Prof. Dr. Yeo Kee Jiar spearheaded a project with Penerbitan Pelangi Sdn. Bhd to develop a preschool program suitable for 21st century learning. The development of the program began in 2017 and involved close collaboration between Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) lecturers and Pelangi officers led by Prof. Dr. Yeo Kee Jiar and assisted by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Azlina Mohd Kosnin.
A few lecturers from School of Education, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities (FSSH), were appointed based on their interest in childhood education such as: For Science, Dr. Corrienna Abdul Talib and Puan Marlina Ali; Mathematics, Dr. Norulhuda Ismail and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Abdul Halim Abdullah; English, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zubaidah Awang, Dr. Fauziah Ismail, Dr. Azian Abd Aziz @ Ahmad and Dr. Aminabibi Saidalvi.
Co-published by Penerbitan Pelangi Sdn. Bhd. and Dickens Publishing Ltd, the program employs a Montessori approach to learning. Coined i-LEAP which means I Learn through the 5E’s and Play with the tagline ‘Make Way for Play’, the program instills learning basic Science and Mathematics skills and English language competency suitable for children aged 3-6 years old through a fun hands-on approach centering on play-based activity.
The development of the kindergarten program began with the construction of the framework and curriculum for learning, and visualizing suitable activities for preschool children. It then progressed to designing the workbook, activities, storybook and teacher’s guides which included a thorough vetting and proofreading process of each of the materials. The content of each subject is integrated with the 5E’S phases of teaching and learning and 5i’s which are interactive, imaginative, innovative and impactful. In particular, Science and Mathematics also integrate STEAM activities into its content.
The development of the program ended in 2018 and was officially launched in mid-2019 at Pelangi 40th Anniversary Dinner with good reception from its team. All the course and activity books that covered from nursery to two levels of kindergarten are sold in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand and promotion is ongoing in Vietnam since the beginning of 2020.
Currently, Prof. Yeo Kee Jiar, Dr. Corrienna Abdul Talib, Dr. Aminabibi Saidalvi and Dr. Norulhuda Ismail are selected to be the spokesperson to train kindergarten teachers all over Malaysia and Indonesia in the use of i-LEAP. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the training has turned to available on online medium with enthusiastic response from participants.
Overall, more than 4,000 kindergarten teachers from Malaysia and Indonesia have received the i-LEAP training through face-to-face and online workshops. So far, workshops and courses were well received by the participants who stated that the sessions were fruitful, inspiring, and has allowed them to gain more knowledge of alternative teaching approaches. In the end, it is hoped that the i-LEAP program will be employed in kindergartens throughout countries in the Southeast Asian region.
Written by: Norulhuda Ismail & Yeo Kee Jiar