The GIS Learning Culture

The GIS Learning Culture

Garden International School has a unique learning culture. We believe that we can grow and learn together as a community. At GIS we aim to constantly develop each learner’s full potential by offering our students the best learning environment, at home and at school.
We aim at giving all the tools and opportunities to all our community members to benefit from our learning culture through innovative learning culture for our students, nurturing a strong home-school partnership with our community learning culture and attract and develop the best teachers through our professional learning culture.

Student Learning

Garden International School has some of the best examination results in the world. Although we are very proud of this we also strongly believe that education is more than just letters and numbers on a piece of paper.  We therefore strive to nurture well rounded individuals who leave our school with a set of skills, competencies and qualities that will allow them to succeed in the world as young adults and beyond. We call these our Learner Skills.

The Skills Ladders

Each of our skills has a five step ladder attached to it. These steps represent what we believe progression may look like in each area. The top end of the ladders are highly aspirational and we do not expect all students to reach the top step of all ladders by the time they leave the school. The ladders are not age restricted and any student can be at any point on any ladder at any given time. The school curriculum provides students with opportunities and challenges to develop these skills.


Project Athena

Athena logo
Athena is a bespoke application that has been designed by staff and students from Garden International School. Currently in its trial phase the program allows students to upload and peer review evidence against the skills ladders. They build a professional portfolio that demonstrates the skills that they have developed but also a great deal of reflection and thought on the processes of the learning that has taken place. Not only is this a valuable and worthwhile life skill but it is also something we know that further education institutions and industry greatly value.

Learning beyond the classroom involves a wide range of opportunities for students at GIS.

The Camp programme from Year 3-10 involves an annual residential camp experience for all of our students. The camps are closely mapped to our GIS Learner Skills and aligned to develop competencies in all these strands. Students get an opportunity to learn about themselves and others away from the familiar settings of school and home.

The school offers an exceptional programme of Co-curricular activities (CCA). One of the biggest programmes in South-East Asia sees the CCA schedule include over 200 different activities and events each term with all staff getting involved in interacting with students beyond the classroom. Over 1,200 students from Year 1-13 take part in CCA activities every term.

Our Discovery Week programme in Term 3 sees students travelling across South-East Asia to take part in community based project work with sustainable links for continued engagement in future years.

The GIS Jungle School is the first of its kind in Malaysia. Aimed at the youngest children in the school (from Nursery to Year 2) the programme is based on the Forest Schools Initiative from the UK. It connects children with nature and gives them a regular opportunity to take their learning into the outdoors. Based in the Botanical Gardens at the University of Malaysia, children from different classes head out each week to participate in a range of outdoor activities.

The house spirit in GIS is very much evident with students belonging to one of four houses: Crest, Chancellor, Queen and Sultan. Inter-House competitions for all year groups take place in calendared weeks during the year and give students the opportunity to compete in a fun, informal and positive environment. In secondary School, the culmination of house competitions builds to an eisteddfod event at the end of the year celebrating the arts and student participation performing in front of their peers. While Primary Inter-House highlights include Sports Days, Swim Galas, X-Factor singing competition and the Big Draw art ‘battle’.

KLMUN is an annual event giving students a massive opportunity to get involved in many different roles in an interschool model United Nations debate. GIS has hosted the event successfully for a number of years each year growing bigger and providing more schools and students with leadership opportunities.

For a number of years, GIS students have been involved in International Award (IA). They complete bronze, silver and gold awards involving community service, skill development and physical recreation as well as expedition completion. Students successful in the award have taken part in expeditions including summiting Mount Rinjani in Indonesia, Kayaking and camping around Langkawi and Tioman, expeditions to the Cameron Highlands, Gopeng, FRIM and Hululangat. Students completing their gold award undertake an expedition leaders awards and lead our students involved in the bronze expeditions.

At Garden International School we have become increasingly interested in developing and embedding “a learning culture” in our school. This represented the key theme of our book “Enjoy the Journey – Creating a Learning Culture at GIS” that was published in the Apple iBooks store earlier this year.

