A primary school in Seksyen 13 Shah Alam is creating waves with its intercultural learning through classroom exchanges, an initiative that was begun as a result of the covid19 pandemic and subsequent school closures.

SK Seskyen 13  is not only paving the way with its virtual classroom exchanges but it is also the first primary school in the country to establish a Junior Kelab AFS Antrabudaya Malaysia, thanks largely to an AFS volunteer who teaches there and has inculcated AFS values and mission to its teaching faculty as well as students. 

Klang Chapter Vice President Madam Ong Bee Bee is an active AFS volunteer since 2005 and has hosted volunteers and students from abroad as well as those on domestic exchanges. Inspired by AFS China’s One Classroom Initiative, she began contacting AFS staff and volunteers around the AAI region with the objective of organising similar classroom exchanges. After several email and whatsapp messages, she had generated enough interest among her counterparts in  schools in Turkey, Serbia, Indonesia, South Korea and Russia to begin the project.

Webcam sessions with a secondary school in Turkey, the Kenan Cetinel Ortaokulu, began in April this year. Both schools shared cultural insights through Google Meet, Kahoot, Padlet, LinoIt and PowerPoint Slides. Next was UPTD SDN Unggulan located at Indramayu, Indonesia. “The school was introduced to me by my host brother Pak Ibnu, an AFS Volunteer who came to Malaysia in 2018. Ever since I hosted him, he has helped me whenever I have school programmes with Indonesia,” Bee Bee explained.  “We managed to conduct only two sessions though, as the third had to be cancelled when cases of covid19 infections rose in the school and online teaching was interrupted.” 

Undeterred, Bee Bee continued webcam sessions with Miloje Ciplic Primary School in Serbia, through a contact she had received from a teacher Deniz Turkey  at the Kenan Cetinel Ortaokulu school earlier. All sessions were completed smoothly and without any technical hitches.  

In June, SK Seksyen 13 began a collaboration with Elpro International School, Pune, India through AFS Malaysia and AFS India.  The project took three months for preparation, collaboration, google meet  and discussion.  A live Conference Day with students and parents will be held in August to present the students’ cultural research of the Semang, Zulu, Gond and Inuit tribes.

Bee Bee said that her students had attended an ICL Workshop conducted by AFS Malaysia and it had piqued their interest to learn more about other cultures. “This plus the inspiration from the One Classroom Initiative was what prompted me to begin our own online classroom exchanges.” Bee Bee also managed to recruit two other local schools to participate in the ICL Workshop and the online classroom exchanges. SJKC SIn Ming Puchong in Serdang and SK Air Merah in Kedah are now considering to set up their own AFS Clubs to keep up the momentum and interest for intercultural learning among their students and teachers. 

Feedback has been very positive from both local and international students. Oyku Karacan and Cicek from Turkey enjoyed the sessions, learning about Malaysian culture, meeting new friends and improving their English. Syabil from Shah Alam hopes to visit Turkey one day and meet his new online friends while Uzair enjoyed learning the Korean language and the Kahoot quizzes which he found to be informative and fun.

Parents too are happy about the virtual exchange programme. Izzati, mother to Jamilah, said she and her daughter both learned how to manage online platforms for networking and doing presentations. Shazilah, Dhia Laiqah’s mother, found that her daughter has gained a new level of confidence, improved her public speaking skills and displayed better time management after attending the sessions.

The students did not only do research about tribes but also had fun making their own costumes for presentation day
The first online classroom exchange session with Turkish students was an eye opener for students and teachers alike
The gastronomic topic between two nations was a big hit!