Integrating STEM Subjects As Part Of A Cohesive Curriculum: Simon Sharp

With a BA (Hons) in Social and Political Sciences from the University of Cambridge and a PGCE from the University of Northampton, Simon Sharp is Head of Primary at the British International School of Kuala Lumpur.

Photo: British International School of Kuala Lumpur

Having worked extensively across all levels of Primary years, and as a Lead Practitioner educating trainee teachers, Simon brings with him extensive experience and is particularly focused on ensuring students develop both academically and socially. This year will see him working towards integrating STEM subjects into the BSKL primary curriculum and positive education messages are instilled. 

In your experience as an educator, what are the key points parents should consider when choosing a school? 

I think the most important thing to consider is whether you and your child is happy when they walk through the door. The way a child smiles says a lot more about the school than conversations with the Headteacher. When you go on a tour of the school ensure you see as much as possible, because if the tour guide avoids certain areas, you might question what they are hiding. You should also be able to speak to staff, students and other parents as you walk around and not just the Admissions or Senior Leadership Team. 

Of course it is also important to understand what the school offers in terms of the curriculum. At BSKL we offer a breadth of subjects in Primary, including languages, music, sport and extra-curricular activities. The curriculum tells you where the school’s focus lies and I firmly believe that a broad curriculum produces excellent exam results. 

How important is it to choose the right Primary school to ensure a child is happy and performs academically?

It is incredibly important. It is good to read reports about the school, but it is no substitute for seeing the school first-hand, experiencing the environment and talking to members of the community. If children are happy, they are going to be learning and if they are learning, they are going to perform much better academically.

How would you say BSKL differs from other international schools?

Considering BSKL is a large school, we have a wonderful community feel; every year group is its own community and we have extremely close links with our parents. A particularly unique aspect is that all of our Assistant Teachers in Years 1 - 6 are fluent in English, hold degrees and have three years experience in a relevant field. Our pastoral care is also second to none. 

In addition, being the only school in Malaysia which is part of Nord Anglia Education means our curricula is being enhanced through collaborations with the world’s best including Juilliard, MIT and UNICEF.  Our students have access to a wide program of events and expeditions and our online Global Campus platform connects over 50,000 students around the world. 

What are your views on the use of iPads / laptops as learning tools?

We have invested heavily in iPads throughout our school. All of our students in Years 4-6 are given their own ipads and children in other year groups all have access to ipads on a regular basis. However we don’t mandate that they are used all the time. Anything we do with iPads or laptops must benefit the child’s learning first and foremost. They are a great learning tool but they are just that- a tool. It is what the teacher does with them that is important. 

How important do you think learning a second language is during the Primary years and why?

We all know the earlier you start learning a second language the better, so it is very important children are taught from a young age. This is when language is learned and acquired faster, retained better and spoken with greater pronunciation (and confidence.) My daughter is a great example of this. Prior to joining BSKL in September she had never spoken a word of Spanish but has already picked it up so well - it is her favourite subject!

Looking to the future, speaking a second language sets our students up to succeed in a global world. At BSKL, Primary students can choose to learn either Spanish or Mandarin; two important languages given the fast growing markets in China and South America. They have 4 hours a week and many go onto be conversationally fluent by the time they leave in Year 6. 

Lastly, what are your plans for the Primary section of BSKL for the coming year? 

There are two main goals I am focusing on this year. Firstly, I want to firmly integrate the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects through our link with MIT to ensure it is part of a cohesive curriculum. STEM is a growth area where a lot of future jobs will exist, so we need to be developing our curriculum now. 

Secondly, I want to build on the positive education message of self-awareness and self-evaluation for a healthier, happier life. It is about understanding how children affect themselves and others, recognising what their strengths and weaknesses are and being able to create and develop arguments and reasoning. This is often taught in later years but I believe these learnings should be instilled at a younger age. 


Tags: Interviews, Features, BSKL
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