Monday, July 02, 2007

A blunder from Bakri Musa (more to come)

Old Versus New (Promised) Malaysia

Two school events, both widely reported, took place last week. One was the Speech Day at Malay College Kuala Kangsar, and the other, the graduation exercise at Kolej Yayasan UEM. The difference in the two events serves as a good metaphor distinguishing the old Malaysia from what I hope is the promise of a new one.

The ceremony at Kuala Kangsar was graced by no less than the King, the Raja Muda of Perak (the school’s Governing Board Chair), and the Minister of Education. You could not get a more distinguished company of visitors than that. Meanwhile KYUEM had such nondescript corporate figures as UEM Chairman Ahmad Tajuddin Ali and its Foundation Trustee, Sheriff Kassim, in attendance.

At Malay College’s Speech Day, there was no mention of the achievements of the graduating students, specifically which great universities they would be attending. There was a reason for this noticeable absence. None of the students qualified for university admission directly. They would first have to go to a “finishing school” elsewhere.

The headmaster at KYUEM proudly announced that 11 of his 183 graduates would be heading for either Oxford or Cambridge. In the preceding year, a fourth of his students secured admissions to Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College, and London School of Economics, an achievement any British grammar school would be very proud of. In the area where it counts, in fact the only valid currency for a school – the quality of its graduates – KYUEM easily trumps the venerable MCKK.

It is revealing that the item that received the biggest applause (according to a news report) was the King’s announcement that the minister had approved a new hall for MCKK! In his speech, the King suggested that other schools emulate MCKK. I respectfully suggest to His Majesty that Malay College should instead emulate KYUEM.

Jeg says: Why are you comparing MCKK with KYUEM? It's like comparing The English Premier League with The English Championship League! You need to go pass The Championship to be promoted to The Premier League!

The Old Malay of MCKK

MCKK, established over 100 years ago, had pretensions of being the “Eton of the East.” It is formal, resistant to change, and slavishly hanging on to “traditions.” Even the school motto is in affected Latin, Fiat Sapienta Virtus. Query the school’s alumni, students and teachers; few would know what it means. In short, Malay College epitomizes the old Malay ethos, obsessed with symbols and pretensions but devoid of substance.

KYUEM on the other hand is less than a decade old. Its mission statement, or motto if you will, is elegant in its simplicity and clarity, “To Educate, Not Simply Teach.” No pompous Latin phrases. And they – trustees, teachers, and students – have done an excellent job at it. They embody the good and the promise of a new Malaysia. Specifically, those Malays at KYUEM are my model of Melayu Baru (New Malay).

Before elucidating further the differences between MCKK and KYUEM, it is important to note that despite their “college” labels, both institutions are basically residential secondary schools. In case of Malay College, it is not even that. Since its graduates cannot enter university directly, MCKK is essentially a glorified middle school.

The foremost difference is that MCKK is a public institution, totally dependent on the allocations from the ministry. Despite its roster of luminaries as “old boys,” their contributions to the school are miniscule to nonexistent. The only time they visit their alma mater is to harass the headmaster for decisions they do not like.

KYUEM is a private institution, dependent on tuition and donations for its survival. As such, it has to produce to satisfy its customers – students and their parents. The school is not interested how many sultans, ministers and other luminaries it counts among its alumni rather which university will accept its students next year. Malay College is fixated with its past, Kolej UEM is confidently poised for the future.

Malay College is an all-Malay institution; KYUEM’s student body reflects the rich diversity of Malaysian society. Malay College students would carry their cultural insularity into their adult life. KYUEM’s students on the other hand have a much richer and more meaningful learning and living environment because of the diversified enrollment. They would definitely be better prepared for this globalized world.

Jeg says: I don't know how long Bakri has been staying in the U.S. (being a scaredy cat making controversial statements outside the country provoking disharmony in that process) but in Malaysia, MCKK is a secondary school while KYUEM is a pre-U college supporting A-levels studies only. I think Bakri was confused with KYSM which offers SPM and a like-to-like comparison with MCKK where the former having the upper-hand. Thus, it is WRONG to say KYUEM a 'secondary school'. You can compare KYUEM with Kolej MARA Banting (KMB), Taylors College or KDU, if you like!

