Grooming champions of heritage
When the Global Indian International School (GIIS) donated towards anexhibition at the Indian Heritage Centre, they showed their students what it meansto practice a strong philosophy of giving.
Rohit Ambekar, the Director of Business & Strategy at GIIS.Photo credit: Anabelle Liang
“The Global Indian International School (GIIS) believes that expatriates arepart of its multi-faceted heritage, hence they should upkeep Singapore's socialfabric,” said Rohit Ambekar, Director of Business & Strategy for GIIS.
The overarching Global Schools Foundation has educated numerous expatriatechildren, from Kindergarten to Class 12 since its origin in 2002, and presently has 15,000 students across all its campuses globally.
Students from 42 nationalities study in its three campuses, located inQueenstown, Balestier and East Coast in Singapore. GIIS has a global footprint inseven countries - Singapore, India, Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand andUAE.
“Our core curriculum is Indian and our roots are embedded in Indian culture andheritage. But, our education system is more pluralistic than that,” Mr Ambekarexplained.
Among other goals, GIIS hopes to instil a respect for universal values andethics, which is “very much in tune with multiculturalism and the coexistence ofdifferent races in Singapore,” he said.
With this in mind, GIIS made a generous donation in support of the IndianHeritage Centre's ‘Once Upon a Time in Little India’ exhibition last year. It runsuntil 21st July 2017.
“We wanted to be associated with the Indian culture at a deeper level.Intuitively, you would think that labelling something as an Indian exhibition isdivisive. But, it's actually very beautiful,” said Mr Ambekar.
“When the Indian culture came to Singapore, it was hybridised with the otherpredominant Chinese and Malay cultures. The exhibition showcases the contributionsof Indians with a uniquely Singapore spin,” he added.
The exhibition tells the story of Little India – a cultural enclave for theSouth Asian community – through photographs, artefacts, and contemporary artinstallations.
It features the works of filmmaker K. Rajagopal, and artists Kumari Nahappanand Navin Rawanchaikul. Groups of GIIS students have visited the exhibition.
Elements of gamification and virtual reality, found in the centre, keptstudents engaged. “They put a very interesting, modern spin on heritage issues,”Mr Ambekar said.
“The feedback has been great. Students loved the exhibition and the IndianHeritage Centre. And, of course, being young children, they enjoyed the day out aswell,” he shared.
Mr Ambekar, who has visited museums around the world, was just as impressedwith the centre's larger-than-life LED wall. While moving between galleries,visitors can get closer to colourful displays of Indian icons andarchitecture.
“I'm a modern tech geek,” quipped Mr Ambekar. “I appreciate the amount ofthought that's gone into the minutiae, in creating something which is just onepart of an overall exhibition.”
Like many institutions, GIIS hopes to be a role model for the young. This meansthe school focuses on more than academics. Its curriculum includes sports, problemsolving and community service.
“We're a platform that allows young people to shape their future. If someonewants to become an entrepreneur, we help them. If someone wants to teach ordedicate their lives to volunteer work, we help with that,” Mr Ambekar said.
“I'd like to think that the leaders of tomorrow are going to need much morethan good results,” he added.
Still, more can be done to get the young excited about heritage. The ongoingdialogue between schools and key stakeholders is a good start, Mr Ambekarsaid.
He added that students may enjoy visiting other museums and heritage sites, andwalking along historical stretches of Singapore, such as Boat Quay.
A culture of giving
To recognise its contributions, GIIS will receive one of this year's Patron ofHeritage Awards in May.
“On the most basic level, contributing creates awareness. Philanthropy is partof our DNA, being owned by a foundation, so we will continue to do so,” said MrAmbekar.
“We try to imbibe that kind of giving philosophy in our students as well. So,when they grow up in their own spheres, as they become successful, they will thinkabout others and not entirely about themselves,” he added.
The school hopes to continue giving more than dollars and cents. “I'd like tosee us engaging (with heritage) in a deeper way. This is something that willevolve over time,” Mr Ambekar said.
“It's our belief that we are a core part of the Indian heritage of Singapore.By offering Indians a continuity of education, we have enabled a funnel of Indianexpatriates to come and contribute to the economy.”
By ANNABELLE LIANG