Jointly reported by:
Sophia Ng Szu Fei Sr1ScA 17685
Tan Ginny Sr1A 17893
Twenty five years ago, a woman, freshly into her thirties and wholly inexperienced in matters regarding education, stepped into Kuen Cheng High School with a teacher’s lapel pin gleaming on her blouse and a new job casting its hopeful gaze upon her. With job promotions over a 25-year career, plus a PhD degree in Education, Madam Chua Lee Lee has finally made up her mind and stepped up to accept the latest position as Principal of Kuen Cheng High School.
Following the untimely passing of Madam Gooi Swee Gaik, our former School Principal, Madam Chua has moved to fill the shoes of her predecessor and to continue a grand legacy that students still benefit from even now. As the outbreak of COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the world, Madam Chua has spearheaded a series of changes in the school system, including the start of the Online Learning program and a number of alternative implementations for our daily school life routines.
Both of us were granted the precious chance to learn more about the factors and the woman behind it all, and thus one fine day, on a bustling afternoon recess, we were ushered into the Principal’s office with notebooks on hand and questions whirring in our heads. In fact, Madam Chua was quite warm and friendly, despite our worries. We kicked off our interview on a cheerful note, beginning with her reasons on deciding to take on the job as a Principal and be prepared for the pressure that was bound to arise.
She talked about how her teaching job at Kuen Cheng High School was her first real job after graduating from university. With no prior exposure to teaching whatsoever, she started learning about what it meant to be a teacher, under the guidance of Madam Gooi who offered her several chances to grow and surpass herself. She excelled. She offered some really interesting, insightful observations on education. She went on to elaborate how her rise in position from Head of the Academic Department to Vice Principal taught her a lot on ways to educate the new generation. She specified how parents tend to overlook the “learning” aspect in education and instead focusing more on the “results”.
Walking us through her growth process, Madam Chua explained how learning should be natural and not forced like many children do nowadays. A person’s attitude towards learning is the most important thing, she stressed. “Every student is a child, so what kind of child do we want to raise here?” she asked. Madam Chua firmly believed that school is not merely meant for academic performance but also an institution that provides development for student well-being. Quality education doesn’t limit at just obtaining grades or academic progress. Especially under the current situation of a pandemic, besides keeping our students physically safe, it is important to also taking care of their emotional health and other necessary skills.
Then, she shared about her study life while pursuing the PhD; how she had resigned from her position of Vice Principal and chosen to put her heart and mind fully into her studies which proved extremely beneficial to her as an individual. When we asked about the reasons behind her acceptance of her current job, Madam Chua explained that at that time, Madam Gooi was already not in her best state of health and she hoped to be able to ease the burden of the then Principal.
When asked about Madam Gooi, who had always displayed a strong and assertive demeanor, Madam Chua revealed that albeit having strict expectations on work, she was quite warm and caring towards her coworkers. She expressed her gratitude for the chances offered by her predecessor which had allowed her to mature immensely.
According to Madam Chua, she wasn’t very stressed when she first started the job. In spite of the heavy expectations piled upon her, she already knew much of the people in the School she would be working with. She learned a lot from working with them, and she thanked them for their continuous support and cooperation in carrying out new procedures while considering the students every step they took.
One of the most important things during the schooling period is the experience, she explained. A school serves to give students a taste of real life in a controlled environment, and not someone stuffed with only knowledge. As times progress, independent learning has become more and more vital which is why the MCO was a great opportunity for students to break away from dependence on their teachers and to do their best at “self-learning”. From her point of view, such experiences make them think independently and refocus their purposes.
It was during February when the Principal started to worry about the outbreak of the disease originated in Wuhan, China. Putting other events on hold, she immediately urged the teachers to prepare for a possible lockdown. They prepared a series of homework for the students as they originally thought it would be lockdown for a short period, which had unexpectedly extended to four months. During March, there were already private Online Lessons conducted by most teachers to catch up with the syllabus. The School realized it wasn’t a long-term solution, therefore, countless meetings were held day and night to come up with a more careful plan for the school closure amidst the nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO).
The ICT Department followed suit and created an alternate learning management platform at Google Sites. It was where the students collected updated information on their learning progress and had access to their learning materials. In the Drive file, there were Subject Outline and teaching materials pre-released before class. Students were also obliged to fill out a Feedback Form after each class to recall what they had learned and how it benefited them. Once again, Madam Chua emphasized the importance of “self-disciplined and being responsible” while approaching autonomous learning. “School is a place where we all learn, for both students and the teachers. This lockdown period would be a perfect opportunity where we encourage individualism, self-esteem in each of us.”
Unfortunately, there were no plans for Co-curricular Activities as they were all forced into a halt due to gatherings not being allowed. However, during mid-term holidays, the School managed to organize an Online Carnival by gathering coaches and teachers for a series of activities through the Zoom video platform.
The School Administration had however encountered a few problems during the pre-MCO period. There were teachers that weren’t familiar with online instruction applications and some do not own the required electronic gadgets. Certain number of students from the less fortunate families faced the same problems as well. In the meantime, Zoom was facing privacy issue as they received worries from parents about potential hackers during the online class. There was concern about lowering the school fee, which later the Management has provided with satisfying reply to parents about policy of the School in maintaining the regular collection of fees. In general, parents understand and support the lesson plan in order to safeguard the health and safety of all students as well as the teaching staff.
In light of the announcement from Ministry of Education (MOE) for School Reopening, there was another challenge to be taken on. With such a high level of mobility, the school must strictly follow the SOPs handed down by the government pertaining to the overall safety of the students and teachers. Fortunately, with the assistance of many departments, meetings were held and a PDF regarding safety measures and relevant guidelines was drafted. More meetings were held and update regarding the school’s sanitizing plan and its disinfecting supply. The spirit cultivated among teachers was the Principal’s happiness, as she called it the “Kuen Cheng Culture”.
“We are very lucky to have a supportive Board of Directors that is caring, diligent towards education. It makes it easier to communicate for more of our future school projects.” The Principal further praised the Board for their determination to offer change to the School in need. As a self-funded school, it is definitely a blessing.
Madam Chua had also praised the good spirit and enthusiasm showed by all teachers. It was their seamless communication which resulted in a positive environment for the School. They were firm in providing the best for the students although they were burdened by their other roles at home. They had never stopped to achieve their goals. She really appreciated the concerted effort and was grateful to have a responsible school body.
The dedication from the entire team of the School is indescribable as we strive to create the best for the students. We place education as the utmost priority and are able to achieve such positive culture and that benefits us, the students, in more ways than we know. We hope that with the experience we gained through this unprecedented global pandemic, we grow together towards even greater heights.