Education Experts Share Ideas About Effective School Leadership in STEM Education in Southeast Asia Member Countries

16 December 2022 ─ SEAMEO STEM-ED, in collaboration with The HEAD Foundation and Chevron Corporation hosted an online workshop on “Best Practices Sharing: Effective School Leadership in STEM Education” where education experts, policymakers, and teachers from the Asia Pacific region exchanged personal experiences in leading their schools and institutions as they uncovered issues in their journeys and solutions to them.

SEAMEO STEM-ED Director Dr. Kritsachai Somsaman addressed the centre’s mission in attempting to develop effective leadership guidelines by tackling the high-demand workforce as well as considering sustainable development.

“We would like to help strengthen regional STEM education at a policy level since we work in all levels of educational challenges from policy advocacy to providing consultation, as well as conducting research”, the SEAMEO STEM-ED Director stressed.

Dr. Somsaman further emphasized, “we realized that policy advocacy is crucial to education. We are working on building a policy research network in the SEAMEO community as we put our attention on pushing forward policies in Southeast Asian countries to strengthen its research network.”

A key developer of this workshop, who is a Senior Specialist in School Leadership at SEAMEO STEM-ED, William Stroud spoke on the “Characteristics of Effective STEM School and Leaders” underlining eight essential traits toward high-functioning schools.

The eight characteristics pointed out by Mr. Stroud were a coherent instructional guidance system (aligned standards, curriculum, and assessments), high capacity in discipline teachers, adequate instructional time, a rich formal and informal curriculum, strong parent-community-school ties, leadership that drives improvement, a student-centered learning climate, and strong personal connections between students and teachers.

SEAMEO STEM-ED Senior Advisor Tom Corcoran discussed “Critical Functions of School Leaders.” In detail, he pointed out that school leaders ought to shape a vision of the academic success of students, create a climate hospitable to education, cultivate leadership, improve instruction, and manage school assets (people, data, etc.) to foster school improvement.

The Centre’s Senior Advisor highlighted a fundamental trait in school leadership by stating, “Effective leaders are those who want to make their schools better.”

Moderated by The HEAD Foundation School Leadership Senior Specialist Hilary Loh, the topic of “Helping Teachers Stay Ahead” was shared by Yenny Kwi Maria, the Principal of Sekolah Indonesia, Singapore (a public Indonesian Government School with students from grades 1 - 12). The principal shared three obstacles that she encountered as a school leader during the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic: curriculum, information communication technology (ICT) skill gap, and isolation and well-being.

On adjustments in curriculum, many learning and teaching activities were shifted to a virtual mode as the national examination was postponed; she emphasized that keeping teachers updated with new innovations and technology, as well as focusing on autonomous learning were effective ways to adapt during the pandemic. While the teacher’s ICT skill gap was evident, the simplest solutions were training, coaching, mentoring, and support through the “buddy system” (a cooperative arrangement whereby individuals are paired or teamed up and assume responsibility for one another's instructions) and equipping teachers with learning tools and management support.

Finally, the Principal emphasized the issue of isolation where teachers were introduced to cross-curriculum project-based learning, extracurricular projects and encouraged through rewards and recognition.

“Leaders should think ahead and respond quickly while also demonstrating a willingness to contribute,” she concluded, noting that it is what she strived for during the pandemic.

In addition, the workshop also allowed participants to join discussion panels led by the Centre’s executives: Program Director Dr. Kessara Amornvuthivorn, Dr. Burin Asavapibhop, Programme Manager of STEM Resources and Capacity Building, Ms. Yaowalak Jittakoat, Research and Evaluation Manager, Dr. Arorn Nokkaew, Instructor in the Faculty of Education, Naresuan University, and Dr. Orawan Sriboonruang, STEM Education Specialist: Professional Academy and Learning Resources.

In Dr. Amornvuthivorn’s discussion panel, Dr. Anita Nazareth, a retired education expert (residing in Singapore) whose passion lies within nonformal education voiced her thoughts

on STEM education, in which she defined STEM education as all subjects integrated, adding that individual subjects should be evaluated as to how these different subjects can complement one another.

Dr. Nazareth later gave examples of STEM in non-formal education, in particular how non-formal education has potential benefits for students to succeed in a broader professional base.

To conclude why best practices sharing has an immense implication in the region, SEAMEO STEM-ED’s Dr. Amornvuthivorn said the essence of regional unity is crucial because “the more we learn from each other the more we can apply the evidence-based practices in our schools.”

The 140 workshop participants were from Algeria, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam.

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