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Two inspirational Malaysian Trust Schools named in Top 10 shortlists for new $250,000 World’s Best School Prizes

Two inspirational Malaysian Trust Schools have been named in the Top 10 shortlists for the new $250,000 World’s Best School Prizes, launched this year by T4 Education in partnership with Yayasan Hasanah, Templeton World Charity Foundation, Accenture and American Express.

Sekolah Kebangsaan Kempadang, a primary school in Kuantan, Malaysia, has been named in the Top 10 shortlist for World’s Best School Prize for Innovation. SMK Kampong Jawa, a secondary school in Klang, Malaysia, has been named in the Top 10 shortlist for the World’s Best School Prize for Overcoming Adversity.

The five World’s Best School Prizes celebrate schools everywhere for the pivotal role they play in developing the next generation of learners and for their enormous contribution to society’s progress especially in the wake of COVID.

Dato’ Shahira Ahmed Bazari, Founding Trustee & Managing Director of Yayasan Hasanah, said:
“We are honoured to be one of the sponsors for this inaugural global prize by T4 Education. This is a valuable initiative that recognises and promotes ‘bottom-up’ transformation and creates a global community who can learn from each other and create a groundswell of positive impact for students around the world.

“Our finalists are wonderful examples of strong schools with inspiring stories of success. My heartfelt congratulations to all Top 10 schools. We are especially proud that two Malaysian Trust Schools are amongst them, proof that our public schools are capable of being amongst the world's best.”

Vikas Pota, Founder of T4 Education and the World’s Best School Prizes, said:

“With over 1.5 billion learners impacted by school and university closures, COVID has greatly exacerbated a global education crisis in which, even before the pandemic, the UN warned progress was already too slow to achieve universal quality education by 2030.

“We have launched the World’s Best School Prizes as a grassroots solution to help build the systemic change needed. By telling the stories of inspirational schools that are transforming the lives of their students and making a real difference to their communities, schools can share their best practices and have their voices heard at the top table to help transform education.

“I want to congratulate Sekolah Kebangsaan Kempadang and SMK Kampong Jawa for making the Top 10 shortlists for the inaugural World’s Best School Prizes. Educators all over the world will now be able to learn from the examples of these outstanding Malaysian schools.”

About the schools:
Sekolah Kebangsaan Kempadang, a primary school in Kuantan, Malaysia faced twin challenges in 2021. Not only did it have to contend with teaching and tracking student progress in the pandemic, the Ministry of Education’s decision to scrap the end-of-primary test known as UPSR in favour of ongoing, school-based assessment left it unable to access real-time student learning data from which it could inform lesson planning to support all students. The experience and learnings from the Trust Schools Programme enabled the schools to innovate and find suitable solutions for their context. So the school’s innovative solution was to create SMARTZOOM, a fully automated tracking system that follows students’ progress in their studies. 

SMARTZOOM uses data input on Google Sheets and Google Chrome as all Malaysian teachers have a designated Google account linked to the Ministry of Education. Using that data, staff were able to devise concrete and detailed lesson plans tailored to their specific class. Supporting teachers as well as Panel Heads were given training material in the form of YouTube videos and workshops that helped them with the transition. 

The majority of the student population of Sekolah Kebangsaan Kempadang come from the bottom 40% of household incomes in Malaysia. Despite the vulnerability of its students, the school has invoked a strong faith in its ability to educate those who walk through its doors. Since it became a Trust School in 2015, its enrolment rate has increased by 6% or 7% every year. 

SMK Kampong Jawa, a secondary school in Klang, Malaysia, was once in the bottom two out of the thirty-eight schools in the Klang district for its academic results, but has since seen its scores improve by 20% and it was given an award for the highest online attendance during the pandemic. 
In 2017, the body of a murdered woman was discovered outside SMK Kampong Jawa, a sign of how bad things had become for the school. With a student body where 75% of its pupils come from families with lower household incomes, SMK Kampong Jawa was once associated with urban poverty, poor attendance and had lost the trust of the local community. In the past, its classrooms were marked by vandalism, theft was commonplace and vulnerable students were often groomed into local gangs. When the school requested funding from sponsors to purchase better equipment in 2017, it was denied. A year later, the school’s academic results were low – just 59% of its students obtained their leaving school qualifications. 

But in 632 days SMK Kampong Jawa managed to turn hardship into success. The catalyst for that change came with the appointment of a new principal in August 2020 who helped redirect the school policies to align with his vision for change, through the implementation of the Trust Schools Programme. Under his helm, SMK Kampong Jawa embarked on an intensive data-driven approach to attendance and made over 500 phone calls to parents to learn more about students and their home environments. For those that still didn’t attend class, school counsellors would make home visits themselves. 

With its intensive research underway, SMK Kampong Jawa designed online classes that experimented with breakout rooms and collaborative learning structures that offered close peer-to-peer support and ensured small group sessions were productive and engaging. Online attendance and academic results started to improve. The school also focused on the challenges some of its students were facing and began networking with local charities to help those who were struggling financially. In one case, SMK Kampong Jawa was able to help a student’s family move to a better home. The school looks to continue to provide face-to-face and virtual lessons in its classrooms as the pandemic continues.

Next steps:
The Top 3 finalists for each of the five World’s Best School Prizes - for Community Collaboration, Environmental Action, Innovation, Overcoming Adversity, and Supporting Healthy Lives - will be announced later this year. After a public advisory vote, the winner of each Prize will be chosen based on rigorous criteria by a Judging Academy comprising distinguished leaders all across the globe including academics, educators, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, government, civil society, and the private sector. 
The winners will be announced in October 2022 at World Education Week. A prize of US$250,000 will be equally shared among the winners of the five Prizes, with each receiving an award of US$50,000. 
All 50 shortlisted schools across the five Prizes will share their best practices through toolkits that showcase their “secret sauce” to innovative approaches and step-by-step instructions on how others can replicate their methods to help improve education everywhere.


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