Building my vision with SEAMEO INNOTECH

Building my vision with SEAMEO INNOTECH

Nuinda Haji Alias

Sharing of ideas and experiences among participants from different backgrounds, contexts, and countries, coupled with learning visits to local schools and educational offices enhance the learning experiences and serve as great motivators to encourage visions of change in schools.


I was very fortunate to have been selected by my country’s Ministry of Education to be part of the SEAMEO INNOTECH scholarship program, “Leading and Managing Change for Excellence in Schools,” last July 11-24, 2007. I was a newly posted Principal at Maktab Sabah (Sabah College) then, a government secondary school in Sabah, Malaysia. I attended the program with another school official from Malaysia and 17 others from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.   

The course structure that integrated lectures with out-of-class activities such as school visits to a preschool and a primary school stood out as my best experience. I saw how the involvement of parents and the local community contributed to effective school practices.  From the sharing during the school visits, I was able to envision a change that I wanted to bring to my school.   

I was a very active person in my younger days. I was very much involved in sports and cultural activities right up to my university days.  I believe that has given me a more holistic personality. The INNOTECH experience reminded me of my own learning journey. It stoked my determination to bring change to my school where learning can be a fun and motivational process for students.  

I wanted Maktab Sabah to be a school of learning and a place where students can develop their leadership potentials. This is where learning occurs not only in the classroom but also through out-of-school experiences, such as field trips and exchange programs with networking partners. These activities, I believe, are excellent and meaningful learning opportunities for the students and can be integrated into the education system.  Learning from books and actually experiencing what one learns from the books should be an education option afforded to our students.  

Before attending the INNOTECH program, my school has actually carried out some international exchange programs where participants gained plenty of benefits. This experience served to strengthen my belief in bringing a more holistic education to my school.  

I can still recall an activity in our class where I got to know more about one of my co-participants from Singapore, Mr. Abdul Harris Sumardi of Juying Secondary School. It was an activity called “Angels and Mortals” where I had to take care of Mr. Harris without him knowing it. It was this activity that started our long friendship and networking relationship that has continued up to this day. 

With the new friends that I made at INNOTECH, the possibilities of networking were tremendous. The positivity, sincerity in sharing, as well as the chance to organize many beneficial programs and activities for students and staff in our respective schools with our ‘buddies’ (co-participants) were what I took back with me to my school.  

After our program, my connection with Mr. Harris continued.  We decided to network our respective schools and learn from each other’s strengths.  From my end, I felt that Singapore can afford us valuable learning opportunities in school management, staff development, and student growth. We mapped out collaboration projects between our schools that included cross-cultural programs, environmental awareness projects, classroom immersion activities, and youth leadership development programs.  

Back in Maktab Sabah, international learning programs have become our school’s forte. I put in vigorous efforts to send my staff and students to international learning programs in Australia, South Korea, and Japan. My students also took part in international competitions in dancing, rugby, and sailing.  

Together with Mr. Harris, we have organized international developmental learning programs since 2011. We take turns hosting each other’s staff and students and have even signed a few Memoranda of Collaboration (MoCs) on areas such as global networking skills, international understanding through cultural exchanges, and student self-development.   

This year, Maktab Sabah and Westwood Secondary School, Singapore (Mr. Harris’ present school) has signed an MoC for the next three years focusing on programs for international youth leadership development, environmental awareness education, innovation, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, and entrepreneurship education.  The collaboration will be carried out through student and faculty exchanges and information exchanges within the field of youth leadership and environmental education.  

From collaborating with Singapore, Maktab Sabah has also been extended the opportunity to send its students to Cakra Buana School in Indonesia for a tripartite collaboration under a program called BaCaBah. The ASEAN collaboration has now expanded to include three countries with each partner taking turns to host an international learning program from 2014 to 2016.  The collaboration focused on leadership building, enhancing networking skills, and building confidence and courage among student participants.  

A second collaboration initiative was between Maktab Sabah Malaysia, Westwood Secondary School Singapore, and Cakra Buana School Indonesia, entitled Partnering to Empower Programme (PEP), and is proposed to be carried out from 2020 to 2022. The program’s objectives are: 1) to empower student leaders with leadership skills and competencies to perform their duties effectively; 2) to establish a strong network among student leaders to facilitate collaboration and sharing of ideas and best practices; and 3) to facilitate better understanding and appreciation of the different cultures and practices among student leaders for better globalization efforts.    

Much has been said about building global citizens and we aim to provide the opportunity for our staff and students to actually experience it. 

I hope that SEAMEO INNOTECH will continue to provide more and better opportunities for Southeast Asian educators and learners to be part of its programs and activities.  Sharing of ideas and experiences among participants from different backgrounds, contexts, and countries, coupled with learning visits to local schools and educational offices enhance the learning experiences and serve as great motivators to encourage visions of change in schools.   

As my experience has shown, continued networking and linking with co-participants from different countries foster a more meaningful sharing of educational practices and experiences.  I believe that the culture of educational sharing and learning from each other, especially if made accessible to a wider group, will better promote the true essence of global citizenship. 

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