The values of choosing the right school – a principal shares his thoughts

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Whether it’s providing good value for money, teaching valuable skills, or instilling core values in children, a good school can go a long way in shaping the leaders of tomorrow. At Straits International School, this belief lies at the heart of their educational philosophy.

I recently sat down with Charles Grayhurst, the Principal of Straits International School (SIS), located in Bayan Lepas, Penang. It’s always fascinating to talk to the principal of any school, for this is the person who sets the tone, guides the school, and establishes expectations. A conversation with the person leading a school always offers a great insight into the school itself.

Charles is from the UK, but is almost as Asian as a local. “I’ve been living in Asia for 14 years, across a number of different countries,” he said. “My wife is from Vietnam. She and I have three children and we all live in Penang, which has been our home since 2012. Previously, I helped to start schools in Vietnam and China, and worked in Qatar, Sri Lanka, the UK, and other places.”

He talked a fair bit about the school itself, but it didn’t take long before the conversation shifted to a deeper educational philosophy. “Well, we opened Straits International School with just 17 students in a temporary campus near PISA and the SPICE arena, and from there, our community grew quickly.” I stopped him on this word – community.

It wasn’t the first time the word had come up with regard to SIS. “Of course, academic results are vitally important, but an education is also about instilling and encouraging core values. This is reflected in the ‘Straits 7’, and a focus upon all students becoming caring, compassionate, collaborative, creative, hardworking, pro-active, and independent young people.”

straits international school

But how do the values instilled in students come back around to community? “When I think back,” Charles shared. “I know that my father had a great influence upon me, and in particular, about how to be the best person I could be. In terms of what little I may have achieved in life, it is the hallmark of his values that shine through.

Perhaps in the modern world where everyone seeks an edge, we may have forgotten about the importance of character, but not at Straits. This means that we appreciate how important it is to communicate well with others, set an example for ourselves, our family, and our community, and how, at the end of each day, we should all be able to look in the mirror and say, ‘I did my best today.’ We wish to foster that sense of self pride in our students so that they succeed as people as well as students, not just for exams, but for the rest of their life. How we interact in our community is therefore at the centre of these ideals.”

And this theme carries through to how the teachers and other staff interact with the students, and commensurately, how the students interact with each other. A true sense of community is indeed formed. “The children are cared for at Straits,” Charles said simply. “We provide a warm, welcoming school with a great family feel. We also focus upon high expectations and a core sense of personal development.We wish to produce students with great qualifications, but also equip them with the personal skills and character traits that will make their family proud.”

This nurturing and character-centric environment is carried out in SIS’s modern new permanent campus, which includes purpose-built classrooms and science laboratories, a new Performing Arts department, two large ICT suites, an expanded library, and a larger canteen. The School’s sporting facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, a futsal pitch, a multi-purpose hall, and use of a full-sized Astroturf pitch.


Whether it’s providing good value for money, teaching valuable skills, or instilling core values in children, a good school can go a long way in shaping the leaders of tomorrow. At Straits International School, this belief lies at the heart of their educational philosophy.

Good facilities are best utilised by a strong curriculum, and SIS offers this, too. “By using CIE, we provide our students with a flexible, yet highly respected curriculum that is competitive throughout the world and affords a host of options for students to study throughout the world at the best universities,” Charles explained. “Our results at Checkpoint and IGCSE have included some wonderful achievements, such as perfect Checkpoint scores, as well as some of the top subject results in Malaysia.”

Combining modern, purpose-built facilities with a curriculum recognised and respected worldwide, SIS sets itself apart by its caring approach. “SIS combines academic rigour and excellent international teaching standards with a pride in our Asian setting, and an acknowledgement of the traditional values that can be found here,” Charles said with a genuine smile that reflected this philosophy of caring and character. “We try to care more than anyone else, and I believe that this highly personal approach is what makes us different.”

This article was originally published in The Expat magazine (August 2016) which is available online or in print via a free subscription.

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