Thursday, November 18, 2010

Speech by Ambassador Yeop Adlan Rose

Speech by Ambassador Yeop Adlan Rose on 2nd August 2010 after Big School Dinner with Principal and Staff of MCKK on the occasion of the Anniversary visit by MCOBA Class of ’60 (Patikan) commemorating their 50 years since leaving MCKK.

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Yang Berusaha Encik Anand bin Baharuddin,

Principal MCKK,

Yang DiSanjungi Members of the Staff at MCKK,

Yang Dikasehi Saudara2 dan Saudari2 saya Keluarga Patikan Class of ’60 yang hadhir.

Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.

Here we are then, those of us still around that is, from the Class of ‘60 gathered tonight making this special trip with our wives half a century after leaving MCKK. What a long time 50 years ago is. Many have left us since. In the recently concluded World Cup football terms, the rest of us remaining are what you might call, on second half extra time. That’s not so bad, it is better than being on time added on for injuries. That final whistle can come anytime of course, for all of us as we are only too aware. And of course, there will be no special trips like this for this class 50 years from now.

Thank you, therefore, for going out of your way to accommodate us into your time, and picking a time that is not an intrusive hindrance to the school, for receiving us warmly; and finally, for sparing your time for dinner, and to be present tonight to hear this talk by an old boy from the Class of ’60.

At the outset let me say that I speak under false pretences. I am not and never was a trained teacher or educationist to speak on education. And to speak on the subject before you, teachers, of all people. Nonetheless tonight I consider it a singular privilege, to share with you my personal recollections, thoughts and reflections of those formative years being educated at MCKK and what it did for me. In doing so I hope that,far from mere nostalgia,they may provide a useful backdrop in provoking your thoughts, as to what MCKK is, or can be today.Useful also I hope, as we grapple with at least one topical major national problem, and that is, the woeful state of formal education in our country today.

I enrolled in 1953 at 9 years old into King’s Pavilion together with 60 other boys, divided into 2 classes at standard 4.

Every Monday morning we stood up in class at attention to sing God Save The Queen. That’s The Queen of England of course. In the dining hall, we were taught table manners,taught to eat with fork and spoon, and munch with our mouths closed and not to speak as we munch. We were introduced to eating cheese, oat meals, sardine sandwiches, lamb cutlets and so on. In class, we were taught correct and strictly proper English.We were even taught phonetics, in order to be able to pronounce and speak correct and proper English. All the Bahasa we had was left behind during the preceding 4 years in Malay primary school. Our teacher was Mrs K.D. Luke, wife of the Scottish Headmaster who took half the intake, while the other half was with Mr Gawthorne, a Malaysian Indian qualified teacher.

They were very impressionable years. I remember for example, we were taught to sing songs in class that stayed with me and still resonate in me right up to this day. Here are some samples:

D’ye ken John Peel,

Bonnie banks of Loch Lomond,

Clementine,

Where has your highland laddie gone,

Yankee doodle,

They were songs about people in the UK riding horses hunting foxes, about love and death in war around Loch Lomond in Scotland, about a miner’s daughter lost in a mining accident, about British people going to war in France for King George etc. They were sung by little boys and girls in public schools in UK. Sung by little kampong boys gathered at Kuala Kangsar however was quite surreal you might say, but never mind.

The essential fact was that the school curriculum was one and the same as that being taught in public schools like Eaton and Harrow in England. In short, we were as good as being transported to England and put into classes there. We knew about life in England very well, complete with winter,summer,autumn and spring, but of course, we were there only in our dreams.

And so it was, more of the same throughout the years in the upper classes. In history we were taught extensively and in great detail the history of Britain. King Alfred the Great and his Doomsday Book, 1066 and all that, William the Conquerer, Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I, War of the Roses, Sir Francis Drake(who was in truth a licensed pirate), Sir Walter Raleigh(he’s the fellow who started the world smoking tobacco).

A large component of the history of the world taught was the history of the British in Europe, and the history of peoples and places everywhere in the world the British went, conquered and/or meddled in; India, Malaya and Borneo, Australia, Canada, North America, Africa and so on.

Without realizing it, we were thus taught to look even at the history of our own country as if we were in England and looking at it from there. And so, we were to learn for example, that Francis Light founded Penang, and Stamford Raffles founded Singapore, as if these places here needed founding and that nobody lived there.

In poetry at 9 years old we had to memorise John Masefield’s ‘Sea Fever’.In later classes we read Wordsworth, Keats, Longfellow etc. and the works of Robert Louis Stevenson, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare and so on.

