Posts Tagged ‘Global Prestasi School’

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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The excruciating caterpillar sting could have been the deal breaker. I was oblivious to the caterpillar; it must have fallen from some trees where the bus parked a distance from the observatory when I was making my way up the bus. I was thrown into a panic when I suddenly felt this warming sensation on my back that spread to the nape and the ears, and then this unbearable itch. To complete the agony, a strip of red rashes covered my neck. Happily, the school’s counselor came prepared with her first aid kit and came to my rescue with minyak tawon (bee oil) to counter the itch.

Then there’s the very early call time of 5 am so as not to get stuck in the infamous Indonesian traffic and miss the queue at the observatory. Booking a taxi would have been convenient but the cab driver couldn’t find my flat so off I went to hail an angkot (a form of public transportation that looks like a mini-van). No such luck. I learned later on that they didn’t ply the road until after 6 from one of my eagle-eyed students who, fortunately, spotted me looking lost and forlorn, and gave me a ride to school.

Caterpillar sting and early call time, surprisingly, didn’t dispel my excitement in being one of the chaperones for the field study of the students of Global Prestasi School (GPS). Whatever you call it – field study or field trip – I have always had a strong predilection for such trips. It’s reminiscent of my old high school’s philosophy of learning by doing which meant not teaching and learning outside of the classroom. GPS has always been a staunch believer in exposing its students to all kinds of teaching methodologies and environments, which is why huge tourist buses parked within the school campus is commonplace. From elementary to senior high students, each GPS student has a treasure trove of field trip memories to last a lifetime.

The field study this year skewered four subjects – science, English (national and Cambridge curriculums), and Indonesian language – that would test the mettle of the students in terms of academic performance and character. Finally, I was free to chaperone, together with 13 of my colleagues and the principal, the grade 8 students from the national and Cambridge Preparatory classes, to two venues in Bandung viz. Bosscha Observatory and Jendela Alam.

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First stop was Bosscha Observatorium, in Lembang, in West Java, which, to my chagrin, was a four-hour road trip from Kalimalang. It was imperative to be on the road by 530am to be able to get to the observatory before 10 am to book tour slots. The observatory, which sits on top of a hill, is a constant pull for visitors in and out of Indonesia for viewing the stars at night during the months of April until October. However, seeing stars has become a matter of luck these days because of the light pollution in the area as well as the presence of hotels and villa. Back in the 1930s, the land around the observatory was devoid of tenants and populated by trees.

Impressive was the word that came to mind when I saw the gargantuan telescope that a fully grown man can hang from.  Called Zeiss double refractor, the telescope is one of the five telescopes housed in the observatory which is hailed as the oldest observatory in the country. It took its inventor Karel Albert Rudolf Bosscha five years to finish constructing the telescope, starting in 1923.

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Next stop was a little more rustic with its gardens, mini zoo, and vegetable patches. Called Jendela Alam (roughly translated as Nature Window), it’s roughly 25 minutes away from the observatory on a day when traffic is smooth, but it takes an hour plus when traffic gets snarled up. It’s what I’d call an open- nature laboratory where students have an up close and personal experience with special tailor-made nature activities.  For the students of GPS, they had three activities to complete namely, constructing a mini terrarium, making telur asin (salted egg), and dissection. Each activity lasted between 30 and 40 minutes. Each activity had its own group of facilitators hence the teacher-chaperones were free to wander around or have coffee with pisang goreng (banana fritters) at the coffee shop called Kedai Alam.

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Classroom learning is de rigueur in the pursuit of knowledge, but learning out of the classroom is a welcome respite from the stifling effects of always staying in the classroom all the time. The surroundings make good points for observation and immediate application of theories by the students. And student interaction is enhanced – bonds are made stronger, mended or forged. As for the teachers, it’s a longed-for, although brief, break from marking papers, writing notes on the board, and pressing the button for the next PPT slide. It was time for them to breathe in a bit of fresh air to clear the mind.

 

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YEAR OF THE ROOSTER

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the barongsai at Global Prestasi School

It never grows old no matter what happens or what people say. Every time I hear that the troupe will be coming to Global Prestasi School (GPS) to usher in the Chinese New Year, I am always filled with excitement. The barongsai, as the dragon or lion dance is called in Indonesia, never fails to ignite this child-like enthusiasm in me, banishing morose thoughts temporarily. The moment I hear that they’ve arrived, I’d drop what I’m doing and run to the main grounds of GPS to get a good spot to watch those colourful, swirling dragon-lions.

