CHARACTER, to quote Abraham Lincoln, “is like a tree, and reputation is like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
The American president’s statement reminds us that teaching our children core ethical values would help them stay rooted and in turn, enhance success in all areas of life.
That said, schools are the first social structure that children encounter so the learning ground would be most ideal to instil in students a strong character foundation.
“Character-building has always been a central part of education and that is something that all schools should be doing, ” shared Dr Glenn Moodie, principal of Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar (KTJ) in Mantin, Negri Sembilan.
“While it is important for children to perform well in academics, equally essential is their holistic development, taking into account time-honoured principles including moral, social, cognitive and physical aspects, to nurture them into ethically responsible citizens.”
Moodie emphasised that building character, empowering students and valuing diversity go hand-in-hand and have always been at the heart of what KTJ does.
“Integrity, empathy and mutual respect are values which we hold dear and impart to students during their time at KTJ, ” said Moodie whose daughter also studies in KTJ.
Adorning the international school’s walls including classroom, walkways and function halls are beautifully designed motivational posters and inspirational quotes that serve as daily guiding materials as well.
Moodie also pointed out that a boarding school setting creates an environment where learning never stops as students are there under 24/7 supervision.
“Being in the boarding school community is already part of education for secondary school students. One of the impactful qualities that students learn is independence.
“The boarding school structure also creates an environment where taking risks to try new things is encouraged, from staying with dorm mates to making new friends and learning new skills and sports, among others, which in turn will help develop qualities such as social skills, self-confidence and tolerance, ” he explained.
While some schools ban the use of mobile devices, KTJ opts for a progressive approach instead, believing that digital literacy is a critical aspect of a young person’s schooling.
“Educating our students in sensible mobile device use, ensuring that they enter the working world with both the skills required to succeed in the modern technological age, yet also with the ability to understand the social etiquette surrounding mobile device use, is key to their future.
“We want to give our students the freedom required to develop a sensible approach to mobile device use heading into adulthood, and guide them through this process by offering a set of guidelines and expectations that will help them develop a balanced approach to their mobile devices, ” said Moodie, adding that the staff members are also allowed to do the same, following the zonal policy.
Green zones represent free to use at any time and these locations include the common areas of the day and boarding houses; orange zones represent use of mobile devices with staff permission and these locations include classrooms and the library; while red zones represent no usage at any time and these locations include exam halls and the dining hall.
At KTJ, parents would not need to worry about children not getting enough exposure in extracurricular activities or in sports and arts as all these matters are just steps away within the school compound.
“We offer 160 extracurricular activities in total for primary and secondary to explore their talents and areas of interest. Some of the extracurricular activities that students can choose from include Eco Club, Waterplay and X Factory Lego for primary students while secondary students can partake in Chess, Cricket, Culinary Club, Debate Union and Model United Nations, among others, ” he said.
Moodie added that the school listens to students’ suggestions and opinions and allows them to take lead in initiatives while teachers will guide them when necessary.
“For example, KTJ works closely with En Xin Charity, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping the disadvantaged community.
“We have contributed to En Xin’s soup kitchen, based in Mantin, by providing access to a KTJ minivan once every two weeks to collect surplus food from distributors in Kuala Lumpur.
“Our Environmental and Sustainability Club students have also purchased recycling bins for the soup kitchen and organised for a company to collect the recyclable material on their behalf.
“The money made from the recycling collection at the soup kitchen and KTJ will be donated to En Xin. The students will also donate reusable KTJ mugs to the soup kitchen to help reduce waste.
“This charity initiative allows the students to realise the value of social responsibility and empathy towards those who are less fortunate, and also learn to be grateful of what they have, ” he said.
Learning from mistakes
As part of offering a well-rounded education structure, KTJ is an institution which recognises that lessons can be learnt from mistakes.
“Young people are exploring and it is natural for them to make mistakes or fail.
“Another important element in building character is to make sure children know it is not wrong to make mistakes.
“It plays an important role in our lives to allow us to recognise a mistake, analyse and learn from it, ” emphasised Moodie.
As students spend most of their time in the school, they become familiar with their teachers, creating learning and mentorship opportunities easily at multiple settings – from guidance in the classroom to coaching on the fields and advising in extracurricular activities.
Care for Nature
To generate awareness of caring for Mother Earth and helping the community among students, KTJ has always been active in environmental and sustainability activities.
The school focuses on four categories: energy conservation, waste minimisation, global citizenship, and climate change.
Some of the action plans being carried out include the usage of recycling bins to separate waste, and educating the school community on sustainability through initiatives such as the Conservation Carnival and Earth Day.
Moodie said 3,200 solar panels have been installed at KTJ, providing electricity and hot water to the classrooms and boarding houses.
“It is these renewable energy sources that will help KTJ achieve its ambition to be carbon neutral by 2050, ” he said.
Meanwhile, students at KTJ will have plenty of opportunities with educators and fellow learners from around the globe through local and international trips to conferences and competitions as well as guests speakers to the school.
“Just last year, KTJ hosted The International Trademark Association (INTA) first Unreal Campaign in Malaysia, welcoming 11 attorneys from seven countries, including Italy, Switzerland and Zimbabwe to talk to our sixth form students about counterfeit goods, branding and trademarks.
“KTJ students also visited Heriot-Watt University Malaysia for the Accounting and Finance Day 2019 where industry leaders from companies such as HSBC Bank Malaysia and KPMG gave students an insight into the future of work in accounting and finance in a digital age, ” shared Moodie, adding that since the start of the term, the school has had talks from 23 universities and counting.
Within the campus is also a health centre to keep student’s health in tip top condition.
The 32ha school campus nestled in Mantin, Negeri Sembilan, boasts three decades of heritage with strong support from its board of trustees led by chairman of trustees Tunku Naquiyuddin ibni Almarhum Tuanku Ja’afar.
Currently, KTJ has about 800 secondary school students while KTJ Primary School has about 200 students, with over 100 staff members comprising 48% internationally-trained teachers.
For more details on what KTJ has to offer, visit www.ktj.edu.my
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