Meet The Head of Middle and Senior School – Australian International School Malaysia

Published by SchoolAdvisor on Jan 15, 2020, 02:52 AM

Mr Ivan McLean, the very friendly and humorous Head of Middle and Senior School at Australian International School of Malaysia (AISM) is someone you would see walking around his school chatting with his staff members. Mr McLean always encourages his students to give everything a go and pushes them to try new things and get out of their comfort zones. After he gave us a tour of the AISM campus, we sat down to get to know him and our chat ranged from the future of education to his go-to travel destination in Malaysia.

SchoolAdvisor: Please tell us about yourself.

Mr McLean: I am Australian born. I’ve been in Malaysia for four years now and I absolutely love living here. I have two children: one finishing Year 12 this year in an Australian school and the other attending university in South Korea. My wife teaches here at AISM and is in charge of the lower junior school.

SchoolAdvisor: What drew you to education in the first place?

Mr McLean: Upon leaving school, I went into medicine at first. I just thought that’s what I should do. My granddad was a doctor and family pressures pushed me towards becoming a doctor. And I did that, but halfway through the first year, I realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do. That’s when I was drawn into education. I really wanted to effect positive change in school and make a difference, so I did my degree. I was then invited to do my honours but turned the opportunity down. People told me, “It’s a waste, you should do your honours,” and I said no, it’s not a waste, because that was what I wanted to do. I went on to get my master’s qualifications, but what really drove me was wanting to make a difference.

I look at my son and say, “I don’t need you to tell me what you want to be,” because really, that’s not who we are. We are more interested in him being a good, flexible and adaptable young man. And those values that the school has helped instil in him are very important to make sure he is a person of substance.

SchoolAdvisor: Why did you choose Malaysia?

Mr McLean: Well, first of all, the makan (food). When my wife was younger, she was educated in Penang and Singapore. She often spoke fondly of these experiences, and for more than 15 years we tried to find the right time to come here as a family, but nothing ever quite lined up until four or five years ago when the opportunity to lead the Middle and Senior Schools at AISM arose. Needless to say, I grabbed it with both hands.

SchoolAdvisor: What do you think your school needs from its principal?

Mr McLean: It needs care. Someone who is interested in the students, families and staff members. Someone who is there to look after the community. Someone like a shepherd. They don’t have to be a magician or even be able to solve everything, they just need to care about doing their best.

SchoolAdvisor: What do you think the education world needs to focus on in the future? Because everyone is saying technology will overtake everything and robots will be doing all the work.

Mr McLean: Preparing for the future means not only getting ready to face a knowledge-based world but also being able to communicate, collaborate and understand. Future schools will only get more and more interconnected and have the ability to adapt to the flexible nature of what you do and who you are.

SchoolAdvisor: What is something the school has achieved since you assumed leadership of AISM?

Mr McLean: We became the first visible learning school in the world. I only take part of the credit, of course, but this success was a major achievement among other, smaller wins. Last year, our school went through three major accreditations, and we were ranked at the top each time. There are big things I am proud of, but I’m actually prouder of the little things. As a teacher, I am responsible for the little “aha!” moments in class, and I enjoy it thoroughly. Sometimes, it’s when I help a staff member develop. It’s about the small bits; the tiny achievements spread out over the course of my tenure.

I got a new deputy last year, and it was months before he had to ask, “Where’s the behaviour module? I’ve got a student who did something a little bit on the wrong side, and I’d like to look at the protocol. Where is that kit?” It took him six months before he had to go through the policy to handle a student’s misdeed. I’m just very proud that our students are that well-behaved.

SchoolAdvisor: What would you say if I asked you the same question one year from now?

Mr McLean: Same. The little things are always the best. You have to be present to find the good in tiny moments. There is something to be said about mindfulness.

But alright, I’ll give you one. I would like another 50 students, just because that would make it a little bit more comfortable for existing students.


For more information on Australian International School Malaysia, click here 

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