2 Malaysian Schools Among Top 10 Shortlists For World’s Best School Prizes

Two inspirational Malaysian schools have been named in the Top 10 shortlists for the $250,000 (MYR 1,153,500.00) World’s Best School Prizes. The five World’s Best School Prizes, founded last year by T4 Education in collaboration with Yayasan Hasanah, Accenture, American Express, and the Lemann Foundation, are the world’s most prestigious education prizes.

Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Permai, a government primary school in Bayan Baru, Penang, Malaysia, which has developed an ingenious way to ease the heavy burden of the bags students carry on their backs, has been named in the Top 10 shortlist for the World’s Best School Prize for Innovation.

Sekolah Kebangsaan Kanchong Darat, a government primary school in Banting, Selangor, Malaysia, which has become a beacon of resilience with its Great Mind, Healthy Citizens project boosting attendance and tackling obesity, has been named in the Top 10 shortlist for the World’s Best School Prize for Supporting Healthy Lives.

Dato’ Shahira Ahmed Bazari, Founding Trustee & Managing Director of Yayasan Hasanah, said, “Congratulations to the remarkable teachers and students of Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Permai and Sekolah Kebangsaan Kanchong Darat for their well-deserved inclusion in the Top 10 shortlists of the World’s Best School Prizes 2023.

“Hasanah is immensely proud to sponsor this prestigious prize for the second year. In a world where more young people yearn for purpose and aspire to create positive change, these schools stand as beacons of inspiration. This recognition not only showcases the exceptional calibre of Malaysia’s schools but also signifies a significant stride towards a progressive society, where educators and young people play a pivotal role in shaping our shared future.” 

Vikas Pota, Founder of T4 Education and the World’s Best School Prizes, said, “The schools shortlisted for the World’s Best School Prizes, no matter where they can be found or what they teach, all have one thing in common. They all have a strong school culture. Their leaders know how to attract and motivate exceptional educators, inspire change, and build excellent teaching and learning environments.

“I must congratulate Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Permai and Sekolah Kebangsaan Kanchong Darat on being named in the Top 10 shortlists for the World’s Best School Prizes 2023. Schools across the globe will learn from the story of these trailblazing Malaysian institutions and the culture they have cultivated.”

The five World’s Best School Prizes – for Community Collaboration, Environmental Action, Innovation, Overcoming Adversity, and Supporting Healthy Lives – celebrate schools everywhere for the pivotal role they play in developing the next generation of learners and for their enormous contribution to society’s progress, especially in the wake of COVID. The Prizes were established to share the best practices of schools that are transforming the lives of their students and making a real difference to their communities.

About the schools:

Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Permai, a government primary school in Bayan Baru, Penang, Malaysia, has innovated to ease one of the heaviest burdens its students carry: the weighty bags on their backs that risk their health. Through its ingenious Smart n Easy Table 2.0 (SnET 2.0), which provides additional compartments to desks, including lockers, water bottles and stationery compartments, and bag storage space under each table, the school has seen an increase in homework submissions from 54% to an impressive 91%, along with corresponding school performance, due to improved student wellbeing.


An initial survey showed that SK Seri Permai school students’ bags weighed on average 7 to 10 kg, or more than one-third of their body weight. This heavy load is common to all young students throughout the region and, to put it into perspective, is similar to an 80 kg male having to carry 32 kg on his back every day.  Similarly, active soldiers are only expected to carry 27 kg. To make matters worse, over 65% of SK Seri Permai’s students travel to school on the back of a motorcycle, weaving in and out of heavy traffic, jeopardising their safety.


The school abandoned early options like traditional lockers due to cost and limited space in the classrooms and turned instead to its own workshop to help develop a specialised desk. After several prototypes, the school unveiled the SnET 2.0 desk which, among other features, included lockers for the two school session “shifts”, reducing the average bag weight from 10 kg to a mere 2.5 kg, as students only needed to take home the books they needed for their homework. Students’ performance and motivation immediately soared, with increased engagement and productivity, along with a sense of ownership and pride in their individual space.


Sekolah Kebangsaan Kanchong Darat, a government primary school in Banting, Selangor, Malaysia, has become a beacon of resilience with its Great Mind, Healthy Citizens project. Amidst the challenges during the COVID-19 lockdown, the school took bold steps to empower its students and uplift the entire community’s physical, emotional, and spiritual health, resulting in an 18% drop in obesity rates and countless stories of renewed student wellbeing.


Situated in a rural area outside Kuala Lumpur, SK Kanchong Darat’s students are predominantly from farming families and other labour-intensive jobs. The COVID-19 lockdown led to socio-economic hardships, which resulted in unhealthy routines and emotional distress, with some students experiencing anxiety and depression.


To address the situation, the school developed the Great Mind, Healthy Citizens initiative that integrated the curriculum, student affairs, and co-curricular elements, and that focused comprehensively on physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing.


The project’s physical focus involved a jump rope programme, which eventually turned into a popular sport among students and positioned the school as a leader in jump rope competitions and demonstrations. The school also invested in upgrading its physical environment, including a mini gymnasium and wheelchair-accessible toilets, fostering inclusivity and wellbeing. Additionally, the school redesigned some of its spaces along biophilic design principles, earning international recognition for creating a healthy and comfortable learning environment.


The school also prioritised intellectual and spiritual support, organising health talks and health check-ups, and running a Blessed Food programme. This food provision for families in need during the pandemic evolved to a breakfast programme – as a reflection of the school’s commitment to community. These efforts extended to providing tuition and religious classes to children at an orphanage shelter, nurturing holistic development and fostering a supportive community.


SK Kanchong Darat has been recognised for its efforts, earning awards for its upgraded physical environment and its implementation of biophilic design principles. More important than that, however, has been the 16% increase in student attendance, along with many inspiring stories of increased student wellbeing.


The Top 3 finalists for each of the five World’s Best School Prizes will be announced in September 2023 followed by the winners in October. The winner of each Prize will be chosen based on rigorous criteria by a Judging Academy comprising distinguished leaders across the globe including academics, educators, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, government, civil society, and the private sector.


A prize of US$250,000 will be equally shared among the winners of the five Prizes, with each receiving an award of US$50,000.

All 50 shortlisted schools will be invited to share their best practices through events on the T4 Communities app or School Transformation Toolkits that showcase their “secret sauce” to innovative approaches and step-by-step instructions on how others can replicate their methods to help improve education everywhere.

The School Transformation Toolkits from last year’s winning and shortlisted schools are now available online.

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