The Malay College – in the eyes of Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore

In August 2006, a group of of students from Malaysia’s elite school, The Malay College Kuala Kangsar, became guests of the President of Singapore. Accompanied by their host, fellow students from Raffles Institution, they had an audience with the President. Apparently a relationship has been initiated between MCKK and RI, similar to the time tested ties between Vajiravudh College of Bangkok and MCKK. As with VC and MCKK, the game of rugby for the present boys and golf for the oldboys could be the precursor to a lasting relationship more potent than relationship forged among ASEAN citizens.

The Malay College was the breeding ground for Malay nationalism. The illustrious Onn Jaafar, the person responsible in rallying the fight against the Malayan Union was a student of the Malay College. A native after going through The Malay College learned to cast aside his kris and his parochial heritage and began to see his colonial masters as equals. He learned to engage, to debate to reason and to earn the confidence of the political masters. Most significantly it was the place where Malay rulers learned to live as brothers and not as competing warlords as their forefathers have been doing. With unity being demonstrated by the rulers, the obedient rakyats follow.

Post independence, the alumni of the Malay College continue to play leading roles in Malaysia’s development. It has often been said that reading the WHO AND who of the Malay College is like reading the history of Malaysia.

MCKK has been dubbed as eton of the East. Is it really so? Is it comparable to Harrow, or other leading schools of the world? Are its alumnus over-rating themselves? Where is the international recognition, if the wish for world class is aspired?

The 31st August is Malaysia’s National Day. Incidentally, it is also a date when Singapore celebrates its Teachers Day.

On 31st August 2006 Lee Hsien Loong while addressing the Teachers day rally in Singapore, of all things paid tribute to MCKK. He put MCKK in the same league as Eton, Harrow, Geelong.

Below is an excerpt of the text of the speech by LHL. Read on… It is a school that Singapore would love to have.

Over to you Hishamuddin and those in the MOE and also the Malays, my message is please appreciate and continue polishing the jewel that you already have

36. Our third priority is to develop in our young stronger emotional ties to Singapore.

37. We need to get every young Singaporean to identify with Singapore, to know the Singapore story and understand the basic facts about our country. Not just understand but to keep the Singapore story alive, special and help us to write the next chapter. This is important for all of our kids but this is especially important for the kids who can be the leaders in the next generation.

38. We have very high expectations and hopes on them and they have high expectations and hopes on themselves. But what we hope from them is not just that they will be able to do well individually but that they will be able to take Singapore forward and to fulfil all the hopes that Singapore has that they will contribute and they will make others succeed as they have been able to succeed.

39. They come from many schools and in the polytechnics and ITE too. But of course, a disproportionate number of them came from the top schools and Junior Colleges. And we have to pay special attention to make sure that we educate these kids not just intellectually, not just in terms of character but in terms of a sense of responsibility and mission.

40. Many countries do this. So if you look at the best schools overseas, often they will emphasise not just education and academics and also character and leadership development. And it is true in the world all over. In Australia, you have Geelong and Melbourne Grammar School. In Britain, you got Eton and Harrow, elite public schools with that special ethos. In the US, you have Philips Academy at Andover, you have Groton and they also emphasise on character and leadership training. Or in Malaysia, you may have heard of the Malay College of Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) which in the 40s and 50s before and after the war, groomed a whole generation of Malay nationalist leaders, who played a key role fighting for Malay rights when the British were leaving Malaya and Malaya was becoming independent. They fought for their community and race and they stood up and made Malaysia what it is.

41. How do these schools do this? I think there are three or four characteristics which we can study. One, they are boarding schools so the students don’t just attend classes together, but they live together, play together, do sports together, look after one another, older ones taking care of the younger ones. They do this day in and day out, for several formative years, as they grow up, as their characters are formed. So that’s one.

