Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

There’s a lesson to be learnt

Posted by Kimberly on October 21, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
October 21, 2007, page 5 (682 words)

As Principal of The International School of Macao (TIS) since May 2006, Real Hryhirchuk has learnt a few lessons himself during his tenure.
Last year’s huge transition alone would have tested the patience of a saint, with 20 new teachers, two new administrators 220 new students, a new curriculum and a new building.
Then there’s the inevitable certainty where such schools are concerned.
“With any international school, the staff turnover is high, so it’s very important as an administrator to create structures we know are going to work when all of use are gone and the staff are entirely new,” he said.
And a new school such as TIS means that much has yet to be established, such as an award system.
“Both academic and social so we can bring in an annual awards ceremony,” he said adding that it’s a huge challenge for teachers to work at such a young school “but it’s a great opportunity to make things the way we want to.
“Older established schools tend to have structures in place that are very difficult to change,” he said.
And difficult doesn’t begin to describe the situation when the vast majority of expats choose TIS to educate their children, with “the other 55 percent coming from 38 countries all over the world.”
And each have their own ideas and expectations.
As Real admitted, “each person only has their own terms of reference, so it’s a challenge to convince them we have to teach that [Alberta] curriculum and that it’s well recognised.”
Results have shown that Alberta students show some of the best results on international testing but as Real said, “just because it’s not familiar doesn’t mean it’s not good.”
With B(Ed) teachers from the US, UK Australia and Romania, a strong outcomes-based curriculum and a low class to teacher ratio (18-1), results speak for themselves.
Real himself has been a Principal and teacher for four years in Alberta.
“I was looking for a challenge and something new,” he said of his move to Macau.
“I could have easily stayed there till I retired but this was a great opportunity,” he added.
An overriding concern at the moment happens to be the future of schooling possibilities and the capacity to which TIS is capable of meeting them.
“Our school is growing rapidly but I doubt we’d be able to meet the demands,” he said, adding that “whether another school opens up or the government looks at their educational system and opens it up to expats, who knows.”
But that doesn’t mean that another school should open up just yet either.
“Right now I don’t think there’s enough students to support another international school,” said, adding though that “we’re happy to provide assistance if they need it.
“We don’t feel they [an Australian school] will come and offer a better educational system than us but it’s a different system,” he said.
And the most frustrating issue now is that there is no communication between the schools, both international and local.
“All the educational literature is saying the more we share best practices the better for the educational system,” he said, which he added was one of his goals.
“I really want to each out as there’s no formal structure for exchange and ultimately the students ate losing out,” he said.
For one thing, he has the idea of starting a sports league in Macau.
“I’ve seen students outside playing soccer with students from the Portuguese schools but we, as administrators, can’t figure it out,” he said.
“I really think the educational system needs to take a leading role in this [and] all administrators should get together and discuss issues that affect all of us,” he said.
In his opinion, society and children are changing and “if we’re not trying to keep up with those changes then we’re falling behind.
“I feel for teachers who have to teach to students in a 40-50 student classroom,” he said.
With proper communication, much can be done to ensure everyone benefits, the teachers from their experiences, and the students from an enhanced learning experience.

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