ISP) gives me confidence in the group’s procedures, structures and processes. I automatically have a supportive peer group of 44 other Campus Principals to advise, coach and assist me. With ISP’s unapologetically student focus on everything we do, I feel a passion for our work that in previous schools without a partnership meant I did not have.
Tell us more about the Amazing Learning philosophy at Tenby Schools through the key stages.
I have learned too many schools get lost in focusing on shiny buildings, wonderful new swimming pools, brilliant curriculum planning or various committees, and forgetting that learning is what we are supposed to be doing first and foremost. Our definition of learning is about getting a little better, each day in knowledge, skills and understanding. All Tenby schools focus on providing daily learning experiences that help our students get better. Sounds simple, and it is but with a relentless focus on learning each day, we ensure that every lesson is a learning lesson, and every experience is about getting better.
Amazing Learning happens when a learner does something that they, or their parents and teachers did not think they could! A simple example is my 6-year-old son, who was frightened of swimming. In one week, his PE teacher at Tenby managed to turn that around and now my son can swim and enjoys it!
What is your opinion on the current international and private school landscape in Malaysia?
Parents have a bewildering variety of options for schooling in Malaysia - choice of curricula, prices, boarding or day school, academics, STEM, Arts or sports focus. This is great, but sometimes choices can be overwhelming. The important thing is to visit the schools, talk to teachers and staff, decide for yourself if the atmosphere between adults, staff, children and students (and all combinations of these) positive, shared and collaborative or nervous, top-down and individual?
Are the public areas of the school attractive, informative, focused on learning, and clearly demonstrating the school’s vision for its students? Will they allow you to speak with current parents? Does the school provide regular information to parents about their children’s learning, how they can contribute, and do they answer all queries with transparency? By focusing on these important areas, you can look past the brand-new track and sports field, beyond the glittering new science labs or the shiny new 800-seat theatre, which are important but are not the only aspects to measure a school’s performance.
From Principal’s point of view, what makes for a good international school?
The very definition of international school is nebulous. Thirty years ago, an international school was almost entirely made up of expatriate teachers and students delivering a British (or French or Dutch) curriculum to the children of diplomats and expatriate workers. Across the globe demand for private English medium schools and international schools has exploded. According to International Schools Research, 87% of such schools are made up of majority host country national students, with varying mixtures of teacher nationalities and using an internationally focused curriculum. A school does not become international simply because of its licence, its name, its demographic, or curricula taught, although these factors are usually present.
This is because a great international school is more than academic success. A great international school has an internationally focused vision and works towards achieving this vision every day through the way teachers teach, students learn; and most importantly, how in their demeanour and behaviour.
To find out more about International Schools Partnership (ISP) and to secure your child’s place with the Tenby Schools family, please visit: tenby.edu.my.