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Monday, June 29, 2009

The irony

Najib on a tour of the school that "had provided him the sound grounding which eventually made him the prime minister of Malaysia."

He is the Prime Minister of a country. I am not. I am the product of a mission school, St. Michael's Institution, Ipoh. Back in the days when I was taught by dedicated, qualified Christian teaching brothers of the order of De La Salle. They came from Ireland, England, Scotland, Burma. Dressed in their white cotton robes. With only 1 mission. To teach and educate. Malaysians of all colours and creeds went to mission schools. Nobody was afraid of being converted or robbed of their faith because the teaching brothers had, in the words of our prime minister, "...a special ethos which promote(d) unity...". But not at the expense of education standards. Sadly, in my opinion the heydays of the mission schools role in Malaysian education are long over. Dismantled by an over-zealous administration on the pretext of nationalism, patriotism and the unshackling of colonial ties and tempered by the irrational heat of discrimination. When I re-visit my alma mater I cannot help but feel a sadness as I witness an almost complete transformation of S.M.I. into ... just another sekolah jenis kebangsaan. A national-type school. Just like any other although allowed to retain a name that is sooooo un-Malaysian!

And so it was not with a tinge of sadness and irony that I laughed upon reading the recent story of Najib Razak on his visit to his alma mater, St. John's Institution, Kuala Lumpur. Where he acknowledged that his alma mater "had provided him the sound grounding which eventually made him the prime minister of Malaysia". He might indeed have been the last of the lucky Malaysians to have benefitted from an education provided by the then mission schools.

“The ethos of mission schools shaped the values and beliefs of students which is in line with 1 Malaysia", he said. And so even used his visit to his alma mater to continue to sell his mystifying concept of 1Malaysia.

And I presume that after the handshakes, the speeches and the march past by the school band it is back to business as usual.......Whether it is English or BM to teach Math and Science......Whether Umno is more Islamic than PAS or not? Not much time left to cultivate the ethos that shaped values and beliefs that are in line with whatever, is there? Anyway, by his own admission he only spent 3 years of secondary school in St. John's. So I guess most of his values and beliefs were shaped somewhere else.



Alexander El said...

Politicians and their incoming political well-sounding speeches, mah? What to expect, Uncle? They must have their newly-coined "slogans" when they come in, mah. From "bersih, cekap, amanah" of TDM to "work with me, not for me""Islam Hadhari"(whatever that means till today, no one knows or bother to know) of TunSleepy to "1Malaysia Peoplefirst, Performance Now" and now "ethos...blah, blah,blah". What do you expect, Uncle?I always told my children that there are 3 types of people whom you mustn't trust with their empty promises and bigtalk:car salesmen, insurance salesmen and politicions.

TP said...

Hi pat.. I am a proud ex Johannian. Unfortunately, I don't think there are many of us are overly proud of the fact that he shares the same alma mater.
I am quite curious to see where he goes with his 1Malaysia concept.

giam2020 said...

Our education system has gone down the drain.I spent 9 years of my best
schooling days in a mission school.
Overzealous education administrators
have taken over the mission school
and created a mess.My daughters are still studying in a so called mission
school in name only.After having taken over the hm post (use to be
reserved for those of christian faith)they claim that the school is
not a fully government aided school because the land is still
held by the mission, hence parents are expected to contribute
to help the school defray expenses.I refuse to give because as a tax payer, I expect education
to be fully funded by the government of the day.

ex-SJI said...

Hello Mr. Teoh,

I am also an ex-Johannian. I am proud of my school for the impressive list of Malaysians who studied here. Among them, I admire your fellow colleagues in performing arts like Adflin Shauki, Harith Iskander and Hans Isaac. The other person is Malaysia's "backup astronaut" (the other fler who din go space la). And when people ask me which secondary school I received my education in, I am always proud to say 'St. John's Institution'.

However, since a few years back after becoming more politically aware (I am 19), I have stopped mentioning Najib and Hishamuddin in my list of ex-Johannians who are 'successful'.

Totally agree with TP on this.

Anonymous said...

in my letter box , i found :
pamphlet selling ' hause hole items going cheap !'

Enigman said...

I am an ex-Johannian too. During my time there (1983-1987) the school still managed to retain its glory and reputation as the premier school in KL with its awesome Cadet Band and dedicated teachers.
Many of my school teachers migrated overseas after 1987 and at first I didn't know why. Then it occurred to me that maybe they know something I don't. Their departure from SJI (I'm sure many were sad to leave) is proof enough of everything that's gone wrong in Malaysia. Perhaps they knew at that time what Malaysia would be like 20-30 years down the road.
Nevertheless, I'm still very grateful for their dedication & effort in instilling discipline, good ethics & integrity in their students. Unfortunately, Najib must have been asleep/absent during this time :(

Ex-Johannian 2 said...

Count me in on the list of ex-Johannians ashamed of being associated with the "grounded" politicians and their kakis. The dude who sold illegal stuff to Iraq via his Pakistani honcho is also an ex-Johannian...

Then again, apparently the last Brother Director at SJI was disrobed...

Faith & Zeal...sigh...

ycg said...

bullshit! In Bolehland, his chances of becoming PM has been decided even before his father's sperm met any ovum. The only question is how long he can be up there.