Examine the Leadership

While everyone in an organization contributes to its success, the crucial differentiating point is leadership. KYUEM trustees are from the business world, individuals attuned to recognizing a need in society and then fulfilling it. In contrast, the Minister of Education appoints MCKK’s governing board. They are thus men with the mindset that there is no problem that a government cannot solve. The sinister corollary to this is that the government must control everything; it knows what is best for you and me, and our children.

Consequently, MCKK’s curriculum follows that the ministry’s rigid prescription, right down to the textbooks. KYUEM opted for global standards and chose the best traditions of British grammar schools. When there are no locals with sufficient experience with such a system, the trustees do not hesitate in hiring an expatriate. They do not have any negative lingering anti-colonial hang ups, or fear that the hiring of a foreigner would be viewed as a slight on the abilities of the natives. Those trustees are interested only in what is best for their students.

KYUEM’s outgoing headmaster, Richard Small, is an Oxford graduate; his successor, John Horsfall, is a product of Cambridge and a PhD-holder to boot. I gleaned these facts from the news reports of the graduation exercise. In contrast, at Malay College’s Speech Day there was no mention of who was the headmaster. That was the degree of respect the headmaster commanded, or was accorded. The King and the other distinguished visitors hogged the limelight. They were obviously more important than the headmaster, teachers, or students.

I am certain that the MCKK’s headmaster must glow in having the King, Raja Muda and the Minister grace his school’s function. Richard Small on the hand could hardly contain his pride in his students’ achievements. How revealing of the different priorities at the two institutions!

Leadership alone is not enough. The students do not see the trustees and headmaster every day in the classrooms. It is the teachers who are there for the students. “The most important learner in the classroom,” noted Headmaster Small, “is the teacher, because if the teacher is not constantly learning and changing, how can he be a competent role model for student learners.”

The caliber of the faculty at KYUEM is impressive, many with graduate degrees including PhDs. Its biology teacher, Norhayati Zainudin, is a graduate in Veterinary Medicine from a local university.

Impressive degrees mean nothing if the teacher cannot teach. My biology teacher at Malay College had a PhD from a Punjabi university. He was next to useless. Fortunately, my physics and chemistry teachers in the persons of Mr. Malhotra and Mr. Norton more than took up the slack in teaching and guiding us.

Readers might be puzzled to know where I garner these facts about KYUEM. Easy, from its website ( It has a wealth of information useful not only for potential students but also for web visitors like me.

I tried to surf Malay College’s website. The operative word there is “tried.” There are many such sites claiming to be the “official” website, many hosted by “freebie” server and consequently cluttered with advertising banners. On one site, tts “Students Achievements” page was last updated in 1999!

Malay College is embarking on its “Sayong Project,” billed to take it into the new century. MCKK is also eagerly seeking ties with residential schools in other countries. I humbly suggest that MCKK looked closer to home, just a few miles south at Lembah Beringin.

Malay College epitomizes the feudal Malay system still very much alive under the veneer of modernity. Meanwhile those folks at Lembah Beringin represent the new Malaysia, confident of their heritage and at ease with the modern world.

Jeg says: it is obvious now how Bakri Musa gathers his information. Reading on the internet and he thought that would be adequate. When he said 'Easy, from its website' I straight away concur how short-sighted this Javanese guy is believing everything he sees in the internet. To know the real situation, Bakri, you have to go back to Malaysia and see these schools for yourself. I know what MCKK is from my housemate and other KYUEM friends and was informed you only attended MCKK in form 6, which simply the MCKK boys called as "BURUNG". In case you are wondering, I studied A-levels in KYUEM and is a KYSER (KYSM graduate) and atleast I know how we can't compare young mango (mangga muda) and riped mango (mangga yang dah masak). Get your facts right Bakri, or you will be a laughing stock among other budak Koleq (Old Boys) and others. As I made it clear earlier in our email conversation, come back and do something for the country instead of talking and seeking cheap popularity writing controversial issues.


confused old boy said...

for the love of God, somebody go stuck something in his mouth. or push something down his throat. maybe then only will he get his facts right! i totally agree with you on this.

Jeg said...

can somebody confirm to me that Bakri Musa is a 'Burung'?

well, I also want to get my facts right too.

confused old boy said...

sorry couldn't verify that though. and anyway out of curiosity which school were you from?

it just struck me that he may be venting out his vengeance, vengeance from way back when he was in koleq.

nice to meet you.