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one of the dragon-lion prepping for the dance

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This year is my year. According to Chinese astrology, I was born under the year of the rooster and if it’s your animal that is the ruling animal of the year, you are in for one auspicious year. To know that lady luck is your constant companion for a year – she won’t be making her presence greatly known until after 12 years – does one’s spirits more than some good. You feel this overwhelming sense of confidence commingling with positivity which leads to a general sense of well-being. Simply put, a force field of positive energy has been placed around you thus any sad or tragic news thrown your way by fate is met with more gumption than fear.

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It was not like I was cowering in fear all throughout the 12 years lady luck was just hovering at the periphery as another animal took centre stage.  Looking back, several years were indeed fraught with tension and grief, but those years galvanised me taking me out of the rut I was in. I was admittedly chary – am still am – but those years prepared me slowly to take on the world again. One can say it prepared me for the year of the rooster, the year I see as the year of splendiferous moments and glorious feelings.

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THE STUDENT, THE ENTREPRENEUR

She had a serious demeanour when I saw her. Let me re-state that: I didn’t really see her. It was my boss, Ibu Rini, the director of the Cambridge Preparatory Classes at Global Prestasi School (GPS), who saw her. I only visualised the scenario in my mind when she related her meeting with a little girl with the serious mien. I saw her much later in class. Ibu Rini narrated that she was pleased to have met up with the young girl who was far from diffident and spoke fluently in English. Rucksack slung on her back, she marched into her office, introduced herself as Nadia, and asked to be placed in the grade 7 Cambridge Preparatory Class that day. She didn’t know that such a class existed and had her mum known she was certain that her mother would have signed her up for it too alongside the local class. Her resoluteness, I believed, impressed my boss – she wasn’t going to take no for an answer.

Nadia and Indira

Nadia (right) and gal-pal Indira when they were in grade 8 in Bali during English Camp

The incident was seven years ago when she and her family returned to Indonesia from Shanghai for good. Nadia Kris Sigit – Nadia or Nat Kris to friends and classmates – became part of the Cambridge Preparatory Class, dazzling everyone with her brilliance and wit. Now, she’s a high school graduate and waiting for the first semester of college to start this September. She’s enrolling in Business Management at the new satellite branch of Binus International at Summarecon Bekasi.

“It’s like everything fell into place!” Nadia exclaimed the afternoon I chanced upon her at Eight Coffee. “It saves me the time commuting to and from Jakarta to attend school. Moreover, our office is near the school so I can either go there or at here if I have free time in between classes.”

Nadia at Eight Coffee

The high school graduate and soon-to-be college freshman, Nadia

In the meantime, in the midst of observing Ramadan, Nadia is engrossed in the family business. Her parents own and manage Eight Coffee, a café specialising in the varied types of Indonesian coffee, and one of her tasks is making sure the café doesn’t run low on banana cakes. They are her speciality, be it chocolate, cheese, raisin or original; they are served oven-hot with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream at the café. (Aside: The banana cake is splendid with cappuccino.)

“I’m still perfecting my cupcakes,” she quipped.

Added the Benedict Cumberbatch admirer: “I’m also looking into getting nicer boxes for the banana cakes, as well as designing a logo for the boxes.”

Eight Coffee is located at Jalan Puloh Sirih in Galaxy City. It’s a terrific breakfast place for the early risers, being open by 6am and ready with their American, Classic Continental, and Indonesian breakfast sets; a cosy nook to read while sipping a cappuccino, iced or hot; and splendid venue for meetings, social or otherwise. My favourite spot is the corner from the entrance. It’s a two-seater table that gives me a view of everyone who goes in and out of Eight Coffee, and feng shui-wise, my back is to the wall so I feel protected. It’s also a short walk to the food counter.

