PEKAN: When Samuel Isaiah, a teacher at SK Runchang, here noticed a dip in classroom attendance early this year, he decided to do something unique that would get the Orang Asli students to come back and attend lessons.
The 32-year-old English teacher introduced "Sekolah Pokok", where he goes into the Runchang Orang Asli settlement twice a week after school hours and conducts English lessons under the trees.
Samuel, who was posted to the school in 2012, said he picked two different locations in the settlement, where he would conduct English lessons every Wednesday and Friday for the Jakun tribe children.
"In the beginning, about 10 children attended the Sekolah Pokok. Now I have more than 50 pupils aged between six and 14 years old.
Even some who had previously quit secondary school are now looking forward to attending lessons under the trees.
The environment, which is close to their nature has probably kept them eager to attend lessons.
“I make sure lessons are fun as they learn English through unique methods.
They use tablets with headphones, group activities, singing sessions, view pre-recorded videos and also use the ukulele.
Some who had earlier quit school (SK Runchang) have returned to the classroom," he said when met.
The former Universiti Utara Malaysia and Teachers Training Institute (Penang campus) graduate said he decided to bring the classroom to the children and help create a learning environment in which the children felt comfortable and secure.
"The trees provide shade and the pupils sit on canvass laid on the ground.
We paste some learning materials on the trees nearby to help create a classroom-like atmosphere, Whatever has been taught in the classroom will be shared with the children under the trees.
"None of the pupils are complaining as they are more focused on the lessons. I remember after receiving the approval from the school (to hold the classes under the trees), I met some of the parents and told them about Sekolah Pokok. They were happy to cooperate," said Samuel who teaches Standard Five and Six classes.
The third of five siblings, Samuel said when he arrived at the school, his main aim was to make sure the Orang Asli pupils learnt and spoke English.
"I blended with their style and expressed my creativity. We sang songs, played games and musical instruments.
I emphasised English as a language first, subject second, and following that, many started to look forward to speaking English. I treated the children like my family and helped to build their confidence.
"Since 2013, the passing rate for the English subject at the school is around 80 per cent, compared to 30 per cent previously.
We have produced pupils who scored A's in their Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah.
English is now not alien to the pupils here as many can speak the language. Some parents come to me saying that they are impressed to hear their children sing English songs at home. This certainly inspires me," he added.
Samuel’s unique method of teaching English has since become viral on social media.
The creative teacher had also previously introduced an international e-mail exchange project for his pupils and raised funds to purchase tablets for his classroom.