The long and the short of it all was that we were literally being taught heart and mind to be a Brit like any British boy going through the same school and the same school curriculum in Britain.And since we were not and can never be a full blooded Brit in person, we ended up being a true and proper Mat Salleh Celup!

As a consequence we hardly knew ourselves, since we were not taught to really know our own selves but taught to be somebody else.

Saudara Pengetua,

Saudara Saudari sekalian,

I have since learned as a Muslim, that Knowledge (Ilmu) is divided into two: (1)Ilmu Pengenalan and (2)Ilmu Pengetahuan.

Just very briefly,Ilmu Pengenalan is ilmu of knowing who you are as a human being created by The Almighty and put into this world to serve His purposes. For Muslims, this is ilmu from Al Quran and of the Religion of Islam. The second one, Ilmu Pengetahuan, is all the ilmu there is for you to put to use to live in this world; biology, mathematics, physics, law, engineering, architecture, astronomy, philosophy and what have you. We must have both to be a good human being. And the purpose of education is to produce good human beings.

At MCKK, I had almost nothing and if anything, a very paltry education in, and knowledge of the first, Ilmu Pengenalan throughout the ten years from standard 4 primary to Upper Sixth secondary. And indeed, also right through to university. We had a guru ugama at standard 4 primary who taught us rudimentary Islam. And had almost nothing afterwards except to attend Quran reading classes once a week up to about form three. And that too was just rote learning with no interpretative teaching of the meaning of the Quran.There were no qualified teachers to teach the higher classes.

Western thought and world view is secular, stemming from it’s cardinal ideology of separating religion from state.Although secular, Chritianity was still taught as a compulsory subject in public schools in UK.They have a Chapel and a Reverend Chaplain in school.So also does every college in Oxford and Cambridge.It must be remembered their schools and Universities were religion based when founded.The colonialists did not force Christianity and Bible studies at MCKK it must be said, but at the same time understandably,the serious study of Islam was the least of their bother and concern.

Western education invariably lay more stress on Ilmu Pengetahuan(worldly knowledge) which is useful to the state.Thus the purpose of western education is to produce good citizens equipped with Ilmu Pengetahuan useful to the state.Now, a good citizen is not guaranteed a good human being.A good human being on the other hand, is guaranteed a good citizen.Which is why it is focally important that the purpose of education is to produce good human beings,not just good citizens.

Anyhow, the net result of all this colonial education at MCKK was that, I had no knowledge of what it was to be a Muslim, and also of being Malay, instead I ended up being a pseudo British, who had plenty of Ilmu Pengetahuan. I could quote, by heart, pages of Shakespeare, but I did not know the Quran. This is not about rejecting Shakespeare. In the quest for knowledge by all means we should study Shakespeare, but first,or parallel, I must have knowledge of the Quran. And so, I ended up, one half being a Mat Salleh Celup, and the other half being a Muslim Celup. In other words, I became neither a full blooded Mat Salleh nor a true and proper Muslim! Just a bit better than ending up a cross between a horse and a donkey you might say, but ending up an animal nevertheless, useful to the state!

What should have happened to correct this imbalanced MCKK product was that, The Religion of Islam as a subject was taught right through from primary to advanced subject at secondary school, and indeed as a further advanced subject at university. Then, both ilmus go hand in hand to produce a human being properly balanced by having both.As it was, I was being prepared to walk through life lopsided,and viewing the world as if I was wearing tinted glasses day and night.

I cannot fault colonial education or anyone else for this huge void in my education. As a Muslim I know that ultimately one must find it oneself, because ours is an individual covenant with The Almighty. What I am saying is that, it would have helped to fill that void if I had had it incorporated as part of my curriculum at school, instead of having to find it elsewhere independently. And if I had not found it, as I did only late in life, what a terrible personal tragedy it would have been,a complete loss.

It is an interesting anecdote that years later,as it happened,after all I had gone through at MCKK, I found my younger daughter, actually enrolled in one of the top public girls school in UK,St. Paul’s Girls School, where she did her full secondary school from Form I to A Levels. Bible studies was compulsory.But they also studied Islam,Buddhism,Hinduism and Confusionism. Well,it was no surprise that out of the cream of English public school education she came out a real and proper lady Mat Salleh speaking clipped Queen’s English,but fortunately through it all, found and turned out a better Muslim today.

How do I look back at and view all that education and of my times at MCKK?

1. Let me say categorically, that I am grateful for the education that I had. I cannot undo history. In any case, where would or could I have gone to otherwise, to obtain my formal education? At the less than adequate pondok schools, where I might have had a little more of religious teaching perhaps,though I know their levels of knowledge and teaching were low, and they had little or nothing of Ilmu Pengetahuan?

