Creating Next-Generation of Leaders Through Holistic Education

by | Aug 21, 2023 | EDUCATION | 0 comments

By Rameesa Sherfudeen, Head of Character Development, Head of Behaviour, Entrepreneurship Program Lead at Seven Skies International School

Rameesa Sherfudeen

Over the past few decades, the Malaysian education system has been revamped to provide students with the knowledge, skills and resources they need to thrive in an ever-changing world. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our education system’s ability to equip students with the necessary tools to not just survive, but truly succeed in life and confidently prepare for their future. The pandemic has turned the spotlight on the adaptability of our education system, demanding innovative solutions and pushing us to explore new horizons.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that strong academics alone is not enough to ensure a student’s success. The key lies in fostering a diverse set of life skills, which includes resilience, confidence and social competence, among others. With the world adapting to a new normal post-pandemic, possessing these skills becomes even more crucial, as they empower individuals to thrive in the practical realm, ready to conquer the challenges that lie ahead.

In the early stages of education, it is imperative for educational institutions to embrace a transformative and holistic education approach that places character development at the forefront. Captivating character development programmes possess the remarkable ability to unlock the extraordinary qualities of students. These programmes go beyond traditional academic curricula, focusing on fostering essential life skills, values, and attitudes that are crucial for personal and professional growth. By instilling qualities such as resilience, empathy, critical thinking, and leadership, these programmes empower students to navigate challenges with confidence and compassion.

When character development activities become an integral part of a school’s curriculum, an incredible transformation takes place among students. They embark on a meaningful journey, nurturing a strong sense of self and refining their social and emotional learning abilities. These activities serve as an exceptional platform, offering invaluable opportunities for self-discovery, enabling students to identify and embrace their strengths, passions, and untapped potential, all while guided by a steadfast moral compass. Take, for instance, an exhilarating entrepreneurship programme. It not only sparks an entrepreneurial mindset but also cultivates indispensable leadership skills, enhances self-discipline and promotes work ethics. 

I vividly recall an inspiring encounter at Seven Skies International School, where I crossed paths with a remarkably timid and shy student. Initially, he rarely uttered a word. However, as part of his curriculum, he was required to engage in the school’s Entrepreneurship Programme, which entailed conceptualising a unique business idea and presenting his business pitch on a grand stage. When the long-awaited day arrived, we were all astounded to witness his confident demeanour and elevated self-esteem during the presentation. It was truly a sight to behold. Witnessing the joy radiating from both the parents and the teachers, it was evident how far this student had progressed.

As an educator, I am fortunate enough to be privy to numerous heartwarming experiences that exemplify the transformative power of holistic education. These instances provide tangible evidence of the remarkable changes in students’ characters as they evolve into their improved selves. It is for this reason precisely that we consistently encourage students to delve into their skills and interests and embark on paths that align with their passions. For instance, if a student excels in sports, active participation in school competitions and tournaments can foster teamwork, confidence, and courage. This is all part of the holistic education approach. 

When we talk about a “holistic” approach, it goes beyond the involvement of teachers and parents alone. While parents can certainly contribute by encouraging their children to read more books to foster emotional intelligence or organising playdates to enhance social and cognitive skills, the age-old adage, “It takes a village to raise a child,” holds true. The surrounding community also plays a pivotal role. Within the institution, there are a plethora of programmes available that facilitate student engagement with the community, fostering their sense of societal contribution.

This collaborative effort between the school, parents and the broader community creates a powerful ecosystem for holistic development. By involving the community, students have opportunities to interact with diverse individuals and engage in initiatives that promote their understanding of societal needs. In this way, the holistic approach encompasses the collective efforts of various stakeholders, nurturing well-rounded individuals who possess not only academic prowess but also a deep understanding of their role in creating a better world.

Additionally, there are several other activities that could also help in building the students’ character, such as programmes where students are introduced to various social problems and issues that occur around the world. They can participate in community service projects, mentorship programmes, or volunteering efforts that instil a strong sense of empathy, compassion and a desire to make a positive impact on society. They will learn to become more solution-oriented and be instilled with the sense of ‘Bringing’ and ‘Being’ the change in society. There are also bootcamp options that can be designed for students to discover new found confidence, fight against their fears and learn to trust others through team building activities. My students at SSI are fortunate to have access to a range of character-building programmes such as those that were mentioned to foster personal growth and social responsibility. 

Like all educators, we tend to strive for our students to excel in their academics. At the same time, we also want to embed our students with the right values and characteristics to prepare them for their future. From the exhilarating realm of public speaking and the enchanting world of drama and theatre, to the thrill of adventure, the camaraderie of sports, and the joy of community service, Character Development programmes allow students to explore diverse avenues while nurturing their character, embrace their individuality and unleash the full extent of their remarkable potential. It is our hope that it will place them on a wondrous path of self-discovery and personal growth that sets the stage for extraordinary achievements and pave their way towards being great leaders of the future generations.