I cannot help heaving a heavy sigh every time I read the catch word ‘world-class’ related to Malaysian education. We read and hear how we establish schools, colleges, universities and all at nothing less than of world-class. But when our universities slipped in position to below 200 world ranking, we would rather claim that the yardstick was not suitable to be used to assess our education - the great ‘world-class’ of our own.
The standard of English has deteriorated so badly that we had to import Americans, Australians, Indians and all – and yet here in this country are still thousands of experienced teachers who made the standard of English among Malaysians admired and envied by many countries, and who are prepared to return to class-rooms to lend a hand today, if only they are being approached. Of course most of them do not have Masters, let alone PhD’s. Many were awarded simple Diplomas but with knowledge and experience enough to teach our new PhD holders.
On 17th August I found something of interest to read in NST. “Towards world-class and quality education” ran the heading. It talked about the nation’s education system which “will continue to experience transformation for the next 13 (thirteen) years through the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 …..” I wonder if this ‘blue print’ is closely akin to the very familiar ‘road-map’ in the Middle-East conflict with road designed by the super powers to end up in the arid desert sand. So I said “Ha, Ha !” instead to suppress my heavy sigh.
Two days earlier NST, in its SPOTLIGHT, carried the story of Victoria Institution, the oldest school which celebrated its 120th anniversary.
Often referred to as VI, this school nearly had its name changed, once to Sekolah Menengah Victoria and on the second time to Sekolah Menengah Jalan Hang Tuah. Many would probably question the resistance to change. Why should we continue to keep the name which, after all, commemorated the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria ? How could we try to make Malaysians imbibe loyalty to Malaysia as long as we keep them reminded of our humble days? To make us truly Malaysians, if need be, we must remove traces that remind us of colonial days to reflect our current world-class stature. We have done many changes, the likes of Batu Road, Jalan Mountbatten, Telok Anson, Port Swettenham, Jesselton and so on !
Because VI has managed to maintain a lot of its traditional ‘Britishness’, it is today, probably, one school in our country unequalled in its all-roundedness, from academic to discipline, games and all. Given that small autonomy, the Principle and members of staff have continued to uphold the school’s dignified performance and achievement in many fields. The school does not take pride in all A’s. No, but it is among the best in many areas, the boy Scouts, school football team, societies etc. It is a Malaysian school that can claim to be a world champion school band. Its alumni consist of many notables, not to mention Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the five top richest men in Malayisa, ministers, sportsmen, and if I may also rope in Awang Goneng ( lawyer, journalist and author of the bestseller AMap of Terengganu of Trengganu ) who makes his occasional appearance here.
Personally it is my regret that I failed to get into this prestigious school to do my Higher School Certificate ( the present STPM) way back in 1956 and, instead, had to be satisfied with SJI ( St John’s Institution ), a close rival of VI’. So I failed to have my name in ‘also there’ league of ex VI. Fortunately I can breathe easy because, today, in some devious way I have a link to that school. I will save this story for one of my future entries. So, despite all these, I can still draw a sigh of relief.
Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk Kemanusiaan