42. Secondly, in the case of American schools, they set their own curricula and they issue their own certificates. And it is independent. So when you go to Philip Andover or Groton, it is what you did in the school which counts, more than what you get on the SAT. And you go to the Ivy League universities, the Ivy League knows the schools’ reputation and they know how to assess what the school masters write in their reports. These schools have established long traditions and high reputations so that they have the freedom to do what they believe is right and maintain those standards and be something special. And therefore they can draw more good students and can innovate further.

43. Our top schools already do quite a number of these things. For example, the NUS High School already issues its own certificate. Some of our independent schools have boarding facilities, although it is only a small part of the experience. And I know for many Singaporean students, it is more comfortable to be staying at home, rather than staying in the schools boarding and making your own beds and doing your own housework.

44. Several of our top schools have well established reputations, internationally and they are definitely moulding the characters of their students. So if you look at somebody from Raffles or ACS or Hwa Chong, you can see the mould of the person, the shape of it, and you know where it has been imprinted. So we have already gone some way in doing this. But I think we should consider what more we can learn from the experience of these top overseas schools, how we can learn from them in order to develop our future leaders better.

45. We don’t want an elite system. But we want an open, inclusive, non-elitist approach. All students can come in who have that talent and that abilities so that we can develop not just character and leadership skills, but also a sense of mission, a sense of readiness to serve. Also to develop a chance to mix together with students from different backgrounds and different races, get to know one another, become friends, do things together, develop a loyalty to that group and therefore feel a group responsibility, a collective responsibility for Singapore.

46. This is something which I know that our top schools are already thinking about and so is MOE. This is a very important part of bonding our students to Singapore. And if we do all this then I think we can develop the next generation of Singaporeans who are committed and able leaders, with citizens who are rooted here and with a shared sense of mission to take care of our country

What do you have to say old boys of the Malay College. What about you teachers and educationists at MOE?. What have you to say citizens of Malaysia/? To the Malays do you know the jewel you already have or are you the monkeys in that Malay proverb, seperti kera dapat bunga, the monkey who begets that  flower?


15 Responses to The Malay College – in the eyes of Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of Singapore

  1. azie says:

    Oh my God! Is this by coincidence or what?
    I was this afternoon at 3pm reading the extract of Mr Lee’s speech in the internet.Before in the morning ,I was searching for it in the net as I knew about MCKK was specifically mentioned in the speech.I wanted to read more particularly about MC and how much the honour she had received in the rally.Telling the truth for the past week, I have been rooted infront of this computer just to find out out more about MCKK .Frankly, lately I have been very obsessed about it eversince I read in a Singapore paper regarding this coalition program between RI and MC. Suddenly, MC becomes a limelight to many educators in Singapore!The Premier is now highlighting MC to the entire nation as the speech appeared in the paper nationwide.The recent visit of six MC students to Singapore to Istana to meet the President became the talk of the town.As I saw those six malay boys in the paper and prime news, I was beeming with pride.I dont know why.
    After reading the extract, I was even contemplating to inset it in the blog.Guess what?To Mr inspigoblog because I knew of his obsession as an Old Boy.So right after dinner at 7pm,I shot straight to the internet and I was caught by surprise in return,it’s already in there by the Mr inspigoblog himself.Well..well..Telepathy worked yah..
    You see why I am obsessed especially after all these limelights in Singapore because I am aiming for my son to study in MC.
    He is an excellent student in his studies gotten straight As though sitting for his UPSR in the hospital due to heavy dengue fever which struck him the night before the first exam started.He sat the exam with raging temperature of 39 degrees. Vommiting after every paper.I was there all throughout, taking care of him, giving him the support and love as a mother would be.I even asked myself why of all the time this fever had to strike him at that very moment.The virus just got him at the wrong time of his entire life.Only God knew the feelings I had to endure looking at him being sicked and yet fighting for his exam.His teachers and Principal came to give him support because Shafiq was being targeted by the school as amongst the top in the exam and yet the dengue struck him.No wonder Shafiq was being honoured in the announcement day.!
    Shafiq studied in national school in the morning (7am-1pm) and went to religious school (3pm-6.30pm) daily.At night he would study for three hours without fail except Saturday.In both schools he was a student leader.In morning school, he was chosen the best scout for the year 2005 which showed the leadership and survival skills he has acquired.He became the class monitor for two consecutive years voted by the students themselves which showed his creditabilty to perform the duty and the trust he had gained from his fellow friends.In religious school, he was a Ketua Badan Kebajikan Pelajar and chosen to lead the entire students for the Yasin recitation on every Thursday and also to become the Imam to lead every Asar prayer in the school mosque.
    During the UPSR result announcement,as his name was mentioned by the principal to have achieved the 5As, thunderous applaud from the crowd amongst the students and teachers filled up the air in the hall.Suddenly, everybody was cheering and calling for his name.I was too shocked that I cried as I did’nt realise my son was being well-liked by so many people in the school.His principal specifically honoured him as an examplary student who excelled in the exam despite being very sickedl in the hospital.At that moment, the surge of pride in me as a mother to this boy engulfed my entire vein.The feeling was fullfilment!!!
    Shafiq is now in Batu Pahat high school and is in the top class after passing a vigorous aptitude test.
    I truly believed Shafiq has got the criteria as sought by MCKK.MC is our preference as we believe Shafiq can grow and nurture to excel as a Malay, Muslim student given the right environment and opportunity and MC has the ground for that.Shafiq deserves to be in MC like his mate, the head boy.
    However now, I am very disappointed.Shafiq was still not offered to MC even after the appeal letter that my husband and I had forwarded to Datuk Seri Hishamuddin himself and even after noted to him the above criteria that Shafiq acquires.The result was out this morning.I immediately called the Ketua Pengarah of unit SBP.But out in Pahang and only be back tommorrow.I managed to talk to the second man and inquired what exactly is being sought from a student other than academic.He said leadership skills and CCA achievement.I thought my son has got that and yet he was being denied a chance.He said competition was too stiff yet I could still reappeal.
    I am frustrated.Very, very frustrated.I know my son too is disappointed.
    RI is a preimier school in Singapore and it allows direct entry without going through the ministry so long as a student fullfil its criteria.I am not sure about MC .I will call MC to ask about it.I was told by the second man just now that after this intake,entrance depends on kekosongan availabled.
    I’m going to call MC tommorow or you know what I’m thinking right now…to travel to Putrajaya on Wed to meet up this people..that people…and to MC at KK to see the Principal himself.If that is what it takes , I’m all determined to do it!!!!

  2. ~anony says:


    am humbled by the determination in your words to secure your son a place in MCKK. any progress? suggest you try calling MCOBA as well. if they buy in to your plight, someone might be able to help. lookup who is who at call them at 03-22746306. office hours only, i think. don’t give up!

  3. dannalli says:

    true enough its not only fulfilment of the criteria but greatly depending on the availability as the place is limited. You managed to speak to Principal today as you mentioned? Put a note to me, as I need to know on the development. You need all the luck !!!

  4. pezze says:

    I met your son when we were in BP recently during the tahlil. We stayed overnight at your maktok’s house. I truly admire both your sons Syafiq & Shahid. They are great boys.
    My son Adam, had a good time with both of them. He looks ups to them. I liked the way Shahid treated that little girl, I think Wajiha is her name?
    Tell Syafiq to keep up the good work, MCKK or not.

  5. pezze says:

    The whole education system needs an overhaul. Damage has been done for about 2 decades. Time to put it right. The new national education blueprint however doesn’t promise much.
    Time to put pride in schools again, not just MCKK, but MCKK can be used as an example. Sek. Kebangsaan Bukit Jelutong or Sek. Keb. Kota Damansara need to have the same kind of pride in their schools. Again, we don’t have to look far, pick the best examples from Singapore and Australia. And think.

