Nurturing a Generation of Future-Ready Leaders at ISKL
Some believe that leadership is an innate skill, but The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL), firmly believes that leadership is a skill that can be fostered and nurtured in every individual.
According to ISKL’s Head of School, Mr. Rami Madani, “Ensuring our students are future-ready is a critical component of our Vision and Mission. In a world where self-directedness, the ability to think creatively, reason critically, and communicate effectively, are essential for success, one of our most important roles at ISKL is to guide, mentor, and support students to become effective leaders. Building their leadership capacity today is one of the greatest attributes we can provide them with in preparation for the future.”
In line with this, one of ISKL’s goals is to support students in developing the 21st-century learning skills needed to be future-ready and become socially responsible global citizens in a rapidly evolving world. Part of the unique learning experience ISKL offers is to create school-wide opportunities in a nurturing environment where students can take risks and practice the skills they will need to be effective leaders in the future.
Starting from a young age, ISKL’s Grade 5 Elementary School students have the opportunity to serve on the Red Hat Leadership Team. The Red Hat program is built on improving students’ leadership skills, opportunities for growth, and helping others. The Red Hats make the morning announcements, assist at school assemblies, and coordinate many community service projects. Red Hats serve as role models for other Elementary School students as they follow the Melawati Way, a code of behavior and philosophy that encourages students to ‘Take care of yourself, Take care of others, and Take care of this place’. The Melawati Way has been in place at ISKL for over 20 years and has helped shape the attitudes and behavior of thousands of students. Its simplicity and positivity connect the expectation of how students care for themselves, others, and the world around them with their behavior.
Hannah A. (Class of ‘28) shared her thoughts, saying that “As a Red Hat, we are role models for the Elementary School and we have to set an example for the younger students. Being a Red Hat has helped me gain confidence and overcome shyness when talking with others. The great part about being a leader is that people trust you and come to you for advice, and that’s how you can help others.” Rushdan S. (Class of ‘28) said that “Being a leader has taught me how to be independent and how to work better with others. Red Hats get special privileges, and I’ve learned how to use this privilege correctly, because if you use it incorrectly, your leadership role will be taken away.”
Ms. Amy Schneider, ISKL’s Grade 5 Learning Resource teacher in Elementary School, along with Ms. Jennifer Vincent, Grade 5 Elementary School teacher, have been responsible for overseeing the Red Hat program for the last few years. Amy said, "Since our school united on our new campus in Ampang Hilir, we have been able to branch out and learn from not only Middle School students, but also High School students as well. All the divisions have supported and inspired each other and helped Grade 5 students to become social change-makers through their actions and deeds.”
“For example, when the Red Hats were going through their orientation last month, the 6th Graders came to share their insights into how the program helped shape them into leaders. The High School clubs such as Earth Club, Gardening Club, RARE (supporting elephants) club, and Habitat for Humanity all shared information about why they started their club at ISKL, what they want to accomplish, and what the 5th Graders can do to support these important causes. In the meantime, the 5th Graders will be deciding what service projects work best for them. When students begin taking action in the early years, this leads to a lifetime of service,” she continued.
Students at ISKL are empowered to develop leadership skills in a variety of ways including leading and participating in clubs, service initiatives as well as community activities. In Middle School, students have the opportunity to put their leadership skills into action by becoming members of the Student Council (StuCo) where they learn to collaborate, share ideas, and take part in meaningful discussions. Some of the responsibilities that the StuCo oversees include planning Middle School events, raising money for charities, and most importantly, creating an inclusive forum that encourages their peers to contribute to the wider ISKL community.
StuCo member, Wesley K. (Class of ‘25) said that “Just being part of an event that you planned can bring a sense of pride, making you feel like you’ve contributed to your community. One of the skills that I learned through StuCo is to listen to others, because this can help to improve and add value to the entire Middle School.”
Naiema S. (Class of ‘25) added, “A big part of StuCo is learning how to collaborate well with others and work together to achieve a common goal… and even for those who aren’t involved in StuCo, ISKL has plenty of in-class opportunities for everyone to take charge of a particular project or even just to speak up.” This is just another example of agency in action at ISKL, with students using their voice to encourage contributions, share ideas, and work collaboratively towards common goals.
In High School, The Student Leadership Team (SLT) comprises an elected body of student representatives who advocate for student voice in learning, enrich the community, enhance school spirit, and create lasting memories for all students at ISKL. Each SLT member serves on an events committee that organizes events for the High School, such as Spring Fest, Graduation, and Prom. Beyond these events, the SLT is committed to learning and practicing effective leadership skills through an extensive mentorship program.
Jeffrey S. (Class of ‘22) and Jasmine N. (Class of ‘21) shared their experience on the SLT. Jeffrey said, “Taking part in these leadership roles will prepare you for responsibilities that come later on in life, so getting as much practice as we can now will definitely help us in the future. Jasmine agreed, adding that “Being a leader now will be a helpful skill for when we move on to university and enter the workforce. Confidence and teamwork are some important skills that I personally have picked up through working with fellow students across different grade levels.”
In leading schools, leaders and teachers model the behavior, skills, and attitudes they want to inculcate in students. At ISKL, it is not just faculty and staff who do this with passion and conviction, but also the students. Whether affecting change in the community, demonstrating sportsmanship on the field, or being a Red Hat role model to younger learners, every day ISKL students have the opportunity to practice essential 21st-century skills that will ensure they are future-ready.
About Amy Schneider
Amy Schneider is ISKL's Grade 5 Learning Resource teacher, and has been with ISKL for over 11 years. Amy has a MA in Special Education and an EdD in Educational Leadership. With over 22 years of experience in education, Amy is passionate about helping others, especially those that have to work harder than others due to special learning needs. At ISKL, she works to help unite the divisions through cross divisional partnerships with students and peers.