Smart Boarding

Boarding has undergone a huge transformation from something that met a necessity to something that most children are desperate to do.

A once teary-eyed pupil at the school gates now skips off happily towards a boarding experience of a home away from home, a place where free time is spent with friends, playstations, outings, organized activities and furthermore, study times are structured in such a way that the child feels equipped academically, organised and ready for the hard work of school and in control of his own time and his studies.

It is a well rounded young adult who leaves a boarding experience, a young adult who has developed an ability to work in a team, but who has established a sense of independence and who knows how to organise himself or herself and his or her own time effectively.

International boarding schools in Malaysia are of standards that can compete with some of the best worldwide and it is not by chance that these schools are continuing to impress and raise the standard’s bar both worldwide and nationwide.

Colleges from the UK are opening up in Malaysia with the likes of Epsom College and Marlborough College and places such as Nexus International with branchesnow opening up in Singapore and plans for expansion further afield around Asia. International boarding schools are not just a place to live and learn.

‘A boarder is not just making friends with his or her roommate, he or she is building international relations,’ says Trevor Schubert, Director of Boarding at Nexus International School.

This approach is apparent in the very ethos of international boarding schools, where all cultures, religions and backgrounds are catered for, equipping students for adapting to working environments encompassing many cultures later in life.

Scholarships bring boarding and a high standard of schooling to everyone. Talented children and young adults are given the opportunity to study alongside counterparts from more privileged backgrounds, and schools such as Nexus will ensure that they follow this throughout the child’s academic career.

The Taylor’s Group, for example, will ensure they offer support throughout university within their academic group, this, Nexus Principle Dr Stuart Martin says, is mostly due to the fact that no pupil, least of all someone who has given a lot to get to where they are in the school, should be forgotten about.

The system at Nexus also takes into account the fact that it is very difficult for a child from a less privileged background to go back into a public school having achieved what they have and experienced what they have so far in their schooling life.

The numbers of international boarding schools opening up in Malaysia means that there is a great deal to choose from when considering sending your child to school. It also means that a parent can be quite choosy about what is important to them and to the child, whether it is green open spaces and a range of outdoor activities or whether it is a community or family style boarding.

At Dalat International School in Penang there is emphasis on their boarding programme, ‘Residence Life’, a programme creating a community with emphasis on a home away from home, with an opportunity to grow and appreciate the cultural and Religious differences amongst the pupils, and a community whose emphasis is on being close knit supporting one another.

As Valerie Weidemann, ‘Residence Life’ supervisor explains, this programme focuses on a number of ‘distinctives’, amongst those, are family style dorms to create a home-like atmosphere and a partnership with parents which helps to establish a strong relationship between parents and boarders.

‘We view our dorm families as an extension of the nuclear family unit, rather than a replacement for it. We place a high priority on communication with parents and view ourselves as partners in the process of caring for their children.

Dorm parents write weekly letters to parents and send pictures of the various activities in which students are involved. Mutual trust and respect are fundamental to co-parenting children and are best achieved through open communication.

Regular dialogue between parents and dorm parents helps to maintain the continuum of quality care for their children.’ The residence life programme emphasises the importance of a close knit community, where dorm parents are referred to as Aunt and Uncle and the dorm mates are very much brothers and sisters.

The programme also addresses the cultural diversities amongst the students, ‘The multicultural atmosphere in our dorms gives students the opportunity to grow in their ability to appreciate the experiences, differences and strengths of people from different

This ability to live in a multi-cultural community prepares young people to succeed wherever they go in the world.’ Trevor also agrees with this feeling of community amongst the boarders.

‘A vertical system of living on each floor has been introduced because it best resembles a family community where the older children are role models for the younger children.

As boarders grow older in boarding they receive more privileges and also are given more leadership roles and responsibility. Boarding is a community composed of boys and girls of different ages and backgrounds.

A lot of emphasis is put on everyone caring for each other and respecting each other.’ Epsom College, due to open in 2012, will be following the example of its sister school in the UK.

As Gareth Eynon, headmaster of Epsom, explains the environment is key to the development of students at boarding school and this is something they will be focusing on.

‘People perform better and reach potential if they feel safe, secure, comfortable, respected, valued and supported. Theimpact of the environment should not be underestimated in relation to happiness and success. Learning and living environments [at Epsom] will reflect this philosophy.’

Making sure that the school is at the forefront of technical developments will also play a
major role in the development and growth of students at Epsom, ‘Ensuring students have access to these advancements at the earliest opportunity, to support them academically and socially is important to us.’

Set in beautiful grounds with plenty of outside space, technology to entertain all and an environment that addresses most aspects of teenage and young adult life is certainly appealing for giving a child a very good start, but it isn’t without its challenges.

As with any children away from home there is always going to be issues and challenges, some in relation to homesickness, others merely the opportunity of taking advantage of everything that is on offer to them at such a young age.

Gareth Eynon realizes the importance of these challenges, in helping a child to develop into a well rounded young adult and also the difficulties that may arise.

‘The pressures faced by students are genuine. Our task is to ensure the experience of an Epsom College education prepares them for life now and in their futures.

The quality of the pastoral system, of learning and teaching, of breadth of opportunity, of excellence underpinning everything, encouraging independence, responsibility, compassion, understanding and a commitment to community will prepare our future alumni for life beyond the borders of ECiM.’

Tags: Features, Boarding schools, NISM
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