Bone-idle was never – it still isn’t – part of Nadia’s vocabulary. It is an anachronism to her entire existence, which made her stand out in the pioneer batch of the Cambridge Preparatory Class (then called International Program) of GPS. For instance, assignments were done properly and handed in before the deadline. Her research paper in grade 10 English was structured well and packed with insightful analysis. Diligence aside, class discussions were a cinch for her – she had vignettes and conjectures to delight the class. She was also always prepared for Show-and-Tell, making herself the competition to be dethroned in terms of content, fluency, and interactive communication. However, her culinary inclination was a more recent discovery. I was oblivious to it until a business project in her 12th grade where she, together with her classmates, set-up something akin to a farmers’ market albeit smaller. Nadia’s group sold her banana cakes which were cut into bite-size squares, packed in twos in a paper bag (or was it a box?), and tied with a twine bow. The cakes sold out in less than an hour! Ever since that project, I’ve been a regular banana cake client, ordering boxes as treats for my students during our extra sessions. Verdict: the chocolate banana cake is a big hit among them.

Nadia’s not resting one bit although the banana cake is a feather on her toque. She’s knee-deep in two family business projects: a floral shop named Dianita Florist and a deli called Bacassie.

flower arrangements by Dianita Florist

Flower arrangements for any occasion by Dianita Florist – it’s opening soon

“The space is too small for my bakeshop so my mum decided to turn it into a floral shop. She took flower arrangement classes in Shanghai when we lived there,” explained the Bruce Lee enthusiast. “I like doing something creative, so I’m helping with the sourcing out of packaging, décor, flowers, etc.”

Continued the bookworm: “We are also looking into launching the Bacassie Deli soon. The name is patterned after the old spelling of Bekasi. We’ll have sandwiches that will complement the coffee we serve, and we hope to open after Lebaran.”

Bacassie Deli Interior

Bacassie Deli will be serving sandwiches soon.

On a personal note, Nadia has started a blog – nadiasigit.wordpress.com – that she had to put on the back burner when she was in grade 12. Now that she has some time on her hands, she’s parking herself behind her laptop these days.

The little girl has grown up. The young student is slowly transforming into an entrepreneur and, as her former teacher, all I can do is stand, beam with pride, and watch her conquer the world one coffee or banana cake or sandwich at a time.

LASER FUN

Olivia Haura, Andita, Syifa, Prita, and Yunia of 9A are all set for a night of fun.

Olivia Haura, Andita, Syifa, Prita, and Yunia of 9A are all set for a night of fun.

There really is something salutary with breaking the routine every now and then and letting your hair down. For the grade 9A students of Global Prestasi School, who are enrolled in the International Program (IP), it meant taking a break from the books and mock exam sessions. The grade 9A IP students are facing four exams this year which begins with the ICAS Maths and Science exams from the University of South Wales this September. This is followed by the National Exam (locally known as ujian nasional) from the Ministry of Education sometime in May and a few weeks later they will be sitting for Cambridge’s First Certificate of English exam. It is interesting to note that it’s going to be a long school year for the grade 9A because they don’t get to go on summer break until after their FCE exam which is sometime in June unlike the non-IP students who are already on vacation after their National Exam in May.

The ladies and gentleman of GPS-IP are all geared up.

The ladies and gentleman of GPS-IP are all geared up.

The other teams aren't missing on the action as well.

The other teams aren’t missing on the action as well.

The last Saturday of August had the students trooping to Laser Game Indonesia on No. 16 Kemang Raya for some laser fun. Aside from a night of class camaraderie, it was also a reward for their hard work during their Preliminary English Test they sat for last school year, as everyone passed the exam.

The fun begins when, after the list of players has been handed to the “officer” (read: staff of Laser Game Indonesia), and everyone lines up before the weapons room. Each player is assigned a number which corresponds to a vest and a laser gun. Once inside the blue room (the lights are blue) each soldier straps on the gear with the help of the crew of Laser Game. The target points, as indicated on the vest which lights up when hit by the laser, are the chest, back, shoulders, and the gun. But before they head into battle in the dark room, there’s always time for a photo op. Once that’s done the games are on. Divided into two teams – red and green – and gear strapped on, each team tries to outdo each other in the world of make-believe laser marksmanship.

the ladies of IP

Adults are into welfies too.

Adults are into welfies too.

Green tea frappuccino caps the laser game night.

Green tea frappuccino caps the laser game night.

Starbucks Kemang Sky 2As for the post-laser game, after the students had gone home with their parents or their drivers, it was time for the adults to chillax at Starbucks, Kemang Sky which – thankfully – is open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays.

Photography by Sam Jeruel

PAR-TAY!

