Roger Schultz, the former Secondary School Principal and recently appointed new Head of The Alice Smith School, sits down with TEG’s Marybeth Ramey for a wide-ranging interview.
MR: Please tell our readers how long you’ve been in Malaysia, and when you started your tenure with The Alice Smith School.
RS: I have been in Malaysia for four years, taking up my appointment as Secondary principal of the Alice Smith School in September 2010.
Please give us a brief summary of your educational background and experiences.
I began my teaching career in 1980 in Brisbane, after graduating from University of Queensland with a science degree and a post-graduate secondary teaching diploma. I worked in the State Education system in Queensland for 16 years as a mathematics and chemistry teacher, Head of Mathematics, and Deputy Principal. I completed my Master of Education in Leadership and Management through the University of Southern Queensland in 1995. I joined the International School of Brunei in 1996 and I was appointed as deputy principal of the school in 1997 with responsibilities across both primary and secondary sections of the school. In 1999, we moved to Taiwan where I was Head of the British Secondary and High School Sections of Taipei European School for 11 years.
What other countries have you lived in or spent time in?
We have lived in East Asia since 1996, working in international schools in Brunei and Taiwan for 14 years. During that time, we have travelled extensively and visited many different locations in Asia.
In your opinion, how does Malaysia compare to other countries outside of the UK in the areas of culture, society, and their degrees of fostering an environment of continuous learning/education?
Malaysia is an interesting place to live. The mix of people from Malay, Chinese, and Indian backgrounds creates a diverse cultural setting. There are many festivals throughout the year that recognise and celebrate this diversity for all people. As a commonwealth country, Malaysia’s close ties with the UK extend to its approach to education, with large numbers of students moving into higher education locally or abroad.
How does the over 60 years history of Alice Smith impact your current leadership strategies for growth and maintaining its reputation of excellence? Do you borrow from time-tested theories and practices and in what way?
Alice Smith will celebrate its 70th anniversary in 2016. As a not-for-profit foundation, our priority is ensuring that all of our resources are invested in the quality of the education we provide to our community. The secondary campus at Equine Park opened in 1998 and now has 800 students, with 200 in the sixth form. With 1,600 students in total, the school is operating at its capacity. The key ingredients for an outstanding education are excellent teachers, motivated students, appropriate resources and an enriched, supportive learning environment and we have these in abundance. They are fundamental to our success, as is our strong desire for each child to have the opportunity to develop their talents to be the best they can be.
What is your area of passion regarding moving Alice Smith forward into the future?
In creating the best possible learning environment in a school, it is important that all students have the opportunity to develop academically, aesthetically, physically and emotionally. Providing a broad and balanced curriculum is a real strength of our school with the creative and expressive Arts, humanities and languages featuring as strongly as the sciences and mathematics in our provision. There is a considerable continuing investment in infrastructure to enhance our campus facilities, creating learning areas to support different learning approaches well into the future. As a foundation school with such a long history in Malaysia, our A level scholarship programme for local Malaysian students is now well-established and will continue to flourish.
Can you discuss the basic philosophies and framework of your pastoral care? Many Americans only hear of this concept when their children enter a British-based school.
The essence of pastoral care is the manner in which we look after the welfare of each and every child. It is essential that children feel safe and cared for and that we get to know who they are as individuals and respond to their needs. A positive, trusting relationship between child and teacher creates an encouraging environment which everyone benefits from. We want to develop our students as responsible, reflective, caring and confident individuals. To achieve this, we have a student-centred approach to everything that we do and we all share and contribute to the pastoral care of our students.
Do you think the now-ubiquitous presence of technology and hand-held devices has had a negative impact to any degree with regards to social life at school?
We live in a connected world and I believe that one of our educational responsibilities is to help our young people learn how to use technology for the right reasons at the right time. For example, almost all of our secondary students have a mobile phone and many will bring this to school. They are only allowed to use it on the way to school or home from school, for communication, or in class in agreement with a teacher as a support for the learning. We cannot ignore the fact that technology devices are a part of our everyday lives and our primary goal is to help students learn how to use technology effectively to support their learning. Our young people have access to unlimited sources of information and knowledge and one of key roles is to develop digital literacy skills so that they can make best use of this.
We have enthusiastic and very well behaved students at our school. They are an absolute pleasure to work with. Developing effective interpersonal and communication skills will always be a key feature of school life and we encourage our students to engage positively with others and participate in the vast range of experiences and opportunities that are available to them.
How has the elimination of the government quota system in 2012 for Malaysians impacted Alice Smith? Have you changed your ratio of expat students and local ones?
The demographic of our school student population has not really changed over the last decade. We have a significant number of British passport holders across all year groups and the founding nations of our school – Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand – make up close to half of our student body. With the recent growth in the sixth form, there is a slightly higher proportion of Malaysian passport holders in the secondary campus. We are truly a British international school with 50 nationalities represented.
Your faculty is well-known as one of the best at any school in Malaysia. What do you attribute this to?
Our school community is fortunate to have a well-qualified, dedicated, and hardworking faculty. We have very high expectations for our own professionalism and the quality of the learning experiences we engage in with our children.
Outstanding teachers have a genuine love of working with children and are prepared to “go the extra mile” to support and help the children in their care. Our faculty have a passion for what they do and we are always striving to create the best possible learning environment we can. We invest considerable time, effort, and resources in our recruitment of teachers each year.
Can you tell us about the role of any parent associations/groups and how they might enhance the overall functioning of AS?
Two voluntary parent groups make a significant contribution to our school. The Council of Governors represent the members of the Alice Smith Schools Association (ASSA) in overseeing the strategic and long term future of the school. They work closely with the executive leadership team to ensure the school works successfully towards achieving its short and long term goals. The Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) helps to build community involvement in the school between parents, staff and children through their annual activities and functions. Both groups contribute significant amounts of their time unselfishly for the betterment of our school. The recent PTA summer fair at Equine Park attracted well over 1,000 through the gate.
Could you share an endearing anecdote with our readers that might demonstrate the ethos and genuine caring the school has for its students?
There are many examples of our students looking after each other and supporting each other at all different age levels throughout the school. When a new student joins us, the role of a buddy is invaluable in helping children to become settled quickly.
One recent example that comes to mind was a swimming carnival at the primary campus where the whole year level rose to their feet to clap, cheer, and encourage one of their classmates who was not a strong swimmer and was struggling to complete his race. Another example is our sixth form students giving their time to mentoring younger students and helping them with their studies or with other aspects of their school life.
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