Anbarasu Balrasan, former Principal of Bina Bangsa School, Jakarta, Indonesia, spoke to Ben Schmidt, Cambridge International Examinations’ Regional Director, Southeast Asia & Pacific, during his last term at the school. This article appeared originally in Cambridge Outlook, a publication from Cambridge International Examinations.
What's special about Bina Bangsa School?
The quality of the teachers is wonderful. They are dedicated and passionate about teaching and they are not afraid of change. I have a very good school management and the students are great.
What recent developments at the school have improved delivery of the curriculum? We have recently gone into more co-operative learning. We have changed the seating arrangements, putting students in fours. There are now more interdisciplinary studies-for example, connecting nuclear physics with politics and humanities, so students have a better sense of the world and connect to their learning.
What Cambridge programmes are offered at the school?
IGCSE and International A Level in a wide range of subjects – including English, Maths, Additional Maths, the pure sciences, Sociology, Art, Business Studies, Economics, Accounting, Mandarin, Bahasa Indonesia, Information Technology, Computing and General Paper.
Why has the school chosen Cambridge for these education stages?
Cambridge is the gold standard in education. As a school, we found the curriculum content to be rigorous and the assessments appropriately challenging. Cambridge is an excellent preparation for higher education.
What challenges have there been?
The first challenge was the transition from Bahasa Indonesia to English as a medium of instruction. English is not the main language in Indonesia, which means we conduct teaching and learning in a foreign language environment. This is a challenge especially in subjects such as economics or business studies where students need to read more. The second challenge was the increased emphasis on application of knowledge as opposed to rote learning. With Cambridge, there came a stronger focus on the application of learning and on why to learn, which meant we also had to focus on how we teach.
What support have you had from our regional managers?
It is fantastic that the team conducts face-to-face training. We are always happy to host these sessions. Teachers go home more confident and more knowledgeable about the expectations and standards of Cambridge programmes.
How else has the team helped?
One example was where we encountered a notion that Cambridge International A Levels were not recognised in the USA, and some agencies aggressively tried to create anxiety among parents. The regional team responded by publishing materials, such as a brochure, that have directly helped address these anxieties and promote the new A Level programme at Binga Bangsa.
Anbarasu Balrasan was Principal of Bina Bangsa School for 10 years and taught Cambridge IGCSE Sociology in years 9 and 10. He left in June to travel around Indonesia and help other schools develop their programmes, especially Cambridge International A Level and Cambridge IGCSE. His interests include football, reading books on philosophy and history, and – of course – his family.