  6. azie says:

    Hai eveybody,
    I am very touched with all the concern and kind words.Thank you very much with all the support.I talked to my son just now.”Shafiq, do you still want to go to MC? Or you are happy now in high school?” He gave a deep thought.I continued to ask him again”You see..if you still want to be in MC, then I will fight for you.” He looked straight at me and asked “Can I really go?”.I said”Never give up!”.

    Anyway, I did call MC but probably due to long weekend approaching , my mission not accomplished.But I did send an email to the President of MCOBA notifying him of my son’s unsuccessful plight to MC with the hope of seeking his support and every possible assistance that he could render.I am really looking forward to hear from him.

  7. mazlan says:

    Here’s another view. I hope Shafiq will find this helpful and inspire him further in achieving excellence. Just don’t despair if u are not selected to join MCKK. Places are limited, and if u are not selected, that doesn’t mean u are not good enough. That girl with 17As was not from MCKK. A diamond will not lose its shine, throw it anywhere! Be broad minded, it’s hardwork and dedication that drive success, not a school’s namesake.

    I am a MCOB, but I put my 2 boys in Royal Military College (RMC). right after UPSR. The system is well established there, discipline is strict and they churn boys into gentlemen. Iam not belittling my alma-mater MCKK, but highlighting the choices available apart from MCKK.

    My 2 boys both scored straights A’s in UPSR, and in RMC both scored straight A’s in PMR. Besides both excel in sports, representing the state (KL) and malaysian trials in cricket. Both are cagers (basketballers), swimmers etc,etc. They got their share of ‘life’ outside the classrooms, on the fields and they are ‘hardened’ militarily. Outdoor adventure activities- mountain climbing, kayaking, camping,military training and outward bound school are in their curriculum- grooming towards PERSONALITY and LEADERSHIP. They are now in forms 5 and 4 respectively.

    So just don’t despair. there are alternatives.

  8. sigoblog says:

    From the text of this speech we know that it is the thought of a great leader, one who is able to articulate a vision and pen it down. You know that it is not the work of a speech writer or spin doctors.

    Having seen and experienced many schools in Malaysia both private and public I come to the conclusion that for the budget that it gets, MCKK is a school that is in a class of its own. KTJ with a budget which is 10 times bigger may come close but not yet.

    Imagine the budget for MCKK is doubled. Imagine MCKK with an IB or pre university program. Imagine MCKK with an international flavors giving opportunitity for cross cultural and international linkages. Something similar to that envisioned by YM Raja Nazrin.

    The Malays must realize that MCKK is a malay institution, a Malay jewel in in the crown. The best malays must be given the best. Entry must be strictly on merit. MCKK is proof that if the MALAYS subscribe to meritocracy even amongst themselves they can take on the world.

    To the old boys your agenda should be to make MCKK be the pride of all Malays. All Malays must take ownership of MCKK.MCKK must be the pride of RajaRaja Melayu. MCKK must be the pride of UMNO, Pas, Keadilan. MCKK must be the pride of MOE under Hisham. Now that it is a national heritage it must be made a treasure that creates more treasures.
    MCOBA alone will not be able to do it.. MCOBA needs all the help. MCOBA must facilitate and must NOT be seeen as on who tries to hijack it.

    The love for MCKK as a Malay institution must transcend parochial, other old schools ties, feelings. I therefore welcome the new Exec sec of MCOBA who I understand come from SDAR. A way forward is perhaps to invite men of excellence to be honorary members of MCOBA. They may come from anywhere in the world from which ever school. Remember MCKK is a national institution not just serving the interests of MOE or MCOBA.

