Out of hundreds of applications from international schools in over 60 countries, The International School of Kuala Lumpur (ISKL) was recently shortlisted in two categories in the prestigious International School Awards 2021 for ‘Strategic Leadership Initiative’ and ‘Wellbeing Initiative’.
The Strategic Leadership Initiative is for ISKL’s Staff Talent and Culture program, which was launched in 2019. The program focuses on supporting the professional development and growth of the schools’ staff base whose roles encompass admissions, advancement, technology as well as instructional and operational departments.
Ika Azwa Muzamal, ISKL’s Talent and Culture Development Lead who spearheaded the initiative said, “The team at ISKL is so delighted to be shortlisted for this award and recognized as a learning organization that is committed to the growth and development of our staff as well as our students and faculty. Our staff, and Staff Association play a critical role in helping to achieve the school’s goals, and nurture our culture of care and empathy. ”
According to Ika, ISKL is just at the start of the journey, “This is a long term program which will ensure our staff have the right tools, support, and skillsets needed to continue to contribute to achieving ISKL’s vision. By creating a culture that celebrates talent, inclusivity, and nurtures potential, our aim is to ensure we enhance job satisfaction and create the best possible learning experience and environment for our students.”
In keeping with ISKL’s culture of collaboration, staff were integral to the development of the initiative with staff leading and participating in workshops to exchange knowledge and provide input on the overall direction of their learning and growth. An online portal was created as a resource for staff with onboarding tools, essential information about ISKL’s culture, vision, and values, and access to online and external courses in professional and personal development.
This platform was invaluable during the Government-mandated Movement Control Order (MCO) in March 2020, which closed schools nationwide. Even when working remotely, staff were able to keep developing their skills in virtual classroom activities, live tutorial sessions, and sharing expert articles with the community. In addition to enhancing well-being, enabling staff to be self-directed in their growth and development builds efficacy and contributes to transforming the operational support that is fundamental to student learning.
The program is part of ISKL’s broader school-wide philosophy of empathetic leadership which is shared on an ongoing basis beyond the school community through speaking engagements, articles, and influencer events such as ISKL’s Corporate and Diplomatic Luncheon.
The luncheon, held before the start of the MCO, was on the topic of ‘Empathic Leadership and Why it Matters” and attracted representatives from Embassies, the Malaysian Government, Chambers of Commerce, and C-suite executives from ISKL and the wider community. The annual event is an important component in ISKL’s Strategic Plan to promote partnerships and connections with corporate and diplomatic communities. This close connection enables ISKL to keep ahead of market trends and the challenges being faced in the workplace which in turn helps ISKL anchor learning in real-world experiences and more effectively prepare their students for the beyond-school world that awaits them.
The Wellbeing Initiative is for ISKL’s community-led online PAWsitivity campaign, which was initiated at the beginning of the MCO, to provide a fun platform for ISKL’s community to share positive learning experiences, virtual moments, and student stories experienced during the lockdown.
Using the school mascot, Panther, as the Head of PAWsitivity the ISKL team created a virtual newsroom sharing hundreds of learning stories, performances, community and outreach initiatives contributed by its community. The online channel provided a platform for students, faculty, and staff to share their ‘PAWsitive’ ideas and experiences, express their feelings, and reach out to their friends and colleagues in the only way they could – virtually.
Catherine Gresse, ISKL’s Director of Advancement, said, “Our school’s culture is grounded in care and empathy and nothing was more important to us during this crisis, than to ensure everyone was still feeling connected while learning and working from home. We knew that online connectivity was essential and quickly implemented various initiatives and tools to make this happen.” Catherine says being shortlisted for the initiative is a testament to ISKL’s community, “It is a tribute to the students, parents, faculty, staff and alumni who really came together to form a united front; displaying positivity, adaptability, resilience, and school spirit, despite the difficult circumstances. We are truly fortunate to belong to such a caring and dynamic school community”
The International School Awards are hosted by the UK’s International School Leader Magazine and provide the opportunity for international schools to share best practice, creativity, community participation, and innovation. ISKL previously received an International School Leader Award for its Life-Centered Education (LCE) program which supports the needs of students with diagnosed intellectual or developmental differences. 2021 Award winners will be announced at a virtual ceremony on January 18, 2021.
Catherine Gresse is The International School of Kuala Lumpur’s Director of Advancement. Catherine has more than 20 years of experience in varied sectors, industries, and countries. With an initial focus on marketing, advertising, early stage funding, and business planning, Catherine had the opportunity to discover and thrive in the international education sector when she moved from London to Malaysia. Initially Head of Marketing at one of the oldest British Schools in Malaysia, Catherine joined the ISKL team in July 2018 and has been sharing the ISKL PAWsitivity ever since.
Ika Azwa Muzamal is the Talent and Culture Development Lead at The International School of Kuala Lumpur. After graduating from ISKL in 2007, she read Law in the United Kingdom and began her nine-year legal career in Malaysia as a financial and securities regulator. Subsequently, Ika was appointed as legal counsel for a public listed company before taking on her role here at ISKL.