Changkat Primary School didn’t let the pandemic get in the way of precious learning experiences for their students. They organised a virtual meet-up that had students interacting and playing team games with peers in Malaysia – virtually.
By Lim Jun Kang
Since 2016, a staple on the calendar of Changkat Primary School used to be a cultural exchange programme to Sekolah Kebangsaan Putrajaya Presint 11(1), a primary school located in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur.
Organised by the Malay Language Unit, the students would meet their counterparts across the border to engage in cultural learning activities and make new friends.
Then came COVID-19, putting a halt to what was a rite of passage for students at the school.
The teachers were determined not to let the pandemic disrupt this learning experience and organised a virtual meet-up.
Mdm Sharifah Aminah Bte Syed Omar, who was one of the Malay Language teachers involved, said, “Even with the pandemic, we wanted to ensure that our students have a chance of experiencing an internationalisation programme at least once in their primary school years.”
So, one day earlier in the year, 20 Primary 4 students met a group of 20 students from Malaysia at the online Forum Budaya (Cultural Forum).
Over the next two-and-a-half-hours, students shared snapshots of their lives through photos and videos and learnt more about traditional games virtually.
The different types of traditional Malay games were showcased by the Malaysian students – such as gasing, or top spinning, chaptehs or kicking shuttlecocks, and Batu Seremban, or five-stones as it is more commonly known in Singapore.
Students from Singapore ‘cruised’ along Putrajaya Lake while their Malaysian peers gazed at the vertical gardens at Gardens by the Bay.
The questions flew fast and furious: What was their school life like? How was their morning assembly, what subjects did they learn, what was their favourite food at the canteen?
The curiosity was palpable.
Changkat Primary students proudly showed off their school’s sustainability efforts, which was part of their Applied Learning Programme. These included prototypes for moisture sensors to be placed on the school roof to collect rainwater and automated flushing systems in the toilets.
Changkat Primary students (top) and their Malaysian peers (bottom) taking notes and listening attentively to the sharing in their respective classrooms.
“The students were ecstatic to show their new friends what their school life is like. They worked very hard to brainstorm on the topics to share and to prepare the presentation slides,” said Nur Arina Binte Santoso, the school’s Malay Language Coordinator who was also part of the organising team. “We were proud to see that some of our students overcame their shyness and developed their confidence to interact with their new friends.”
Nur Qisya Aliya Binte Zaharudin, who gave a talk on the school culture and activities, said, “I was very happy to be chosen as one of the presenters. It made me more confident to speak to new people and make friends.”
A silver lining
Then it was time for some friendly competitions. Students from the two countries were put into mixed groups for language and culture quizzes.
As the programme wound down, each student was assigned a pen pal.
“We wanted this partnership to be sustainable, rather than a one-off event,” said Mdm Farah Khairiah, the school’s Subject head of National Education and Partnership. “If and when both schools can visit each other in person, the students would already have formed bonds with one another.”
The first batch of postcards from Changkat Primary are already on their way and they hope to write notes to one another every term.
“Perhaps there was a silver lining in the disruption that the pandemic brought,” says Mdm Nur Iffah Bte Abdul Ghafar, Year Head for Middle Primary. “We embraced technology to teach and learn during the pandemic, and now teachers and students are more equipped to facilitate and organise virtual meetings.”
Thumbs-ups and hand hearts all around as students and teachers from both schools pose for a “photo” on Zoom.
Given the success of this programme, the school is planning virtual cultural exchanges through the Chinese Language Unit and Student Leadership team.
Hady Iman Fahd, a Changkat Primary student who enjoyed learning about the traditional Malay games, says “I do hope to be able to play those games with my friends from Malaysia if we meet physically.”
Aufa Maritza Binte Mohammad Nuruddin, added, “It was an eye-opening experience ‘visiting’ another country. I have new friends, and I hope we can visit the pretty places in Putrajaya in future!”
Read about Kranji Secondary School's virtual exchange programme with a partner school in Japan here.
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