Tuesday, June 5, 2007

VS-SOAS Exchange- Day 3 Maktab Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien (SOAS)

We began the day bright and early with our formal visit to Maktab Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien (SOAS), our hosting school in Brunei.
It was a grand and heartwarming event as we walked through the walkways of the school- members of all the various uniform groups had turned out in formal uniform to welcome us.

I guess for a moment, Mr Low, our principal might have felt like the President during National Day Parade :P
Well, in Singapore when we welcome guests, we often have our Chinese Lion Dance. Here the Kompang Ensemble was ready to herald our entry into the school hall

Like VS, SOAS is an all boys school with a proud tradition of 131 years and we can proudly say that 3 of our 6 Singaporean presidents studied in Victoria School (including our current president, MR S R Nathan). SOAS also shares a distinguished history with members of the royal family being students there. The current Sultan, His Majesty Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and his younger brother,HRH Duli Pengiran Perdana Wazir were students there in 1964. In 1968, his Majesty's 2 other brothers-HRH Prince Haji Sufri and Prince Haji Jefri also attended the school. Although we are different in many ways, Victorians and SOAS students alike profess a great passion for their schools. Here we see the boys, singing their school song- not so different from us back in Singapore, right?

Principal of SOAS, Pg Haji Zahari bin Pg Hj Ahmad began by welcoming the VS delegation

Victoria School's Principal, Mr Low Eng Teong, gave our return address:

Vincent Ooi, our Sec 3 studen from the Chinese Orchestra also gave his note of thanks and gratitude to our hosts and buddies

After the exchange of gifts and mementos, we took a tour around the school and visited their heritage centre.

At the heritage centre, we saw school uniforms from SOAS' past and guess what? Well, see the clip:

Looks like here's one more thing we have in common- the famous Khaki shorts!
We then took turns to sign the guest book and put the pioneer visit of VS to SOAS in the annals of history

Having heard that our Principal, Mr Low was a former Art Teacher and Senior Curriculum Specialist in CPDD-MOE, a special visit was arranged to the school art gallery:

The new bonds of friendship between VS and SOAS were cemented further by the gift of a stunning oil canvass painted by their very own art teacher, Cikgu Haji Mohamad. This peice of work took over 3 days to complete and showed the strong passion that teachers in SOAS have of not only teacher their subject but actively practicing their artistic skills

Like VS, SOAS students are also actively involved in many levels of competition: sports, performance, clubs, etc. We had a chance to see their Hadrah team putting their finishing touches to their practice before representing their school

The Hadrah is recited verses set to drum beats from the traditional Malay percussion instruments- kind of like a Bruneian version of VS cheers :)
After this rousing performance, we had a chance to see the Pro-Vocational Class taught by Cikgu Sirazzuddin. The Pro-Vocational Class is catered to teaching basic fundamental social and life skills to students with mental disabilities. The students in the class had Down's Syndrome, mental retardation and other learning disabilities. But what struck me in our Bruneian counterparts was that, rather then streaming this students into an academic enclosure, they took the diffcult and ardous task of integrating them with the general student population.

By doing so, able students learn to sympathise with the plight of those less fortunate than themselves and not to take the blessings in life for granted; the Pro-Vocational students also begin to develop lifeskills that will help them cope better. You can see from their faces that they are happy in school- one of them spontaneously gave a greeting card he designed to Mr Low. I was humbled by this scene because here I saw the heart of true teaching and no matter how up to date we are in ICT and pedagogy, the ability to make students enjoy learning and to believe in themselves is the core essence of our profession. The happiness on the faces of these students cannot be faked and that is testament to the passion and drive of the teachers in the Pro-vocational Programme in SOAS- To Cikgu Sirazzuddin and the teachers of the Pro-vocational classes, I salute you!

In the late morning, Mr Imran and myself were priviledged to give a sharing to teachers and staff of SOAS on VS' Character Development Framework and our pedagogical approaches in Student Centred Learning.

Here we see the ever charismatic, Mr Imran captivating the audience with his charming wit and smile. :) (heh heh, abang advertisment for you ar)

In the afternoon, Principal Mr Low, gave a sharing to various school principals at Berakas Sixth Form Centre (their equivalent of a JC offering A Levels)
He gave an overview of our Philosophy of Creating Experience, Fostering Belief and Driving Actions.

Teachers were also given a charming souvenir from Mr Low's reccent trip to Vietnam- a small dragonfly. They were encouraged to figure out for themselves what was this dragonfly meant to be? a brooch, a book mark?- It wasn't long before some members of the audience figured it out :)

We ended the sharing session with exchange of gifts with Mrs Lim, the principal of PTE Berekas.

Special mention must go to our Traffic Police outriders, who once again cleared our way for us. It's the only time ever that I've been in a vehicle that has the priviledge to rightfully drive on the wrong side of the road.

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