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Nexus International School’s Principal, David Griffiths, On Leading Nexus And His Life In KL

Published by SchoolAdvisor | Nov 02, 2021

The Principal of Nexus International School, David Griffiths, shared about his life in Kuala Lumpur and making learning fun and relatable for Nexus' students.

Nexus International School’s David Griffiths is no stranger to Malaysia. Prior to his Principalship at Nexus, he spent four years in Kuantan as the Head of School at Garden International School. He has since taught and led schools in Europe before coming back to Malaysia in 2007 to join Nexus International School since its establishment in 2008.

School Advisor had a pleasant time interviewing Mr Griffiths who kindly shared stories on his life in Kuala Lumpur and offered some insights on education at Nexus.

From Kuantan to Kuala Lumpur

Mr David Griffiths came to Malaysia in 1999 and had a four-year stint as the Head of School of Garden International School, Kuantan. The Kuantan community was warm and welcoming, much like Kuantan’s balmy beaches.

“Everyone was friendly and it was a fantastic community we had over there,” he reminisced. After Kuantan, he headed to The Hague, Netherlands then towards Córdoba, Spain.

Mr Griffths then went on to explain how he ended up in Malaysia again, “After being the head of two International schools, The Taylor’s Education Group contacted me and asked if I was interested in being the Founding Head of a new school. I jumped at the opportunity. To have the chance to influence the vision of a school from the very beginning where my ideas and pedagogical beliefs are paramount, it was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.” 

Nexus International School in PutrajayaNexus International School in Putrajaya.

Living in The Klang Valley is of course quite different from living in Kuantan. “Klang Valley is far more cosmopolitan. Although the community is strong in both places, the opportunities for professional development and also for socialising are more far-reaching in KL.”

Mr Griffiths expressed that there are many things he enjoys about Malaysia, especially with Kuala Lumpur being a melting pot of cultures with different traditions and of course food. There are many different cuisines available. “I do like nasi lemak, char kuey teow, and those Malaysian favourites but the thing I like about living in KL is that you can go out and eat anything you want such as Italian, Chinese, Thai or  Indian food.”

As a true British gentleman, Mr Griffiths also expressed his interest in football. He has been a Manchester City fan all his life. It is a family tradition, he explained: his father and grandfather were Manchester City fans, too.

“Man City were always the underdogs when I was growing up,” he remarked. “They were always the team that did things differently.” Now living far from Manchester, he has joined a group of Man City supporters who have been, just like Mr Griffiths, huge fans of the football club for all their lives, supporting the club through thick and thin.

David also shared with us how he likes to relax and wind down from a hard day at school. As well as being an enthusiastic husband and father, David has an application on his phone that helps him unwind. “I have this app on my phone called Calm and it has a daily ten-minute meditation. It gives you a chance to get away from all the mayhem of life for ten minutes a day and just sit and concentrate on breathing.” 

An Experienced Principal

With almost 30 years of experience in education and being at the forefront of school administration, Mr Griffiths believes in the idea of all of his staff assuming positive intent when dealing with others.

“It’s my firm belief that people are in education because they are passionate about ensuring learners are making good progress in their learning. So, the very first thing that you should do is to assume someone is doing something for the right reasons,” he said. “This way, the ethos of the school becomes very positive and learning-focused,” he added. 

Nexus school studentsNexus believes in transforming minds by making learning enjoyable to create life-long learners. Photo was taken prior to the pandemic.

As an avid reader, Mr Griffiths mentioned a book called ‘The Outward Mindset’, which talks about considering the needs, challenges and goals of others, then working towards a clear vision and achieving a communal goal. He adopts this attitude at Nexus so as to draw a healthy outcome and uplift Nexus’ teachers and learners.

He continued to share his thoughts on what Nexus can do to continue doing what is right for the children’s education. It is our school's number one responsibility to improve learning for children. This comes in the form of academic, physical and emotional progress. This responsibility for Nexus is what Jim Collins would call, our ‘Hedgehog Concept’: to challenge every learner at the level they need to be challenged because Nexus believes it is the right thing to do.

Mr Griffiths, at the same time, is someone who has a thirst for knowledge. He recently graduated with a Master’s Degree in International Education and Leadership from Bath University in the UK -- a testament of his knowledge in leading an international school towards the betterment of Nexus’ learners’ future.

“The reason I constantly learn and read is that I enjoy it. This love for learning is something we develop in our learners as well,” he mentioned. 

Ironically, this was not always the case for him as a young learner in England, he shared. “I loved my Primary education up to the age of 11. Learning was fun and I absolutely thrived at school. Unfortunately, after this, I actually didn’t appreciate learning so much during my secondary school years. I went to a very traditional grammar school and it was all about rote learning and passing exams. I knew this was not how it had to be. I was sure you could enjoy learning and still do well.”

Mr Griffiths continued, “I wanted to make a difference for learners at Nexus because I had this opportunity where I could put my thoughts about life-long learning into practice. Let’s make learning enjoyable and relevant again. Let’s allow children to have ownership of their learning, to use their creativity and curiosity as well as learn how to pass exams to get them to the next level. It can be done and at Nexus; we now have that wonderful balance.”

The Principal understands that examinations are essential in learning, however, Nexus looks into promoting learning in an enjoyable yet tangible way for the students to become life-long learners.

Constructivism: Learning Through Experience

Mr Griffiths strives for learner empowerment at Nexus. He describes his pedagogical beliefs as wide-ranging but fundamentally with a constructivist slant -- learning comes from relevant, real-life, hands-on experiences and situations around them. Students are and not just expected to reel off knowledge and facts through rote learning. With skilful teachers and facilitators of learning, the classroom, as well as the environment outside of the classroom, are both conducive for this type of learning. 

This aspect of learning can be seen in the innovative and creative ways that the school curricula are carried out including the ‘Creativity, Activity and Service’, or CAS programme, that is available at Nexus’ International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma for 16 to 19-years-old learners.

learn through experienceStudents learn through their experiences instead of learning only through rote learning. Photo was taken prior to the pandemic.

Furthermore, Mr Griffiths thinks about how the learners can care for the world when learning about the environment and sustainable progression. By implementing the knowledge and skills that they have picked up along the way they can be the change-makers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. “In this way, Nexus learners will be able to lead sustainable progress, using technology to innovate and make changes, without causing damage to the World.’

Nexus has a dedicated Innovation Team, that has started to explore and develop the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to focus on making a difference in society. The team is dedicated to identifying how the SDG goals can be integrated into the curriculum. 

“We have decided as a school that we will use SDG 6 about water use and sanitation to focus our learners on how to make a difference. That doesn’t mean that this is all we’ll be doing, but we will have a focus to look into, at the very least,” he added.

Nexus’ initiative to really focus on this goal has been planned for the long-term and some activities have begun on a school-wide scale. For example, in Primary School, the learners are learning about water sustainability in one of the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) units and the Secondary school learners have participated in the Nexus Water Challenge Week, where each child has learnt in a bit more depth about an aspect of water sustainability.

learn from real life situationsLearning from real-life situations. Photo was taken prior to the pandemic.

Mr Griffiths added, “We want to be a part of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize. We want to become the Malaysian representatives in [the competition].” The Stockholm Junior Water Prize is a competition for 15 to 20-year-olds to develop school projects that solve major water issues in the world. This is one of the plans within three to five years down the line. Mr Griffiths also expressed his interest in working with local businesses and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are working towards the same goal.

The interview with Mr Griffiths will continue in Part 2.

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