KUCHING: Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Datuk Seri Michael Manyin Jawong hopes that Sarawak’s first state-owned international secondary school, Yayasan Sarawak International Secondary School, will be fully operational by 2022.
The 29-acre site of the school is strategically located in 12th Mile to service students from three divisions: Kuching, Kota Samarahan, and Serian.
It will have all the necessary facilities such as sufficient classrooms, science labs, computer lab, tinkering lab, language lab, lecture theatre, library, multipurpose hall, dining hall, sports facilities, and so on.
“The objective (of these international schools) is to select children with high potential from low income families especially from rural areas and provide them with quality holistic education, developing them as individuals who are well-balanced, responsible, disciplined, and capable leaders.”
He said this at the earth-breaking ceremony of Yayasan Sarawak International Secondary School, which was officiated by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg today.
He said that this strategic long-term initiative would not only help to reduce the gap between rural and urban Sarawakians, but also create a more inclusive and equitable society.
With this, he said that Sarawak would have a steady pool of well-educated Sarawakians with the right personality and leadership capabilities to spearhead Sarawak’s continuous development.
He noted that demand for education that uses English as the medium of instruction and follows an international curriculum had grown substantially over the last few years, adding that parents were willing to pay huge sums to send their children to private international schools due to these aspects.
Unfortunately, Manyin said that due to the high costs of private international schools, parents with limited income, especially those from rural areas, could not afford to send their children to these schools.
“As such, the rise of private international schools in Malaysia has created a scenario of unequal access to quality international education.”
He explained that a serious consequence of this is that in the future, most of the good jobs in industry, commerce, and the public sector would be taken up by former students of international schools who are mostly from well-to-do families – further widening the gap between the urban rich and the rural poor.
“In order to mitigate this problem, our Chief Minister proposed to set up a total of five international schools in the state,” he said, adding that running all five schools would cost the state government RM70-80 million per year once fully operational.
Manyin said that student selection would be inclusive; students from all races, strata, and origin could enrol as long as they were Sarawakian and they met the selection criteria.
However, he said there would be a quota for students from well-to-do families and they would have to pay the full fees. On the other hand, students from M40 families would receive a partial subsidy while those from B40 families would be fully subsidised.
According to the minister, once fully developed each school would have a total enrolment of 500 students with 100 at each level. Each level, he added, would have four classes with 25 students in each class.
“We will keep the class size small so that the interaction between students and their teachers can be more effective. Three of the classes will be for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) stream and one class will be for Arts stream.”
All five schools will provide boarding facilities for 80 percent of their students, except Miri which will provide boarding for all its students.
“Through boarding experience, students learn self-management and time management, as well as develop their social and emotional intelligence. Students will become more responsible, independent, and confident.”
All five state-owned international secondary schools will feature the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) offered by the Cambridge Assessment International Education Board.
“In addition to IGCSE, our students will also be prepared to take SPM examinations as private candidate. As there is an 80 to 85 percent overlap in the IGCSE and SPM Science and Mathematics curriculum, taking both IGSCE and SPM is possible.”
He said that this would ensure that students would have the option to enter quality overseas institutions with their IGCSE certificate or enter local universities with their SPM certificate, as well as the opportunity to obtain the necessary credit in SPM Bahasa Malaysia to qualify for employment in the government sector.
“The schools will cater to students from Year 7 to Year 11 or Form 1 to Form 5.”
Co-curriculum and extra-curricular activities for character development
Sarawak’s state-owned international secondary schools will offer a range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities geared for character development.
According to Manyin, these would include activities to develop leadership capacity, moral strength, communication skills, digital skills, and creativity and innovation.
Locations of the five schools
Manyin said that all five international schools were proposed to be sited close to urban centres, with two in Kuching and one each in Sibu, Bintulu, and Miri.
Aside from this first one in Kuching, he said that the State Planning Authority had already approved sites for Miri, Bintulu, and Sibu, while the site for the second school in Kuching was still being finalised.
He explained that if the schools were sited in rural settings, the exposure and world view of the students would be severely limited.
He said that drawing students from their rural cocoon to urban centres would provide them with the necessary exposure to challenges, opportunities, as well as interactions with people of different backgrounds and expertise.
“All these will contribute to enriching their experience and changing their views and perspectives.”
Manyin hoped that the first Yayasan Sarawak International Secondary School would be completed within 10 months.