(From left) Professor Dr Stefanie Shamila Pillai, Datuk Professor Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud, Datuk Steve Chong, Datin Low Peck Tim, Paul Thomas Walton and Suresh Kumar Balakrishnan at the signing of the memorandum of understanding between Universiti Malaya and Austin Heights International Schools today. Pix by Vincent D’Silva

JOHOR BARU: Austin Heights International Schools (AHIS) is working with Universiti Malaya (UM) to establish an English language and linguistics centre at the school here.

The centre aims to provide schoolchildren opportunities to further their studies, and acquire a deeper understanding of the English language, as well as other major languages, such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

The school’s founder and chairman Datuk Steve Chong today signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with UM acting vice-chancellor Datuk Professor Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud to jointly set up the centre.

Speaking to the New Straits Times after the signing ceremony, Chong said he felt honoured and excited to be a partner in this programme, which proved AHIS’ and UM’s commitment to maintain a high standard of education.

“Under this collaboration, the school will provide a wider range of academic pursuits to our (pupils and) students, as well as students from other institutions.”

Chong said AHIS had always emphasised on the importance of holistic approaches to education, which incorporates a teaching practice that focused less on traditional milestones of academic achievement and more on the complete physical, emotional and psychological well-being of (pupils) and students.

“At AHIS, we recognise the connections between students, families, educators and communities, and the importance of reciprocal relationships and partnership for learning,” he said.

Chong said this had led to better academic performances when the schoolchildren realised the need to acquire knowledge, rather than them being forced to learn.

Under the English language and linguistics centre, AHIS and UM will jointly market and conduct language courses to external parties at the AHIS’ Johor Baru campus.

Chong said the centre would utilise existing UM and AHIS programmes or modules. Besides regular courses, AHIS would organise summer language camps, short-term workshops and seminars.

Meanwhile, Awang Bulgiba said the collaboration would lead to language-based competitions, such as choral speaking, debates, public speaking and essay writing, in the state with the cooperation of the Johor Education Department to promote the use of these languages.

“Under the collaboration, UM will conduct language-related workshops for schoolchildren from public and private schools.

“UM will be responsible for developing the syllabus for the external courses and workshops besides identifying and endorsing the teaching staff for the language courses and workshops,” said Awang Bulgiba.

He said certificates of completion for the language courses and workshops would be given to participants.

The signing of the MoU was witnessed by UM Faculty of Languages and Linguistics dean, Professor Dr Stefanie Shamila Pillai, AHIS chief executive officer Datin Low Peck Tim, principal Paul Thomas Walton and deputy principal Suresh Kumar Balakrishnan.

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