Jeg said...

i snubbed MCKK for KYSM.

I still wore the white pants on my first day at KYSM though. hehe

Zaim Al-Amin said...

Dear Jeg,

Many thanks for your very well-informed comments on this. You seem to have many good friends from MCKK; presumably during your KYSM or later KMYS/KYUEM days.

Rest assured this posting of his received much flak from fellow Budak Koleq in our various egroups.

By the way, I noticed you saying that you `snubbed' MCKK for KYSM. Would like to have your honest opinion on whether you think that was the right decision.

You see, I have a daughter in Standard 6 and she's gonna be sitting for the KYSM entry examination soon. I think she has a fair chance of being selected. On the other hand, she might also be selected by the Ministry to enter TKC. If both of that happens, she will be facing a similar position as you did.

Hence I as the father need to have some basis to decide...

Thanks and best regards,

Zaim Al-Amin
MCKK Class of 84

Jeg said...

Hi Zack, hope you can track back this thread to read this comment:

When I first heard about KYSM, I never thought it was going to be fantastic. However, when I was told about my primary school rival got into the selection process, I thought, being a 12-year old competent boy, why not have another round with him again?

I got into the school while he didn't. I rejected MCKK and he went to SAS.


It was basically the tangible things that caught my attention initially. Classy facilities especially. The Music Studio (being keen on the drums), the track (I think it's not in good condition anymore but we will see what they can do), the computer and network systems, the longest swimming-pool, the teachers, the surroundings (I'm a friend of the pokok-pokok haha) and yeah, I thought having mixed classmates laki and perempuan would give me more exposure and insights.

And so I heard there are more chinese and indians entering KYSM. This will help create understandings between Msians. And recently, bullying cases have been reduced to almost nil as students in the dorms are now seperated according to their batch and any cases that might arise will be quickly reported and dealt with. Expel could be the word to the culprits.

On the downsides, the school is somewhat ailing with the facilities like the Great Hall's curtains and the wooden stage not being up to their standards. As I said earlier, the running track.

Others, I think KYSM nowadays is no more a free school like it used to be. I might be wrong on this but the rich will definitely be charged to enter the school appropriately according to the salary. In addition, there are rumours of a possible takeover/merger by Khazanah and hopefully they can repair the facilities while keeping the fee low. It is supposed to be a Yayasan you see?

Being a private school, I don't think if it's possible for the students to go head ons with other public schools in debate, drama, orchestra (KYS has an orchestra that go around the country and possibly outside Msia too) competitions etc. But for sports, like rugby and football (I'm not sure if football still exists in KYS), the school will be allowed to participate be it friendly or peringkat zon or negeri.

Answering your question.. yes, I think I made the right decision to join KYSM. In fact I regret not having living my life the fullest back then in KYS. But still I had fun and success at the same time while it is worth mentioning here how I met with some good friends as well. Of course there were backstabbers but yeah they were of all backgrounds and that sorta taught me how we are not supposed to judge people by their status or gender or colour.

Who are we to set a status? I was slowly developing not to be bias and things only got better when I got into KYUEM (then KMYS).

I heard many times people claiming how KYS is a 'kaffirs' school coz the girls are prohibited from wearing the hijaab/tudung. Honestly yes, but that was many years ago until in 1999 there was a sudden turn around thanks to the efforts of the students demanding the BOD to revise the policy and the Islamic Studies results of the then PMR 1999 candidates, the female Muslim students are given the option to wear the tudung. And the basis of the Islamic teachings in KYS is shear class and open where discussions are made in and outside the class, controversial or not.

Mr Zack,

Start talking to your daughter and lets hear what she thinks and maybe you can get an idea of which and which. I know she's still young but listening to your kids wouldn't hurt a bit. I don't know anything about TKC (although I know some TKC ppl and how they became succesful) and it wouldn't be fair for me if I give comments as I don't have much info about it.

Well, I hope you like my answer. I'm still dizzy from the sushi buffet I had a few hours ago! You can actually private msg me at

p/s: I am not promoting KYSM, but this is basically what I think and there is nothing malicious directed towards any institutions. For this case, there is no right or wrong and it comes down to the question of preference and social interactions where one is a single sex school and the other is mixed school.