2. I regret, but am now also amused by the Mat Salleh Celup or Brown Sahib I was made to become and I became one for a good 2/3rds of my life until I found for myself the path to Ilmu Pengenalan as a Muslim. I rid myself in mind and heart of secularism, the import from western education. But I can see it’s insidious effect on Muslims who cannot differentiate it and are therefore unable to isolate it from within themselves thereby remaining poisoned by it. They become mechanical Islam types, rooted in it’s rituals but not in understanding it and hence failing to live it fully as a way of life, with a world outlook skewered by western ideology of separating religion from state. Secularism is a scourge to Islam especially, and is it’s worst legacy from colonialism.

By the way,just in case you might think so, let me say that I have not become a convoluted, guilt ridden Mullah or anything near that at all.I am the same person,only my world outlook is now different. I see it as a Muslim should. I no longer see through secular glass prisms having now discarded those through knowledge.

3. I do not appreciate and was ill at ease with the elitist character being at MCKK was promoted to be. Elitism is in the content of ilmu one has acquired, looked up to and respected by others. Not in the self labeling of oneself as an elite by the simple fact of being at MCKK. After all, the quality of education was the same as that found and available in all other similar schools then. The only difference was that MCKK was a one and only boarding school, and exclusively for Malay boys. The fact that MCKK produced exclusively Malay Brown Sahibs, and of the best secular specimen at that, is a dubious record to be proud of.

MCKK celebrated it’s 100 years a few years ago with great fanfare and euphoria. Knowing that it was a colonial instrument and what product came out of it should have tempered our views a bit and muted the celebrations a lot more I think, at least among the old boys who were there in pre Merdeka years.

4. While the self promotion of elitism is distasteful,the regard accorded by others to these MCKK products may not be that misplaced however.Being a full primary to secondary boarding meant that collegians derived to it’s fullest extent the benefits of tutelage and supervision 24 hours a day.This meant that they acquired to the fullest all that could be accrued from what full boarding public school education gave.Thus collegians had full benefit from school extra curricular activities and sports inhouse,supervision on discipline, on conduct and character building 24 hours,lived the meaning of pride in uniform,wearing and carrying the badge of distinction,the meaning of loyalty,bonding and strong camaraderie,being independent and self reliant and so on.At the risk of being self complimentory,that these MCKK products were thus given as solid all round good characters was perhaps for good reason after all! By and large that is.Any group of people will have it’s fair share of scounderels!Anyway ask the wives here if that was why they married them!

5. I do appreciate the strong alma mater camaraderie and post school networking a la that grown out of public school education in England, including that out of Oxford and Cambridge, although I do lament that over here it is not put to good use widely in public life at national level as it is in the UK. Our ties are limited to annual gatherings exclusively for nostalgia only, it would appear.

Colonialists made no pretensions about colonial education they instituted.

I have already said that I cannot blame the colonialists for the ills in the education system that I went through. After all, it must be further said, that they never made any pretensions about the education system they instituted, that it was meant to promote anything other than to serve their colonial interests. It was not to educate the local natives any other way but the British way. They wanted them to be educated with the curriculum in British schools in UK so that they understood British ways, British laws etc..They wanted them to speak English properly in order that they may become good servants of the British colonialists especially in administration and government. In short they never had any qualms about making us Brown Sahibs. It was intended, and it was for the purpose of helping them administer and control the colonies in perpetuity..It should not be a matter of shock and surprise therefore that we ended up being those products.In this, it must also be said that the British did their job very well. And they did it through a very good education system.

Colonial education and education system was of good quality.

I must say that, the British colonial education system, for what it was meant to produce, was a very good system and gave good quality education, colonialist and secular as it was. There were very good quality schools throughout the country, Penang Free School, King Edward VII, Clifford School, Anderson School, Victoria Institution, Malacca High School, Johore High School, King George V, Sultan Ismail College, Sultan Abdul Hamid College. Those were some, not all. There were many more. They were filled with well trained expatriate teachers, local graduate teachers, and other locally trained teachers. Many locals were trained specially at Kirby and Brinsford Lodge. It was a system well driven and well run by the administrators, with teachers full of dedication to their profession and their role as teachers and they did their job very well. That is why to this day we remember those teachers fondly and hold them high in our esteem, always with a deep sense of gratitude. They were well trained, they were dedicated, they were well supervised and administered, and they were left to do their job without hindrance and undue interference. And all that was realized, and was done, through the colonial education system in place at the time.

At this point, I would like to touch on one aspect of education then that stood out in my mind. Looking back, the one aspect of education I recall was the accent and stress on character and character building. You were expected to excel in your studies in class. You were equally expected to excel in activities on the field, outside of class. Both activities, in class as well as outside of class, were given equal attention and time.

