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Self-Directed Learning is Key to Future Success

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The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) believes its success in preparing students for their future depends on how well it supports them in developing 21st century skills today. Self-directedness, the ability to think creatively, reason critically, and communicate effectively are important life skills which are integral components of ISKL’s curriculum and culture from Early Childhood through to Grade 12.


Student Agency is a concept which helps students develop the skills they need for the future and describes how students learn through self-directed, meaningful activities that are driven by their passions and interests. Agency helps students develop the capacity and drive to take action, and enables them to have more voice and choice in how they learn. This supports the student’s development of important life skills, such as initiative, calculated risk taking, and belief in oneself.

Mr Madani, Head of School at ISKL explains that at ISKL,

“student agency is a continuous, long term process that gives students opportunities to explore their interests, experiment, receive feedback, reflect and try again”. 

ISKL nurtures these learning opportunities school-wide in order to support students as they develop and practice these all important life skills.

The agency program which occurs in Middle School (MS) is a great example of agency in action. MS is an important learning period for students, and the safe and nurturing culture at ISKL creates the perfect environment to empower students to pursue their passions, experiment and take calculated risks. Individual students or groups of students are guided to explore in depth an area of personal interest and develop a project that is meaningful to them. Students then attend an IDEA Fair to share their project ideas and can decide to adapt their idea based on what they see at the Fair, or opt to join another group. Agency projects include everything from creating apps to making, marketing and selling natural cosmetics, to fundraising in support of the local refugee community.

Deepavali Dress-Up Day

Empowering students to take full responsibility for the project cycle means students need to consider and manage a variety of different elements.

Mr Madani explains,

“It is one thing to say you want to help the less fortunate, or power a cell from the electricity generated from plants, but it is quite another to source equipment, contact local organizations for support, purchase materials, seek advice and take accountability for every facet of the project. Much of the learning comes from the process needed to engage in the project.”

According to Mr Madani, some projects result in spectacular end products, others are less successful but, whatever the outcome, the real learning is in the questioning and reasoning skills that students develop:

“Research shows students with agency seek learning opportunities driven by their interests and relevance to life experiences. We wanted to foster this as part of our Student Agency program with students experiencing the process of blending their skills and motivation to meet a specific need in their life or the lives of others. The magic arises when a student finds the perfect symmetry between their passion and filling a real need in the community.  Our aim is to encourage students to strive for this every day. Ultimately, by expecting students to become greater agents of their own learning they will leave school future-ready with the agency to affect change at a local and global level.”

ISKL will be holding an Open Day on Thursday, February 27, 2020 for parents who would like to find out more how ISKL’s approach will prepare their child for the future. It’s a great chance to tour the state-of-the-art Ampang Hilir campus, hear from the Head of School, Mr. Rami Madani, and meet with teachers and parents for a Q&A session. Student-led tours will be available in Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin (limited spaces) as well as English. Register your interest at

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