Anonymous said...


Najib said “The ethos of mission schools shaped the values and beliefs of students which is in line with 1 Malaysia". So for his 1 Malaysia to work, the lack-of-Education Minister should follow Najib's words of wisdom and convert all schools to missionary schools (medium of instruction in English) with immediate effect.

That's killing two birds with one stone: achieving success of 1 Malaysia and improving standard of English.

What say you?

Anonymous said...

To Alexander El,

"I always told my children that there are 3 types of people whom you mustn't trust with their empty promises and bigtalk:car salesmen, insurance salesmen and politicions."

Why generalise? There are trustworthy car salesmen, insurance agents & politicians. Teaching children somemore....???

Anonymous said...

I share your dissapointment and sadness of what has become of SMI as well.

Gone are the days where we can be proud to be from a "Brother's" school of calibre.

monsterball said...

ACS or "American Cock Suckers" but really is Anglo-Chinese School..a missionary school in Malacca.. was where I was educated.
They produced alot of gangsters..street fighters and much more successful men..than the ...above two.
Being educated in a Missionary school like Pat...we are taught to stand on our own two feet..with dignity and pride.

Anonymous said...

I am also a by product of La Salle schools. Strong Mens' Institution.I mixed around freely with Zainal, Kenny Tang and Kumaran those days and it was a natural thing to do. The Brothers of SMI inculcated this spirit of togetherness in us throughout our 11 or 13 years of our lives. Nobody complained about race relation by students, teachers or even parents. I wonder why do we have to have National Service for our children to mix around and get to know each other better.

Mmm... I wonder what would happen if those Brothers were to enter politics and hence, our future looks better. With politicians around, things get messier.

Anonymous said... need to elaborate on how missionary school have helped.

OKT ( previous MCA No.1 man )and current prominent Bukit Bintang MP also from Catholic High School PJ )

Missionary school produces MANUSIA of all standards.....

To gain access to Catholic High School PJ, you have to buy your way through......And now, the school is very much a SEKOLAH KEBANGSAAN...

What say you ??

Anonymous said...

"I always told my children that there are 3 types of people whom you mustn't trust with their empty promises and bigtalk:car salesmen, insurance salesmen and politicions."

There is irresposible people in all industries and trade, you really don't need to buy a house ( Highland tower developer), seek legal redress (if you need one), don't even have to vote ( not that many good politician)

No need to eat vege ( pesticide), no need to eat noodle ( Boric acid)

You don't belongs to a modern society requiring and tolerating changes and adaptation.......

The best is to move to the inner part of Sabah and Sarawak where you can grow your own vege, rear your own cattle and be self sufficient.....

PLEASE RETRACT YOUR STATEMENT before you are caught as ISA detainee !!!

Jason said...

Just visited SMI two days ago, and I was truly saddened to see the current state of both the school and the students.

The love, pride, and respect for the school and the Michaelian spirit has all but evaporated in most of the lower forms. I witnessed students passing by teachers with nary a greeting or a nod. A few of my former teachers lamented that students nowadays are so different than that of yesteryears. They just don't feel appreciated by the students anymore.

I wish the educators and administrators of missionary schools would continue to espouse the ideals and dreams of the La Sallian brothers. Otherwise, it'll turn into another "just another SRK" - permanently.

Thomas said...

It cannot be denied that missionary schools like St John, MBS etc were the best of schools. It indeed made one proud of the heritage apart from the knowledge one seeks. It is more than just the education it imparts but the character it moulds one to be. The uniqueness and characteristics of missionary schools are evident in its Gregorian style architecture, the school tie, badge, the Latin inscriptions beneath it etc. Compare this to our typical sekolah kebangsaan whereby you see one and you have seen it all. There no sense of uniqueness in them. It appears that we are regressing backwards when it comes to primary and secondary education ever since we gained independence in 1957.

The situation is further made worse when the medium of instruction was changed from English to Malay in 1970. Ever since then, we saw how badly the standard of education has deteriorated into. This is evident from our local universities’ ranking by world’s standard. Our University of Malaya was the beacon and possibly the top University in the region in the 60s and early 70s. Today, it does not make it even to the top 20 universities in Asean and not even top 200 universities of the world.

In the past, missionary schools in Malaysia have royal families of Thailand and Brunei schooling in them. Today, the trend is reverse whereby well to do Malaysian families will see their children are educated in secondary schools of Singapore and Australia apart from private or international schools of the nation whereby medium of instruction is in English.

What has this country become especially with regards to the standard of education? The deterioration in the system and the change of medium from English to Malay was all done by Najib’s father, the late Tun Razak in his Razak report which outlines the objective of doing away English-medium schools. However, Najib attended missionary school of St John before pursuing his further studies in UK. His youngest brother, Nazir Razak, CEO of CIMB, Group was schooling in Alice Smith International school before reading philosophy in Cambridge. It appears that Tun Razak himself placed more faith in the old system that the system he propogated. Hence, it is not surprising that only a small handful of our Ministers send their children to the typical Sekolah Kebangsaan. Cakap tak serupa bikin! The Rakyat now pays the ultimate price for this decline.