You were taught simple good human qualities from an early age, honesty, integrity, sincerity, respect and obedience, of being thrifty, of kindness and so on. Good human qualities are further developed and acquired by activities outside of class such as the boy scout movement (on your honour to do your duty, to be prepared, to be self reliant etc.), St John Ambulance Brigade (render first aid, to save lives, to have compassion etc.), Cadet Corps (military discipline, respect for order of rank and file, armaments discipline, combat discipline etc.).

Everyone participated in sports and learnt the pursuit and qualities of excellence, personal achievement, team spirit, leadership, sporting spirit, playing fair and by the rules etc..Other activities like debate nights, poetry nights, drama stage performances, musical stage performances, hobbies, were all done with the idea of deriving from them so many good character traits that might accrue to the students, including to help them realize their talents.

So much so, it was important that a good school leaving certificate attest to your all round good character by mentioning that e.g. you had been a school prefect or you played games for the school first XI, or by listing out your extra curricular activities. That was of equal if not of greater value than your examination results. Such was the accent and value attached to character and personality.

Today I don’t know whether that accent is still there. Therefore I don’t know whether those activities are still there, or whether it is understood why they were there to derive what educational values, or whether they have been replaced by something better. I do know the two sessions school has been an unmitigated disaster. Students do not return to school to participate in sports anymore. In some instances schools do not even have a playing field anymore. What it points to is that, educational values from sports and other extra curricular activities have been downgraded in value, or are simply lost. That being the case what is left is accent solely on examination results.

MCKK and education after Merdeka.

My time was a long time ago. I don’t know what has happened at MCKK since, or about education in the country in general. I do know what I hear. And what I hear is alarming, indeed frightening.

At any rate, from my perspective as an old boy who went through full primary and secondary education at MCKK some of it during colonial times, having acknowledged that despite it’s pitfalls, the colonial education system and the education then was of good quality, I would have thought that by and large, we should have kept that system and that education, except for some tweaking here and there particularly in the curriculum to suit our needs.

That meant we should have kept the system that was so well driven and well administered evenly throughout the country. We should have kept the policy of one school and one school curriculum for all Malaysians. We should have continued with the policy priority of producing highly qualified and well trained teachers who were afterwards left to do their job unhindered. We should have maintained the policy of giving more stress on education to derive overall good human qualities of character, rather than to classroom studies, not to the neglect of either. What we needed to do was to change some of the subjects while keeping the system and its focus intact. There is no need to rant and throw out anything and everything colonial. Keep what was good that we could put to our own good use.

Thus for example, recognising what was lacking which resulted in a very serious pitfall of colonial western education which was the legacy of the ideology of secularism, mortal to Islam, it would be imperative to put in Ilmu Pengenalan, i.e. studies on the Religion of Islam for all Muslim students right through from primary to secondary and indeed to university. It would need a corps of highly qualified teachers to teach the subject at all levels correctly and properly. Non Muslim students could do other subjects like vernacular languages for example during the time. Or they may sit through the classes, not with the idea of making them become Muslims, but at least just to know what is Islam. The subject also includes studies of human values and of the human character and or the human condition useful to all.

The history curriculum would have to include the 1,000 years of the history of Islamic civilization that impacted on all of human history before European colonization, not just the history of the British or of western civilization primarily. It should be corrected to include, indeed weigh more on the history of China, India, South East Asia, in other words on history closer to us and of peoples nearer to us. While studying the travels of Vasco da Gama, Marco Polo or Columbus for example, we should not neglect the travels of Ibn Battuta or of Admiral Cheng Ho.

Similarly, in literature, it should not just be British, European and Western literature that we read, but to also include Chinese, Indian, Arab, African, Latin American literature and so on.

There are other issues like languages for example which I shall not touch here. Suffice it to say that once you decide, you should not waver but should go headlong in pursuing it to it’s highest standards.Wavering and constant changing is ruinous to the system.

In any case, the thrust I am pointing to here is that, if the colonial education system was excellent in producing fine specimens, our education system and MCKK should have gone on to use that system with some curriculum adjustments, this time to produce very fine specimens of our own Muslim Malay students (minus the Brown Sahib element) with knowledge and with excellent qualities of leadership equipped with high moral values. The high quality education common and maintained in all similar schools applicable to all Malaysians should therefore produce fine specimens out of all Malaysians.

Saudara Pengetua,

Saudara Saudari sekalian,

High quality education, as we know, does not end at the schools. It must be continued at the university. As it stands, the fine products out of high quality education from the schools if that can be realized and assumed, are but wasted, if the best of our universities are ranked a lowly 42 among universities in Asia today. High quality formal education must stretch right up to University. And for our top university to be ranked that low is a terrible indictment on our education system.