Research literature on organisations regularly talks about climate and culture. Climate can and does change. Culture should not. It is often defined as “what we do around here”. An agreed set of norms and values that are followed by everyone in the organisation. Within a school, leaders may move on, the teachers may change over time, but if ideas, values and programs become “cultural” they will endure. We can define the learning culture we are building here as a “A shared belief that we are all learners who can develop and improve, both individually and institutionally through challenging ourselves and others to take risks, develop growth mindset tendencies and to value reflective practices”.

This is the GIS Learning Culture.

To download a copy of our iBook about GIS Unique Learning Culture – “Enjoy the Journey” please click here. Kindly note that the link will only open from iOS device, provided the device has iTunes U and iBook installed.

Teacher Learning

At GIS we aim to constantly develop each child’s full potential and to achieve this we continually develop our teachers to be the best that they can be.

Numerous studies have shown that the success of any school is directly linked to the quality of their teachers. We are proud of our exceptional teaching cohort and the professional learning opportunities available at GIS. In 2015 we increased the internal professional learning opportunities with the introduction of the Professional Learning Afternoons. This initiative provides 2 hours per week of dedicated professional learning time to all academic staff; which more than doubled the existing internal dedicated time to professional learning.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with 75 hours of internally dedicated professional learning time GIS is now providing similar learning opportunities as those from the highest performing schools in the world.

The professional development program we have at GIS has moved from strength to strength and has focused all teachers on being critically reflective on the practise of themselves and others built around a set of individualised professional goals. These help teachers to view themselves as learners and to value reflection and feedback as a powerful driver of learning.

During this time, teachers are able to critically reflect, collaborate, visit other schools, lead and participate in professional communities, further their studies by undertaking Masters and PhDs, etc.

Our staff are encouraged to acquire and develop skills and abilities which ultimately provide the students in our care with a stimulating learning environment. We believe that professional development is a collaborative effort which develops and supports staff in their commitment to learning. All members of the school community will also have opportunities through annual cycles of performance management to discuss their professional development needs.

The school has a highly rated and comprehensive induction process for new staff members which provides support and guidance in settling into a new living and working environment in Kuala Lumpur or Kuantan.

Training needs are met through a range of opportunities which includes; the above mentioned internal professional learning opportunities as well as conferences and workshops offered by regional organisations such as EARCOS and FOBISIA. The fact that many of our teachers and senior leaders, present and lead on these international conferences further reinforces Garden International School’s position as a centre of professional excellence.

Community Learning

Parent Workshops are weekly one-hour workshops for parents. Held each Wednesday morning, the workshops focus on a wide-range of topics that are of interest and value to our diverse parent body.

The workshops are designed to support the learning and development of our parents, often with a focus on understanding and supporting their child. They might focus on:

an area of the school (e.g its curriculum or its values) to aid parent understanding.
a topic that might be of interest to parents (e.g how to use online learning platforms)
a topic that helps parents support their child(ren) (e.g the stages of child development)
Here are some of the things parents have shared about the Parent Workshops this year:

It was very insightful and it got me thinking a lot more about what I was doing at home with my kids. I think that’s important because we get so used to running on autopilot that we stop seeing how ineffective a lot of the stuff we do at home is.

If all lessons were like this, nobody would want to leave school.

Great session! Full of information & interaction. Our table enjoyed having to think and work together. Thanks to all involved.

It was brilliant to learn about all these resources. They will be so helpful for my children’s learning!

GIS Community benefits from a wide range of community talks and conferences, to expand their own learning. To name a few: ArtLife with live performance, workshops, key notes speakers (local and international), Book Authors visited, International Guest Speakers such as Danni Miller (Well Being), Dr Grimes (the Enigma Machine), Dominick Peckham (Worldwide renowned orchestral and choral conductor). Follow us on social media or check our blog to find out more about our Community Talks and Conferences.

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