Mr Michael Thia has spent more than a decade dedicating his expertise in education globally to Indonesia.
A Singaporean who graduated from the Institute of Education Singapore in 1980, Mr Michael Thia has been an educator ever since.
He taught for many years in Singapore before he came to Indonesia. After a total of 12 years leading the Bina Bangsa Schools in Jakarta and Bandung as a principal, he then joined Global Sevilla School as the school’s superintendent in 2019. Indonesia Expat was given the chance to interview this warm person recently to find out more about his passion and dedication to contributing milestones to the educational world.
Why did you choose Indonesia to expand your career and to share your knowledge and expertise in the education world?
I wouldn’t say that I specifically chose to expand my career in Indonesia. It was just an opportunity presented to me by Global Sevilla School, and its culture fits well with me. In addition, I decided to take up the offer to work in Indonesia because Indonesia is not too far from Singapore and Indonesia is also an interesting place to be, with the diversity of the people and their languages, culture, and religious beliefs. One is also awed by the sheer size of Indonesia. Can you imagine an archipelago made up of about 17000 islands spread over 1/8 of the earth’s circumference!
You were saying how very keen you are about the mindfulness programme in Global Sevilla School. Can you tell us more about that?
I am new to mindfulness, but over the years that I have spent in Global Sevilla, I have grown to embrace it and make it a part of me. Just think of how easily one forgets that he is even breathing. Mindfulness is about being aware of the present moment and we all know that anxiety sneaks up when we are paying attention to everything else but the present moment. We want our students to embrace mindfulness so that they can cope effectively with life’s many challenges. Contrary to what many people think, mindfulness is not linked or related to any religion.
As an educator, what are the most important things that a school must have?
To me, having qualified and competent teachers is one of the most important things a school must-have. Capable teachers will not only be able to tackle their subject matter well but also know how to deal with the students in the most appropriate ways and build a good rapport with them. A good and trusting teacher-student relationship provides students with a safe environment where they can be happy and focused. Even until now, my classmates and I can still remember our teachers who taught us well and cared for us.
Of course, good school facilities like swimming pools, basketball courts, an auditorium, and spacious fields are also important as they help to develop our students to become well-rounded people – to play sports, to take part in musicals, plays etc.
What is one significant breakthrough that you have applied to Global Sevilla School?
I am a firm believer in the “Kaizen” philosophy or having a mindset of “continuous improvement” for all. When a small problem is left unattended, it becomes part of the acceptable norm and, very quickly, the practice spreads and gets out of hand. Social scientists call this the broken window theory: if a window in a building is broken and left unrepaired, all the other windows in the building will soon get broken too! The authors of this theory wrote in 1982, and I quote,
“An unrepaired window is a signal that no one cares, so breaking more windows costs nothing.”
There are many areas we can improve, for instance, the maintenance of the school building and its facilities, or how the teachers can grow and become more proficient. We can also focus on helping our students face the challenges of failure so that they become more resilient and learn from their setbacks. If we adopt this continual improvement or growth mindset, we become better with each passing day!
Could you tell us what your childhood was like?
I come from a very big family and we didn’t have much. Life was very tough and challenging, but we were a very happy family. We learnt to share the little we had, we played together and took good care of one another. Our circumstances then somehow moulded our characters for the better.
What is your favourite thing to do in your leisure time?
I love to read and take short walks in my neighbourhood. I enjoy reading books that help me to improve myself, and I read the daily newspapers to keep abreast of current developments in my country and around the world. We develop our analytical thinking skills over time and by looking at issues from different perspectives. It’d be awesome if I can make every student in Global Sevilla pick up and enjoy the good habit of reading!
Thank you. Stay healthy and safe!