IMG_0361End-of-school parties are ubiquitous for this generation of junior high and senior high students. And malls are very much in the black during the scorching months of May and June when boutiques have hordes of teenaged girls going through their racks of RTW dresses and trying on endless strappy stilettos to see which pair would go with the chosen attire for the farewell party. Let us not forget the hair salons that are booked solid for hair and make-up sessions. Rayon from Hair Code at Grand Metropolitan Mall had back-to-back sessions during the last week in May.

Farewell party is what the end-of-school parties are commonly referred to in Indonesia. It also doubles up as a prom which you only get to know about when the Prom King and Queen are announced. Unlike two decades ago, there is no David Pomeranz’s “King and Queen of Hearts”, the unofficial anthem of proms in the Philippines, playing in the background when the announcement is made.

The junior high unit of Global Prestasi School (GPS) kicked off June with fun and entertainment. The outgoing grade 9 students decided on holding their farewell party titled Verenigen Hastha, or the eighth batch, on the first day of June at the Cinema XXI Lounge. My apprehension was all for naught, as the venue proved to be more than fitting. It was, in fact, perfect. Traditionally, hotels in Jakarta are the preferred venues for reasons that are associated with the words grand, classy, and formal. Given the exorbitant price tag that is attached to renting a ballroom or a room smaller than a ballroom, the principal, Yulie Tan, broke away from tradition and challenged the committee members of the farewell party to scour every nook and cranny of Bekasi for a suitable and reasonably priced venue. Who said GPS students are ones to walk away from a challenge? They meet them head on and with panache.

Verenigan Hastha in full swing

Verenigen Hastha in full swing

Getting the par-tay started

Getting the par-tay started

Cinema XXI Lounge is inside Mega Bekasi Mall, one of the malls within close proximity to GPS. On a good day (read: no traffic), a taxi ride is a breezy 20-25- minute ride. It’s even breezier if you take the local transport angkot and cheaper. At Rp3, 500 – 4,000, you’re at Mega Bekasi in 15 minutes. For parents picking up their children after the party in the evening, it’s not a taxing drive from home to Mega Bekasi unlike when the pickup point is in Jakarta which usually spells a two or three hour plus ride back and forth depending on the traffic.

The lounge is spacious – one doesn’t feel hemmed in – that a fun photo booth fits in perfectly within the floor area of the lounge and which was buzzing with adults and students hamming it up for their keepsakes. The stage at the centre has a huge screen that was clear and the sound system was in tip-top shape. None of the musicians had to spend minutes tuning their instruments; there were no embarrassing microphone problems; and the videos screened brilliantly.

Proud teacher - my students taking to the stage

Proud teacher – my students taking to the stage

A common bugbear for people who are organising parties is the service crew. They can be blatantly incompetent and indifferent at times. But, much to my surprise, the Cinema XXI Lounge service crew was in fighting form. No glass was left half filled; the chafing dishes were never empty and cutlery were not lacking; chairs were cleared for students when needed; and courtesy was the order of the night.

Food can make or break a party and, fortunately, the buffet table at Verenigan Hastha was a cornucopia of culinary delights fit for gourmands. Indonesian cuisine is always something to feast on but when you see them in the cafeteria every day, it becomes commonplace. Not this particular buffet table – it was a fusion of European, Western, and far-from-ordinary Indonesian dishes from appetiser, main course to dessert.

And they danced through the night

And they danced through the night

As a guest, the transformation from roguish to respectable impressed me. Unabashedly biased, I was bursting with pride at seeing my students at the forefront of the affair as committee members, emcees, party hosts, and performers, who brimmed with glittery aplomb all night. They also cleaned up, I noted.

EXAM TIME

The second semester is quite taxing and nerve-wracking for students of Global Prestasi School (GPS) particularly those working towards dual leaving certificates. GPS offers dual certification for those students interested in studying overseas, say, the UK, Australia, and the US. Apart from enrolling in the government-mandated syllabus that all students are required to go through to earn their leaving certificates from junior and senior high, GPS has set up an international program department that offers classes beginning from the Cambridge Flyers program to IGCSE for qualified students to enlist in.

IGCSE students batch 2015 - drilled endlessly with sample question papers and tempered to be resilient and emotionally strong.

IGCSE students batch 2015 – drilled endlessly with sample question papers and tempered to be resilient and emotionally strong.

