Caring for Your Students | Educational Leadership in a Crisis – Part 3


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The HEAD Foundation’s practice-focused webinar series, Educational Leadership in a Crisis, concluded with its third webinar held on 24 September 2020, with the theme of caring for students during this crisis.

The moderator, A/Prof Vicente Reyes Jr of Nottingham University, opened the session by invoking us to think beyond just learning loss, the compromises in students’ well-being brought on by the stress and burden of new modes of learning and life experiences. He then invited the panellists to share their perspectives and recommendations on how, as education leaders, they have navigated uncertain paths and created their own way towards understanding and addressing the challenges that young learners are facing in this crisis.

Jaida Malonzo, Prinicipal 1 at Batino Elementary School in the Philippines, was driven by the urge to provide the best support for all her students, and epitomised ‘leadership by example’ by bravely leading trips into various communities, despite the dangers of contracting the virus. In addition to providing food for her students and their families, this enabled her to thoroughly understand the challenges they were facing during this pandemic. Through this, in consultation with various stakeholders such as parents and educators, she steered the implementation of additional online learning support for the hearing-impaired learners in her school. She overcame the obstacles of strict government guidelines and lack of specialised educators for the hearing-impaired by resourcefully bringing together parents, rotary club members, other general educators, and older hearing-impaired students to work together in supporting the students needing help. And to support this programme further, she has learned the sign language, inevitably inspiring the other stakeholders to stay the course and continue their passioned support for the students!

Subsequently, Caroline Widjanarko, Principal at Tzu Chi Secondary School in Indonesia, awed us by sharing her school’s guiding principle: education is not only for the mind but for the soul. This has paved the school’s extensive efforts in ensuring its students’ well-being on all fronts. With the pertinent understanding that learning is beyond just subject matter, and that learning is not a sprint but a marathon, she led efforts in adapting the school’s curriculum to integrate deeper soft skills such as resilience, stress management and the cultivation of positivity, to enhance the lifelong holistic wellness of the students. Additionally, she was quick and sharp in recognising the need for strong family support especially during these times. She bolstered home-school collaborations by organising seminars and other activities to facilitate the strengthening of relationships between students and their families.

The webinar reached its zenith with A/Prof David Ng, Associate Dean, Academic Quality at the National Institute of Education (NIE), Singapore, elucidating the concepts of activating students as learning resources as well as life-wide learning, to maximise learning outcomes. Citing Jaida, he showed how she had tapped on the more experienced hearing-impaired students as learning resources to mentor other, struggling students. Meanwhile, Caroline’s various initiatives to enhance social interactions amongst the students, and between students and their parents, as a core part of the school’s curriculum exemplified the essence of life-wide learning: integrating the experiences of students across their life span, contexts and settings, with formal learning and teaching.

Watch the webinar to hear our inspiring panellists’ further reflections and recommendations on inclusive education, the various formal and informal tools for assessments, ways to keep learners (including those with special needs) engaged in remote learning environments, and screen time for learners, especially the young.

This webinar was part of the series which aimed to share actionable and relevant strategies for educators to navigate these uncharted waters which have come about as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are indeed honoured to have had distinguished education experts and leaders share with us their valuable experiences and insights as to how educators around the globe can work with the various stakeholders within the school and beyond its walls, to effectively cope with the onslaught of challenges to teaching and learning brought on by the pandemic.

Watch the previous webinars and check out the handbook Unmasked: Educational Leaders in a Crisis here.

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Mr Ho Swee Huat

Mr Ho Swee Huat is the Founder and Managing Director of Abacus Assets Advisors Pte Ltd. Before starting the company, he had an established career in the banking industry, with 20 years of experience in Singapore, Hong Kong and New York.

He was an Independent Director and Chairman of the Audit Committee of CapitaCommercial Trust Management LTD from 2004 to 2013.

He is the current Chairman of Autism Association (Singapore) which he co-founded with a group of parents in 1992. He is also Vice-Chairman of Eden School, a special school for children with autism.

Mr Ho holds a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a Liberal Arts degree in Economics from Hamilton College, USA.

He has been a member of the Board of the Foundation since its incorporation.