Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar Principal Dr Glenn Moodie Leads The Way In Holistic Education
Out of all the professions in the world, teaching is one of the most noble. The selfless nature of the job, with teachers always on the ready to guide and shape the lives of their students with the end goal of seeing them achieve greatness, makes it no ordinary profession.
Dr Glenn Moodie’s role as principal transcends teaching as he helms British-style international boarding school Kolej Tuanku Ja’afar (KTJ). As a leader, he undertakes the challenge of empowering students to develop their unique skills and talents to achieve their full potential. Here’s his story thus far.
Please give us a little background on yourself.
I am from Dunedin, New Zealand. I grew up there and went to the University of Otago, where I did a Master’s in Classics before moving to the University of Bristol to do my PhD. By this stage, my ambition was to be a university lecturer, but someone offered me a part-time job at a local independent boarding school while I was studying. I took it and I never looked back—I fell in love with secondary teaching.
What motivated you to take on the role of principal at KTJ and how did you feel when you were about to take it on?
I felt KTJ offered a great opportunity to further develop my leadership skills and I felt I had something I could contribute to the school.
As someone at the helm, I aim to have a distributed leadership style. I don’t like to micro-manage and I want to ensure staff have the opportunity to develop, even if this involves making mistakes along the way.
It’s not necessarily easy to improve an already great school, but I feel we’ve made good progress. We started with a review of where we were at and where our community wanted to go next. This led to a subtle realignment of our guiding principles and the creation of a new and ambitious strategic plan which takes us through to 2030.
How does KTJ fare when benchmarked against the boarding schools you were attached to previously?
Having worked in four different boarding schools in the UK, what struck me when I first arrived at KTJ was how similar the school was to these British schools in so many ways. KTJ certainly measures up with the best boarding schools in the UK. You can see this in our A-Level results and our success in university admissions.
We’re one of only two schools in Malaysia with membership at HMC—this is the most prestigious group for UK independent schools. KTJ is also one of the few international schools in Malaysia that has been accredited or has membership from the Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA), The Federation of British International Schools in Asia (FOBISIA), the Council of British International Schools (COBIS), and the Council of International Schools (CIS).
In December 2020, KTJ was reaccredited by CIS and exceeded six out of eight standards in the boarding domain, as well as receiving multiple commendations in our staff training, extracurricular activities, safeguarding and student support. We’ve recently been reaccredited by COBIS as well.
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What constitutes a good education and how does KTJ embody this?
Good education needs to be all-round. That’s why holistic education is at the centre of what we do. Good academic results are important, but not enough. To live well-rounded lives and have successful careers, students need to have the opportunity at school to explore their passions, to develop their social conscience, to become emotionally intelligent, the list goes on and on. These opportunities are provided beyond the classroom through extracurricular activities and house events, allowing students to take the lead and develop important life skills which will benefit them throughout school and beyond.
Good education also comes in the form of building strong partnerships with parents. Particularly in the Primary School, we encourage parents to take an active role in their child’s education by establishing meaningful and constructive communication channels, inviting parents along to Entry and Exit Point events and providing regular updates on their child’s academic progress through Google Classroom and Seesaw. These collaborations with parents build on the students’ self-confidence and self-esteem as they see their parents taking an active interest in their learning.
What efforts were taken in order to help KTJ, its staff, and its students navigate the Covid-19 pandemic era?
The last year or so has certainly been challenging and, like all schools, we’ve had to put some things on hold. Our concern during this period has been very much fully focused on ensuring students can still make excellent academic progress and are well looked after. Hence, our staff explored different technologies, improved their skills, and became more collegiate as they shared their new discoveries about what works in online learning. We’ve learnt a lot about the benefits of differentiated and asynchronous learning, and I’m proud to say that we’ve not missed a single day of teaching this academic year.
Over the last year, we’ve also seen the benefits of a boarding education which has allowed many students to continue to access high-quality learning. We’re now expanding boarding to the upper years of primary from September 2021, and we've returned to nearly full capacity in our boarding houses despite the national lockdown.
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Schools are considered to most as a ‘second home’ to many students as they spend the first quarter of their lives learning. How does KTJ best facilitate this?
An important part of ensuring students make the most of KTJ is helping them to settle quickly into life here and giving them the chance to explore the wide range of opportunities available to them. We think carefully about our induction programmes for new students and also how we help students settle into boarding for the first time. Students very quickly come to think of KTJ as their second home, and perhaps even better than a second home. There are always staff and students to whom a student can turn to for guidance, advice or support. Imagine being with your best friends day and night. Imagine having everything you are passionate about on your doorstep. Imagine having access to state-of-the-art facilities every day. That’s the KTJ experience.
Book a visit to meet a member of their senior leadership team and take a tour of KTJ’s sprawling 80-acre campus. Learn more at www.ktj.edu.my.