Fostering well-rounded citizens is the aim of Regent International College
By Esther Williams
No newcomers to the educational marketplace, international schools have a specific task of developing a cross-cultural and an international outlook, enabling students to build relationships with people from different backgrounds. Offering far more than a traditional academic curriculum, they provide stepping-stones for students to graduate into a worldwide education environment.
Regent International College that began operations in September 2001 offers a vibrant learning environment to students of the Gampaha District, beginning at the nursery level and going up to the University of London/Edexcel O/Level and A/Level. “To provide an international standard, all-round education to nurture future leaders of Sri Lanka is what we strive for,” explains its Executive Director, Anura Gunasekera.
Originally from Gampaha, Mr. Gunasekera (Founder-Director of the Nations Trust Bank) had studied in Colombo schools, and subsequently at institutions in the UK and US. Having been exposed to the best of facilities there, he was keen to offer the same facilities to others of his hometown and hence the school. The purpose-built school campus spread over three acres, boasts the finest of infrastructure, comprising well-equipped classrooms, library, computer labs, science labs, music room, swimming pool and other sporting facilities. With a total student strength of around 600, their first batch sat for the A/Levels in June 2006. “Considering that most of our students have come from the Sinhala medium, our O/Level results were remarkably good,” the Director noted.
Principal Maryanne Hills, who holds a Master’s in Educational Management from the US, explains some of their unique initiatives. The career guidance sessions held before Grade 9 for students and parents, on all subjects, and the career path they could lead to, have helped them make confident choices in selecting subjects.
Talking of the importance of parent-teacher partnerships, she says that “parents have a valuable role to play, and the progress of the child can only be achieved through their support”. To enable parents to be better-equipped to support their children, English and computer classes at discounted rates are offered, in addition to regular workshops on good parenting.
A new concept in Sri Lanka, pastoral care that extends the teachers’ duties outside of the classroom is noteworthy. Owing to the workload in completing the syllabus, it is common for teachers to be impersonal with students, Mrs. Hills thinks. “I urge them to know, understand and learn the background of a child.” Hence, when children are absent for more than three days, calls are made and get-well cards sent, contributing towards building a healthy relationship with the family. In the event of the death of the sole bread-winner of the family, the school supports the child until his/her completion of the A/Levels.
International schools have received considerable criticism for not imparting local knowledge. “Understanding the value of knowing one’s history and geography, we have included contemporary Sri Lankan History and Geography in our curriculum,” Mr. Gunasekera says, adding that in their school events, they promote Sri Lankan culture and customs. Looking back at the last five years, the management is proud of its achievements.
It is a common problem that all students who complete A/Levels cannot be accommodated at local universities. To cater to this group, the school management also runs an Institute for Higher Studies, offering courses such as CIMA, IELTS, computer courses, English classes, etc.
Their vision is to figure among the top three educational institutions in the country, adds Mr. Gunasekera.