There is broad consensus that students need the ‘basics’: a strong foundation in ‘core’ subjects such as maths, science, English and (for the national curriculum) Bahasa Melayu. This consensus is reflected in our APS curricula in both the national and international schools.
Students also need great examination grades: these grades are their ‘ticket’ to open doors in the big wide modern world. Again, this is reflected in our APS provision, as both IGCSE and SPM results have continued to be strong despite all the recent challenges of the pandemic.
However, we are hugely ambitious for our students. We want our APS children to become “the best versions of themselves” to “shape the future”. For our children to fulfil this vision they need skills for life and wider character, to make them ‘stand out from the crowd’.
The OECD (the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) have consistently stated the importance of skills for life. For example, Andreas Schleicher (OECD Director for Education and Skills), asserts that students need to develop, “creative and critical approaches to problem-solving and decision-making… communication and collaboration”.
So, how will our APS children acquire these skills for life necessary to shape the future? In our mission statement, we state that APS “students will have ambition and self-belief alongside faith in hard work, allowing them to achieve their potential through well-rounded learning opportunities.” In other words, our students need wider character to be successful.
At this point, the importance of the full breadth and extent of the APS curriculum becomes more evident.
Students need subjects such as languages, art, drama, humanities and sports. A ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum gives our children more options for what they might pursue in later life; it also supports the development of the skills for life and wider character needed in the 21st century.
Students need a good range of CCAs and ECAs (sporting, cultural, social, charitable, moral). By timetabling CCAs within the standard times of the APIS and APSS school days, we ensure that all students participate in meaningful CCAs.
As an ISP school, our students also benefit from global programmes that enhance their skills for life and wider character. All students have access to international learning opportunities, such as global chess and maths competitions, or buddy exchange programmes through our ILOS programme. Our Future Pathways programme gives students the understanding to make choices about what they will do as adults.
So back to the title question: what must students learn? Yes, absolutely, they must continue to learn the ‘basics’ through the ‘core’ curriculum and yes, absolutely, we must continue to deliver outstanding examination results.
But our ambition for our APS children is limitless and therefore, we must ensure that our students have a wider, richer curriculum for developing the skills for life and wider character “to be the best versions of themselves through Amazing Learning that will shape the future”.
 See APS website, Vision and Mission – Asia Pacific Schools (apschools.edu.my)
 Schleicher, the Case for 21st Century Learning, 2011, The case for 21st-century learning – OECD