Making a difference
We [Greg and his wife Shanna] were teachers and were promoted fairly early in our careers to become principals. We began our career wanting to make a difference in the lives of children; and that circle of influence gradually got bigger. As principals we wanted to make a difference to teachers. When you develop educators, the impact is even greater on a wider group of children.
We now independently operate Global Services in Education, a company that sets up and manages schools all over the world. We are truly passionate about making a difference in education globally and believe that education has the capacity to develop a new generation of critical thinkers who will make informed decisions, solve problems, collaborate and embrace diversity. The world can be a better place and educating children is a great place to start.
Challenges of setting up schools around the world
Most people think that culture is best represented in different food, fashion, flags, festivals and folklore – this is only the surface. As foreigners setting up new schools in unique cultural contexts, the challenges run much deeper. Schools are ‘people places’ and are organisations that depend on human capital. How people interact and what motivates them can be very different across cultures, e.g. Western culture encourages independent thinking and non-hierarchical decision making, and organisations try to build staff who are intrinsically motivated. This is very different in places where people value discipline, respect for hierarchy and a focus on following predetermined protocols and procedures.
We need to help people understand and embrace different ways of doing things and to accept that different may not be wrong, it may just reflect a different set of beliefs or values. We must be a bridge between cultures even though we clearly represent our own.
Another challenge is the difference between academics and business people. To exaggerate the stereotypes, educators believe in doing everything in the best interests of the children and can be almost myopic in their care and concern. On the other hand, business people can be very focussed on achieving profit, and can be impatient about making sure the business achieves profit without understanding what is important for the children.
We use the analogy of “I love beautiful food and going to restaurants, but that doesn’t mean I should run a restaurant.” All businessmen have attended school and may visit one regularly for their children, but that doesn’t mean they know how to run one.
We consider ourselves the bridge between academic and business people. We are proven educators who know how to operate schools, but we also know how to run a business and balance priorities. A school can be profitable, but only if it can achieve the qualities academics understand and strive for. A school that has both its academics and its business platforms in good shape is successful, and schools that are failing in Malaysia are often struggling with that balance.
More Malaysians opting for an international school education
I hear that parents are dissatisfied with local education choices and are concerned about discipline, education standards and poorly trained teachers. Parents want their children to get good grades, to learn English well and have good values. There is a difference between speaking and understanding broken English and writing an essay for Cambridge University; and the same can be said for other subjects like Mandarin and mathematics. Parents know that international schools are held to a high standard.
To be fair, parents are also dissatisfied with many of the current local private and international schools too. There is a perception that some schools are only out for profit, badly managed by non-educators or led by teachers who need training and development. Some schools claim to be international but in truth that might just be the name on the brochure. There is lot more to being international than just having foreign faces in the hallways.
Why send our children to Kingsgate International School?
Kingsgate is a school run by educators, not business people. Our senior management team – Global Services in Education – is independent of the owners, we have a proven track record of running schools well, and our principal is very experienced and puts the children first.
We have 100% foreign trained native English-speaking teachers who are well qualified, and we continue to train them to ensure they deliver the best practices. There is no compromise on teacher development. We are open, transparent and accountable. Our aim is to follow through with our vision, values and beliefs.
Success beyond academics
This may seem like a strange way to describe it, but we believe children should be interesting. They should be unique, passionate and determined. Just being smart is no longer good enough. Children need to have the potential to make a difference and this does not happen by accident. A great education and home environment creates this. Yes, you need to achieve good grades but when you are in your 20s, 30s and 40s, out in the real world, people do not care so much about the grades you achieved at school. What contributions are you making? Do you embrace a diverse and interconnected global world? This is the difference.
What makes a good teacher at Kingsgate
They must be native English speaking, fully qualified and accredited in their home country. That is a given. They must be able to embrace and implement our vision for learning and standards. One of the interview questions we ask is, “What are you ready to leave behind and re-learn so that you can deliver best practice in an environment that is very different to your previous school?” We want teachers to grow, learn and improve. A capacity to get better is even more important to us than starting as a great teacher. We are very team focussed and together our teachers are set to change the landscape of education in Malaysia.
Tell us something unique about Kingsgate
Our signature classroom is described by many as ‘the most beautiful classroom’ in Malaysia. Who would have thought that a classroom could include an indoor slide so that children can move between a mezzanine floor and the main floor, which is approximately twice the size of most classrooms in the country? It must be seen to be believed!