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?