Name: Asmadi bin Ahmad
Position: Principal, Executive Director & CEO
Company: Mount Safa International School
Asmadi bin Ahmad graduated from the Nanyang Technological University Singapore with a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Science (Computer Engineering). He also possesses a Master’s Degree in Education from the International Islamic University in Malaysia, specialising in Curriculum Development and Instructional Management.
With a total of almost 20 years’ experience as a principal and teacher to eventually becoming owner and director of a school, Asmadi has handled all aspects of education that includes management, administration, human resource, finance, academic, assessments, training, discipline, and institutional building management. He has also contributed much in pioneering an integrated curriculum that is of international standard (IGCSE, Cambridge Board) with English as the principal medium of instruction.
As a principal, he has management experience of dealing with a total of 120 teachers, administration, and academic and even maintenance of staff when he was the principal of ADNI Islamic School in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur that has 600 students from pre-school to secondary school level.
Tell us more about Mount Safa and what are its unique selling points?
Mount Safa is an Islamic school registered under the Religious Department in Johor (JAINJ). At the same time, we also implement a unique blend of international curricula, which is a marriage between the rigorous Singapore curriculum and the world-renown curriculum of the Cambridge Assessment International Education. Ours is a modern and integrated school with goals to achieve the best of both worlds using English as the principal medium of instruction, and putting Qur’anic education as equal to learning the academic subjects.
We also put emphasis on what we call the “Sunnatic sports” – sports which are advocated by Prophet Muhammad – namely swimming, archery and horseback riding. It is compulsory for pre-schoolers to take swimming classes, and primary four students to take up karate for self-defence. We view these co-curricular activities (CCAs) very seriously, as they are a form of life preservation education that is essential for children.
What is the most important element in running a school?
You have to understand that education is a birth right for all. Through structured assessments, we can gauge the level of understanding and cognitive maturity of each student. From there, we can mould and guide them to improve in all aspects of education. With that being said, what is most important about running a school is taking care of the people involved in it; namely, our students, dedicated teachers and administrators, and concerned parents. It is important to maintain a symbiotic relationship between all stakeholders. Just like a family, all aspects of a relationship must be clear- be it in communication or instruction. Moreover, just like any family, there are bound to be little hiccups that we must quickly address and manage so that we can reduce or better yet, remove any negativity.
What are among the facilities provided?
We are privileged to be able to obtain a lease from Johor Land for this facility. Our school is located within the compound of the Johor Land Mutiara Complex, which is complete with various amenities such as ample parking space, a large field for outdoor sports, a swimming pool, as well as a sizeable hall for events and indoor activities. As for horse-riding, we take a weekly trip to Horse Valley Riding Academy in Permas Jaya.
How do you manage perceptions from the public being an Islamic School?
Perceptions are really tricky to handle, and it is not possible to manage them all. However, what we believe we can do is to work towards our goals, demonstrate the outcome and prove that we are doing our level best vis-a-vis our school philosophy. Being an integrated school – both Islamic and international, we strive to balance between the essentials of Qur’an and Islamic education, and the necessary academic learning. Our students read and memorise the Quran every morning, and they learn Maths, Physics, Geography and Art for the rest of the day. Twice a week, we all stay for after-school CCAs such as karate, swimming, netball and football. Our aim is to show that an Islamic lifestyle, if done right, can create holistic and balanced individuals with sharp intellect and well-developed God-conscious personalities.
How does Mount Safa facilitate students’ current and future needs?
Currently, we are using the technology of communication to its fullest. With the help of Telegram, a mobile communication software, the school has created notice boards and groups for each level of class, which include the teachers, students and parents as a complete and comprehensive communication channel.
Any news, notices, homework, and achievements will be put up on telegram for ease of access of information for all stakeholders. This one-way channel gives access to the students to keep up, as well as keeping the parents in the loop and to be more inclusive with the development of their child. Parents are also welcome to make appointments with their children’s teachers when they have any specific issues to address.
What are the CSR activities conducted by Mount Safa?
Of course, we have local CSR activities where we collaborate with the local masjids in Bukit Mutiara and Taman Daya, and we also continuously raise funds for orphanages and refugees. The bulk of our charitable efforts are culminated in helping the ones in most critical straits amongst the oppressed and discriminated communities globally- such as the Rohingyans, Uygurs, Syrians and others. Last year, we donated about RM30,000 in charity collected through fundraisers and donation drives organised by the school and the community. In February this year, we were able to contribute USD10 000 to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan.
What’s your take on alternative education?
I would say that there has to be a right balance in everything. There must be a balance in education and religion, as well as embracing the reality that they can be very much compatible. Do not live in a bubble and focus on one thing. In Islam, we have many subjects and studies about life, science, mathematics, poetry and more. With an integrated system like ours, the process and efficacy of discipline and learning seamlessly gels together in creating good individuals contributing to their community. Now there are STEM/STEAM where engineering and technical knowledge in education is being promoted, but do not forget that the right balance will bear more fruitful answers and less confusion. We must understand the true purpose of what is being taught or learned and not just take it in because we have to, but because we want to.
What do you do in your free time?
Me, free time?! I wish I had free time (smiles). However, most of my leftover time I try to engage in activities that help me upgrade myself. Currently, I am a PhD candidate, and am also taking up further studies in Arabic.