Meet The Tamil School Headmaster Who Makes Learning Fun for His Students!

  • 10 Jun 2019

Malaysian public schools are known for their notorious ways of loading students with tons of homework and forcing them to sit through hours-long exams. The education system is heavily exam and rote learning-based with little to no focus on character building, financial literacy, skills learning or creative education. 

This rigid 'one mould for all' method that doesn't take into account the differences between children has been the the approach to education in Malaysia for decades. 

Breaking this convention is the 57-year-old headmaster of SJK (T) Sungai Ara in Georgetown, Penang. S. Sangga joined the school in April 2011 and brought the concept of 'fun learning' to cultivate students' curiosity and love of learning.

The headmaster explained the 'fun learning' method implemented in his school is a practical and hands-on way of learning that's effective in enhancing students' knowledge and skills. 

"Since the school grounds are surrounded by games, including those we have painted on the floor like teng-teng, snakes and ladders and more, the students start arriving at school as early as 6.30am, despite the school starting only at 7.40am," Sangga told Bernama.

As peculiar and unorthodox as it might seem, none of this goes against the framework of education set by the Ministry.

Outside every classroom, there are computers with an internet connection since some students might not have internet access at home.

"This is why the school has the highest achievement in ICT. Even during school holidays, students are allowed to use the computers if accompanied by their parents," Sangga said. 

How did the teachers react to the new changes? Sangga explained that they didn't have much problem adjusting to his ways because he reduced their workload. 

The school emphasises independent learning where every student will explain a given topic to their fellow mates. Sangga believes students learn better when they are put in groups.

He also instructs teachers not only to teach and learn in the classrooms but also to bring students out to explore and learn from what they see. On Fridays, students will be brought out and scout around the school area to explore and learn from what's around them.

"On Saturdays, we also take them to collect garbage in selected areas, becoming ‘trash heroes’. But this is by choice, we do not force them," the headmaster added.

The academic part of the school is not entirely focused on exams. The talents and achievements of students are recognised and rewarded accordingly.

Apart from regular classroom lessons, the school carries out many environmental protection and preservation activities to keep the atmosphere fun and pleasant. Plastic usage at school has been banned altogether. Students are encouraged to stop using plastic and collect recyclable items. Any plastic found around the school area will be recycled into eco-bricks. Brilliant, isn't it?

Students are also taught gardening through planting banana trees and flowers, among others. At its peak, the school garden was making a profit of RM600 monthly.  

Their constant efforts have led to the school achieving nine out of the 17 'United Nations Sustainable Development Goals'. Since the school holds many activities, parents are usually informed through a Whatsapp group. There were even instances where students got too keen to join the activities and wanted to run away from home to participate!

Sangga retires in 3 years, and isn't expecting a successor who shares his ideas. However, he hopes his students and teachers would be able to retain and practice what he's imparted to them so far.

Following his interview with BERNAMA, his 'fun learning' concept and practices went viral. Despite the widespread recognition, the school insists that fame and awards are not what they seek.

Here's what the school replied in response to the headmaster's interview on Facebook:


Thanks for the love.

We didn't do this expecting for awards or applause. We did this to prove that Tamil education and Tamil schools can catch global attention.

It's our utmost wish that all schools and students in the country receive the best quality education that encourages progress.

This is the first step towards that goal. The rest lies in the hands of the teachers...

We made everyone realise that we can make even the Education Minister notice the school. This success doesn't belong only to Sungai Ara Tamil school but also all Tamil schools in the country.



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