All it took was an inspired spontaneousness of a group of inquisitive minds. Upon the completion of their second year of study, seven undergraduate students from the School of Education together with a special participant from the School of Engineering, embarked on a two-week summer excursion to Sri Lanka, envisaging yet another enriching cross-contextual educational experience (some of the group also joined last year’s Overseas Educational Programme) in pursuit of their current and future professionalism.
As inspired by the firsthand experience of our Head of School - Prof Ganakumaran Subramaniam’s active involvement with Gateway College, one of the leading International Schools in Sri Lanka; we approached Mrs Devika Alldis’,
principal of Gateway College Negombo campus with a school visit proposal. Mrs Devika, who happened to be visiting UNMC when the idea of such excursion emerged, welcomed us with open arms.
Throughout the 14 days of our stay, we managed to visit three out of four campuses of Gateway College situated in Colombo, Negombo and Kandy respectively. All three campuses are well-equipped with modern facilities and have unique features specific to their geographical location. To further illustrate, the Colombo campus has a more urban look while the Negombo campus borders a lagoon; the Kandy campus, on the other hand, stands on a hilltop. We were remarkably fortunate to have arrived opportunely for a lineup of activities in addition to our class observations. Case in point, we attended Gateway Colombo’s “Robin and the Sherwood Hoodies” musical production as well as “Soul Rhythm” - a student talent show in celebration of their graduation; Gateway Negombo’s Foundation Awards Day alongside their inter-house drama competition; not to mention a short trip to the island nation’s mountainous central province - Kandy.
Noteworthily, we were also invited to present insights into cyber crime in the Malaysian context, in conjuction with Gateway Negombo’s student-led social responsibility project entitled “Our Voice”. Another highlight of the trip is our free and easy English lesson on literary analysis that incorporated a pop song with three Year 9 classes at Gateway Negombo. Additionally, we had visited our counterpart - Gateway Graduate School Colombo, who collaborated with our school recently to run Master's programme in Education while serving as an institute for Gateway teachers’ Continuing Professional Development. Our group had a fun-filled interactive session with students partaking the module of Creative Pedagogy during our visit.
Along the journey, we student teachers had encountered plentiful admirable role models who seek fulfillment through their profession. Among those whom made the most impression, his impetus simply being “my calling”. Their enthusiasm was contagious and had further corroborated our aspirations as future educators, or at the very least, given us some food for thought. This leads us to speculate the words of my fellow colleagues in retrospect of our educational excursion:
“Three words that I will take away from this trip are Hospitality, Motivation and Inspiration. The teachers and students helped us to enjoy Sri Lanka as a whole with their great hospitality and warmth. But as student teachers this trip was a motivation for us to continue on this journey becoming an educator as we saw theories being put into practice in classrooms. It was also an inspiration as we mingle with teachers for us to become an educator that does not only teach but impact our students' lives. A quote that most of us, if not all, will remember is ‘A teacher never grows old’.”
“While I have reaped beneficial and fruitful experiences from this trip to Sri Lanka, I couldn't express enough on how this trip has been an eye opener for me specifically in transferring some of the pedagogical strategies from theory to practice. The school ethos encouraged the beliefs that gaining knowledge is not confined to four-walled classroom and rigid curriculum. The learning environment was evidently supportive as students do not have to succumb to the fear of being intellectually inferior. I take pleasure in being introduced to an education system that values diversity and flexibility in teaching approaches. It is a pity that these schools that I visited are only for the creme of the top to enjoy as I'm no longer qualified for enrollment into these schools.”
Koh Ying Xian
“Throughout this trip, I was really glad that I gained real experiences with cultures, societies and education system which are different from my home country. Through these insightful experiences, I was able to consolidate and internalise the knowledge which I learnt in university and thereby, gained a deeper understanding of the international education system as a whole.”
“Coming from a Chemical and Environmental Engineering background, this trip has groomed me in ways that I have never imagined. One of the conspicuous traits of Gateway College is their ability to accept and manifest different perspectives towards learning in order to cultivate a holistic learning environment. This can be seen when students are taught various skills from acting to sports, and encouraged to be outspoken. On the other hand, teachers were observed to be tapping into the VAK (Visual, Auditory & Kinesthetic) learning styles. Throughout the trip, I have also learned that an everlasting drive of a teacher boils down to the passion it needs for teaching while spreading the love to see students grow. Furthermore, the trip has allowed me to realise the differences we had in international schools syllabus and public schools culture. In brief, this experience of exploring through Gateway is definitely a gateway to further contemplate personal growth and a better education system.”
With the above hindsights, it can be seen that our excursion to Sri Lanka has been a fruitful one, wherein we had all found some answers, be it a new knowledge or a personal epiphany. A shout-out to Gateway College who made our summer a dazzling one!
Written by: Rynnie Son
Posted on 11th October 2016