The secrets of the most improved school in Malaysia - Business Circle
SK Lemoi students also enjoy some TV time at their hostel
On a sunny day in June, the headmaster waited for me in full motocross gear: helmet, goggles, leather gloves, boots. He stood next to a Kawasaki KLX 150 scrambler. Right away, I felt nervous.
The headmaster’s name is Omardani Mohd. Noor, 47, a stocky man with a perpetual smile. He’s in charge of Sekolah Kebangsaan Lemoi, the most improved school in the country. The school, located in the deep jungles of Pahang, could possibly be the most rural school in Peninsular Malaysia.
Encik Omardani addressing the assembly
Four years ago, when Omardani became headmaster of SK Lemoi, not one student passed the benchmark UPSR Year Six exam. This school for Orang Asli kids languished near the bottom of the country’s nearly 7,700 primary schools. But in three consecutive years, the pass rate soared: 8 percent (2010), 28 percent (2011) and 60 percent (2012). In less than three years, SK Lemoi became one of the best Orang Asli schools in the country.
What are the secrets for accelerating improvement in rural schools? And if we can unlock these secrets, can we use it to dramatically improve more schools in the country? These were the questions that drove me – along with my driver, and a video crew – to the town of Ringlet in Cameron Highlands. From here the journey would take another three hours in a four-wheel drive vehicle.
So I felt anxious when the headmaster stared at our vehicle: a black Toyota Fortuner 4WD with city tires. “I’ve never seen a car like yours make it to the school. But I promise you that I can get you at least halfway there,” Omardani said. On that reassuring note, he gunned his dirt bike. Away we went.
Within minutes, the tar road, which wound past vegetable farms, degraded into a rugged cement road. An hour later, the cement road vanished, leaving behind a narrow mud track with large rocks on the side and menacing holes in the middle.
When it rains, the road turns into a river of mud. The primary school teachers who go in and out every week on bikes have faced landslides, falling trees and swollen rivers. Once, a former principal fell off his bike, slid into a gorge and had to be rescued by villagers. It took us two hours to travel the final four kilometers.