Exam time is truly a stressful period for the students enrolled in the dual certification program. Imagine the butterflies that swarmed in the tummies of the grade 12 students when they sat through their four-day national exams last April – getting good marks in the exams, after all, is a prerequisite to getting into a prestigious university in the country. Now, increase the swarm of butterflies and picture how the grade 10 students are feeling right now. Their exam period lasts for more than a month; it started in April with the 15-minute oral examination then there’s a one-long respite before the battery of written exams for Maths, English, Computer Studies, Physics, and Chemistry commences. In total, the grade 10 students would have sat for 15 exams on top of the exams of the 11+ subjects they have under the national syllabus. Their “agony” will end in the first week of June when they sit for the last paper in Computer Studies. But the reprieve from the frazzled nerves is temporary as the wait begins. This waiting is for the results of their IGCSE exams which won’t be available until August.

On the flip side of the coin are the teachers who are equally overstretched with training them before the exam period. Come exam day, they also double up as invigilators who must see to it that the rules of invigilation are implemented to the letter as well as face the inspector (it’s a different one every year) from Cambridge who comes for a yearly visit to see if the set standards are met. Exam time is a day of reckoning for both student and teacher. The former will have to prove their mettle – academic and psychologically (i.e. Will they buckle under the pressure or hold steadfast?) – while the teachers will know if what they had discussed over the 10-month period in the classroom are correct and relevant.

Invigilator reporting for duty

Invigilator reporting for duty

BARONGSAI WONDER

The dragon takes to the skies at the Global Prestasi School.

The dragon takes to the skies at the Global Prestasi School.

While a former student of mine is bored out of his wits with the barongsai, as the lion dance is called in Indonesia, I am always filled with excitement and look forward to the barongsai troupe arriving in Global Prestasi School (GPS) and performing. The beautifully crafted lions, together with the dragon, never fail to make me goggle at their colours, the performers, and the huge drums sitting quietly at one corner. What is it with the barongsai that makes me all giddy like a little school girl left in a candy store that is right next to a library? For a moment, once the lion dance performers take centre stage and dazzle the spectators with their jaw-dropping acrobatic movements, a wave of serenity descends upon me, quieting the din of doubt and niggling thoughts. A wave of hope falls gently on me, while the dragon zigzagged and the lions capered. A sense of calm envelops me – did the higher beings make a tabula rasa of my topsy-turvy world? It feels that way and everything is copacetic, for now.

the dragon comes alive 2

the dragon comes alive 3This year’s performance was off to a very auspicious note. For starters, the dark clouds and sheets of rain gave way to a mantle of blue and yellow. Below, it was a sea of red in all shades and sizes, with some holding angpao, red envelopes filled with money, to give to the lions. As the grounds of GPS swelled with students, teachers, and parents from its elementary to senior high units, the drums came to life with its steady syncopated rhythm, urging the resting dragon to wake up. As if a tribute to the majestic dragon, the troupe took to the stage to showcase movements of the Chinese martial arts called Wushu. Short, sharp thrusts with the arms in mid air, half splits on the ground finished with thumping by the hands, and round house kicks in the air, they dazzled the audience with the ease of their movement, flexibility, and agility. Then the dragon awoke sending the troupe scampering to the sides.

The troupe gets a feel of the ambience at GPS.

The troupe gets a feel of the ambience at GPS.

The dragon tests the area of GPS prior to the performance at 10am that February 27.

The dragon tests the area of GPS prior to the performance at 10am that February 27.

The ground of GPS is washed in a sea of red.

The ground of GPS is washed in a sea of red.

Behind the scene: the lion heads at rest.

Behind the scene: the lion heads at rest.

Behind the scene: lion heads and drum

Behind the scene: lion heads and drum

Flying, circling, swirling and dipping, the dragon chased away the negative energy, replacing it with the humming vibrancy of the new Lunar year until it was time for the lions to take centre stage. This year’s lions were yellow fringed with crimson that capered, wiggled, and played with the young students of the elementary unit. Finally, it was time to jump up and claim the angpao hanging from a branch – a gift from GPS. Victorious!

A peak behind the scene of the barongsai - the dragon sits quietly in a corner.

A peak behind the scene of the barongsai – the dragon sits quietly in a corner.

An hour before the sun towered over our heads, the lions gracefully sashayed off the grounds, but not before showering the community of GPS with good tidings and bountiful of positive energy. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Playing coy, the lion bides his time before banishing the negative energy.

Playing coy, the lion bides his time before banishing the negative energy.

The lion turns his attention to the audience before him.

The lion turns his attention to the audience before him.