  9. azie says:

    One needs to travel to Singapore and studies their education system. I dare say their standard is world class. When the Prime Minister honours MCKK similar to those highly prominent schools of the world, Malaysians not just ex MCKK ought to be very proud and honoured. The six MCKK boys who went became the ambassadors for the college, the MoE and Malaysia.
    I am not Malaysian. I was not eduacted here neither do Ihave anything to do with MCKK. I am not bias for nothing towards MC neither am I prejudice against any other schools here in Malaysia. Yet I envisage the values that Mr Lee look upon MC. Mr Lee and other Primiers before him have successfully brought up Singapore’s education level as what it is today. Yet still wanting to learn and emulate other good values from other good schools around the world so that their schools continue to progress and progress.
    Though Raffles can be regarded as world class school due to its international recognition and achievements, still Raffles is humble enough to learn and link with MCKK because Raffles is aware all this while MCKK is the melting pot of the Malay jewels who out in the truly real world have stood up and fought for their beliefs, rights. MC students carry with them the sense of pride as Malays and as citizens of Malaysia who have contibuted so much to make Malaysia what it is today.
    So Malaysians..look at MCKK from all those angles mentioned above.

  10. azie says:

    My experiences as a lecturer preparing US-bound JPA / MARA scholars gave me an insight of the product of the Malaysian school system. These are what I discovered, about boys from MC :

    1. very palyful yet they deliverd their work beyond expectation.
    2. not afraid or shy to speak and act their minds no matter how stupid it may be, thus always made my class interactive enough.
    3. not hesitant to call my name to say “hi Puan” or to sit with me for coffee together whenever they spotted me at the cafeteria while many students preferred to shun away and be within themselves.
    4. very patriotic towards their almamater that they personally requested from me for permission to miss one Friday lesson so as to travel back to KK to join their whatever old boys event was that. Because of their pesistence, I had to conduct a make-up class just for this bunch of boys and they did come in full swing with none escaped, a condition which they fullfilled before being allowed to leave for KK.
    5. the craziest and the noisiest I ever knew of in class yet they were the ones who proceeded to top US universities

    While I studied in UK, I did get to know ex MC boys because they were the ones who held this post, that post as student leaders. They seemed to be running about here and there like crazy people leading various activities thus making other students’ life of much joy and fun. Some became very pious and yet charasmatic enough to be called as ustaz for others to look upon as.
    You see… my point is I have taught and met students from MC in the real world. the school must have done something right.

  11. proud2bjawa says:

    sekolah mana2 pun bagus, janji score the best result.. teringat seorg lecturer berpangkat profesor pernah berkata kt kelas aku, permulaan yg baik blm tentu menghasilkan seseorg yg baik dan begitulah yg sebaliknya. aku belajar dr sekolah kampung, naik basikal je pergi sekolah pernah satu kelas masa matrikulasi dgn seorg Tokoh Kanak-kanak 1980-an yg juga bekas pelajar Seri Puteri…Dan sekarang aku berbangga sudah berada di landasan yg betul walaupun dari stesyen yg mungkin hampir roboh di pandangan org…Alhamdulillah!

  12. inspigoblog says:

    I assume proud2bjawa is a teacher. She is a happy teacher. My advice is for her not to be contented with the what she has achieved and also with the quality of deliverables and the environment she is in. To excell she needs to benchmark herself with the BEST in the WORLD. That is what The Malay College is all about. If we have all teachers following this route, to adopt BEST in the WORLD standards, we are in for a glorious future.

  13. proud2bjawa says:

    actually i agree with that the best is deserved for the best and agree that The Malay College is the best school among the others. but we still have alternative, even not the best one but not too bad,the comfortable place for our children to study or so on. the scheme still remain the same, the same PMR and SPM paper.just the brand maybe..Oh..ini beg Guess, jam Rolex..The world just look at “the best” sebab mungkin tak kenal yg lain2 lagi. i just respect to the student that came from i-don’t-know-what-school-are-you-studied-before but score straight As with the highest mark as well, an active one, respect the olds and others and struggle,achieve his/her target to the right point. (Azahari the BEST terrorist that was THE BEST in making bomb was studied at THE BEST SCHOOL, kn? sorry la kalau salah! Hik!) look at Armalina, eventhough she was studied at what school uh..?! SMK Ulu Tiram? did world know that school? and now she got the BEST oppurtunity to further her study becoz of her brain,talent and usaha..Rezeki masih ada di mana2 janji kita hendak berusaha..If Azie still thinking her son should deserve the best one, ok..Keep going and good luck!