There is another disease, even more fatal to overcome, and that is, a corruption of values. When men and women equipped with knowledge and high moral values of honesty, integrity and uprightness are not a valuable currency while preference of place is for the sycophants, the yes men, and the ampu bodek types of society, then it is all useless. Good human beings produced through quality education are corrupted to abandon their principles for monetary gains, for power, for positions etc. They become mercenaries or opportunists. Or those among them who refuse to be corrupted simply withdraw. Then, society is the loser, as it deteriorates and becomes sick in its own corruption.

Motivation

Against that background, tonight I was supposed to give a motivational talk, a talk to motivate you,teachers and staff. It worried me, that I do not consider myself qualified to do so, and I might end up out of place. I began the evening by admitting to you that I speak under false pretences. Tonight since I must, then let me say this to you:

It is often said, as a truth and a reminder, that teachers are the noblest of professions. How true and profound. MCKK would be lifeless and meaningless, devoid of it’s purpose, without you it’s teachers. That is why tonight this badge of old boys, and their wives, after 50 years, have come back on this special trip, to salute you, in full cognizance of your profession and your role in our lives, in society as a whole.

The purpose of education foremost is to produce good human beings. The education system of a society therefore is to produce those people and to produce the leaders amongst them. They are then needed for the smooth, efficient, just running of that society, now and into the future. They are the people you send to Parliament, into the civil service, the judiciary,the police,the armed forces, into the business sector and so on. And indeed, they are the people you seek to be teachers.

The state of health or sickness of the education system translates directly into the health or sickness of the society it is meant to serve. I cannot motivate you more than to make you realize,or to remind you of, that truth. I cannot motivate you more than to highlight your central and crucial role in it. Last, I cannot motivate you more than to tell you that ultimately, you have no choice. Such is our dependence on you.

Yes, you need to be very well trained, yes you need to be well equipped, yes you need to be well supervised, yes you need to be professional and dedicated. After that, yes, you need to be left to do your job unhindered, without undue interference. And yes, finally, you cannot afford to fail. If you fail, society will descend into it’s own muck of corruption, ignorance and error in knowledge and will continue to wallow in it perhaps in perpetuity, left being unable to get out of it’s own predicament of it’s own making. Then that society has no hope at all. I cannot motivate you any more than to tell you that.

Fiat Sapientia Virtus.

‘Fiat Sapientia Virtus’. That’s our motto in Latin. It means “Let Manliness Come Through Wisdom”.

Well, it has been a lifelong journey of education, knowledge and self discovery for me, as it is for all of us I suppose. Tonight, I don’t know if I have shown you I have wisdom enough to speak to you meaningfully.Also, as propriety demands, I cannot show you, and I don’t think you want me to show you my manliness either!

My classmates since King’s Pavilion days 60 years ago, now my regular golfing buddies over there, Saudara2 Hussain Shaari, Syed Elias and Datuk Umar Hj Abu are smiling to themselves just now I know. They have their version of the MCKK motto. Their version translates into “Let Manliness Come Through Viagra”! MCKK rascals to this day!

Fiat Sapientia Virtus aside,I would like to close with this core teaching and tenet of Islam that we are asked to remind ourselves of all the time, ‘Innalillahi Wa Illahi Rajiun’. It means ‘From Allah we come, to Allah we return’. It is profound and it means everything to Muslims. You have to answer for all your deeds in this world when you do return finally to the Almighty as we must all do. You must therefore do good, not evil; do right, not wrong. And to do good you must have the four virtues in Islam. The four virtues are:

Wisdom (knowledge),

Temperance,

Courage, and

Justice.

Equipped properly with those four virtues, you can never go wrong. You can never be corrupted. You shall never veer from Truth. I venture to suggest that the MCKK of today should adopt and incorporate those virtues as it’s guiding pillars in it’s vision of and in it’s pursuit of education and Truth.

Tonight, after 50 years, an old boy draws a little on his courage to bare his own personal long journey of education, of learning and self discovery, of what and where Truth is, to share his reflections and thoughts in the hope that they may be useful, by bringing them back here, where he started. Leaving Malay College Kuala Kangsar 50 years ago a Brown Sahib, he now returns in the knowledge that he is a servant to no one, no one except the One and only true Sahib there is, and that’s the One to Whom we shall all return.

Sekian,

Wabillahi Taufik Wal Hidayah Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh.

Thank you.

Yeop Adlan Rose,

(MCOBA ’60,Mohd Shah House).