Teaching in Borneo
Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – As most of you know I have taken a teaching position here. I instruct at the Lodge International School. This institution matriculates children from the overseas community.
My students are Chinese, Korean, Canadian and Indonesian. Most of their fathers work here as managers of the many factories that have opened here because of cheap labor. Silicon computer chips and solar panels are the most numerous.
There are many Korean students here without their parents, staying in homes or with relatives. When I inquired why they didn’t go to school in their own country, a mother informed me that the stress level on students is very high. Students often go to school at 6 A.M. and, with after school tuition, may not finish until 10 P.M. “With a small country and so many people, competition is very fierce,” she said.
Parents send their children to Borneo because they have a better opportunity to learn English at the International school; and they can also graduate and go straight into a university. They call Lodge a “bridge school” between Korea and the students’ selected university.
My classes are small, between 10 and 15 students. Most can read and write English very well, but their speaking and listening abilities need attention. They must sit for an exam they are required to pass in all four skills in order to be granted a visa to enter the English speaking country of choice for further study.
I am only required to be in school when my classes meet. I have four hours of instruction each day; however, they meet at different times during the week. The school year began January 3. I teach for three months and then a week off, another three months and two weeks off, another three months, a week off followed by two and a half months, then six weeks off for the monsoon season.
Peppered within the school year is Chinese New Year (a week off), end of the fasting month (three days off), National Day, Malaysia Day, Prophet Muhammad Birthday, end of rice harvest celebration and others. Unexpected ones also crop up. Malaysia won the Suzuki Football Cup and the next day was a national holiday.
I must get the children to pass the exams which are written in Cambridge, England. I have copies of previous tests, some books and use my imagination to create materials.
Another Western person from England manages the year 12 and 13 kids and curriculum. To enter these grades, students had to pass a rigorous series of exams and are considered the best and the brightest. I have a few of them for my English Literature class. We are currently working on “A Winter’s Tale” by William Shakespeare. Next will be “Equus.” I am not sure what will follow. I am waiting for the boat to arrive to see what comes in.
Teachers are micro managed. We have to hand in lesson plans each Monday for the headmaster to sign. They must be for each day of the week. This drives me nuts. The English coordinator has the right to read my lesson plans and to make sure I am on that particular lesson at that time. I told him if he tried I would break his arm. Such an insult to professional teachers. But, that is the only down side.
My students are great, my colleagues are helpful and friendly and I am really enjoying myself.
…Life is good
Can orangutans do math? Check out Tom’s blog at BorneoTom.com. Also on Facebook at Borneo Tom.