  14. azie says:

    Miss or Mrs Proud2bjawa must have missed the point here. Regarding the girl from SMK Ulu Tiram, JB who scored the perfect 17AS…well at that time of this limelight, I was staying in JB and got the chance to know a teacher from that school. She’s the wife to my husband’s friend in Ulu Tiram. Like any others, I was curious to know how this girl was really in school, how did she do it. Here goes:
    This girl was after UPSR selected to TKC but rejected cause as an only daughter would prefer to be with her divorced mom in JB. She chose SMK Ulu Tiram as that’s the nearest to her home. Well..that’s her choice to be question to that. The point is according to this teacher who personally knew her..this girl is indeed born smart aleck..very-very intelligent..she is born with the brain to study…high scorer all the way…thus no doubt the very fine performance in the national exam.
    I personally feel..wherever she goes to school..TKC or Ulu Tiram or MCKK if she is he…with the gifted brain she owns, she will just SCORE GILER. Amalina is indeed born crafted diamond with the ability to study and score…thrown elsewhere or any where, she will still shine and sparkle. She is gifted. This category of students does exist with many examples we have known of. concern and my point is…are our children born gifted to study as excellent as Amalina. I know my children better than anybody. I am humbled enough to say they are ordinary..not as gifted as Amalina. They dont have the accelerated brain as Amalina’s. I dont see them taking 17 subjects like Amalina. They are like my others who struggle to study.. struggle against peer distractions, struggle against hectic schedule and what not…they struggle to excell as a person not just be the best in whatever they do. Amalina is a case once in a million perhaps..while my children represent many other ordinary children..who happen to grow to live up to their expectations…expectation towards excellence…not mediocrity.
    My children are not born crafted diamond like Amalina. however, they are no doubt born a diamond stone like any other many-many children..waited to be crafted by the right craftor and the right tool. As parents and to other parents too..thus it is our job to find that craftor and that this piece of diamond stone you own will glitter and sparkle at the right angle of craftmanship bringing its priceless value that only ” jauhari mengenal manikamnya”.
    I dont believe in just scoring the best result which implies here the academic…that wont make you the BEST of a person. Straight As is not the point here. What is paramount here is the quest to seek for holistic excellence…excellent in the way you think..speak..respond.. react…contirbute…..behave…and many more. We need to find every opportunity, ground and platform towards this growth.
    My boy is now in a day school ie. Batu Pahat High School..frankly..I wouldn’t mind that..knowing that I have high regards for this school which does also excell. But whats wrong as a parent to seek for other possible platform which provides the extra characters that this school cant offer such as the boarding sytem, the autonomy, the international name a few and up to this moment MCKK has gotten that. We are not talking about luck here..instead..its entirely based on belief and principle plus the GUT to fight for what you believe in true meaning of excellence. Then the rest is Tawakkal to Allah.
    Should each and every one of us be this…then..not only MCKK or TKC or other boarding being the best…all schools in the country will be the best..and no doubt our education system is on its way to the world class gateway!So..who children..your children..everybody’s children!

    Perhaps..this should be the goal.

  15. Definitely I am for one must agree that with Hsien Loong, on the basis that we need the best cream of students like MC or RI be it in Malaysia or Singapore to lead a normal life but be a leader that command respect.

    Development of such school is vital for the country to survive in this time of ever changing.Every student of this type of school of thought must realise that one must think and behave well enough to ensure progress in the field they want to excel.

    Elitist cannot supersede to excellence nor outstanding cannot be opptunist, is what I believe the ‘garam masala’ for these school to excel and churn-out the best students to be the best leaders of tomorrow.

    The support for such school should extend to the ordinary citizen to take a look on how, we as citizen can contribute to nation building through ‘educate’ our own children to look-up and take aim upon such school to ensure admittance into that school’s cohort.

    MC and RI are here to stay, and that I believe.

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