Saturday, May 05, 2007

Christian Council Wants Mission Schools Revived

Several Christian leaders in the country have proposed a revival of mission schools. The reason - to arrest the declining education standards. The group of leaders, at a recent congregation in Johor of non-Catholic sects, agreed that current education policies are out of step with reality and have resulted in jobless graduates. "We want to bring back the good old days," Prof Dr Tarcisius Chin told a gathering of over 50 leaders at the Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) 12th triennial general assembly held at Pulai Springs on Tuesday.

Representatives from Peninsular-based Anglican, Protestant, Methodist and Lutheran churches were in attendance. "We should take a serious look into the revival of mission schools, considering the decline of education standards," said the former chief executive officer of De La Salle Institute. Tarcisius, also a former Universiti Malaya academician, said the proposed mission-style schools would not preach Christianity to its students. He said the schools would emphasis character development and extra-curricular activities. Such schools would be funded by a congregation of several non-Catholic sects.

'Go back to basics'
The schools will accept students from all races and religions and subjects will be taught mainly in English, but with emphasis on learning second languages such as Mandarin, Tamil or Arabic. He said the current model for development students has been largely inherited from the "colonial days" and "adjusted from time to time to national requirement." "Twenty years ago, nationalism affected the education policies with the abandonment of English as a medium." "Now while the world has moved on and new educational models have been introduced elsewhere, our educational paradigm is still focussed on producing graduates with specialised academic knowledge ... this needs to be reviewed," he said.

Since 2003, English is used as a medium of teaching in science subjects. Tarcicus said a revival of mission schools is "to go back to basics" and bring about a curriculum change that "will create the all-round personality". "Over the past 35 years, education has moved from holistic development to the acquisition of paper qualifications." "The mission schools of yore were concerned not only with delivering academic success but, more importantly, developing character and imbibing universal values," he said.

Funding a problem
Tarcisius said a move in education will demand a radical shift in education strategies, policies and processes from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education. During the ensuing question session, several representatives expressed doubt over how such a proposal can be approved by the government. Tarcisius said such a model might not be rejected as senior members of the cabinet include Christians and "Muslims who are sympathetic".

One bishop pointed out that devoid of being able to preach Christianity, the mission-style school would be little different from national or 'vision' schools. He also pointed out that the biggest problem of such a mission school was obtaining funds. There is currently no discretion for schools or universities to act independently of the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Higher Education. To encourage integration among the multi-racial, multi-religious students, the government is attempting to establish 'vision' schools, where facilities of several national schools are shared.

One of the enduring legacies of the colonial era, at least 800 mission schools and convents were established throughout Malaysia since the early 19th century. Mission schools were largely responsible for educating the masses in English and spreading Christianity. However, the schools were also noted for its frequent practice of corporal punishment; the caning of students in particular.

Some of the top mission schools, such as La Salle, St John's Institution, Victoria Institution, are considered leading educational institutions in the country. By the 1970s, the administrative powers of the brothers and nuns were removed in a nationalistic push to reduce the independence of the schools. (source: Malaysiakini)
Tags: Christian Council of Malaysia, Education, Mission School, Vision School, Tarcisius Chin, School, Anglican, Protestant, Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, La Salle, St John's Institution, Victoria Institution, Christianity

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Johnny,

You have left out perhaps the top leading mission school in Malaysia, i.e St Xavier's Institution in Penang. Despite all the moves by the govt to "end the role" of mission schools over the past 30 years, St Xavier's has still been able to preserve its missionary identity. The others, especially mission schools in smaller towns, have all but been converted to national (read Malay) schools and it is very sad.

I am a product from St Patrick's school, in Kulim, Kedah in the 1950s. St Patrick's was a satellite school of St Xavier's. It had a primary, a secondary and a private within its modest premises. I remember St Xavier's sent their Christian brothers, Brother Bernard an Irishman, and later Brother Edward, a Chinese,to be its principal for the secondary school. The principal of the primary school was Mr Auyong Teik Yoon while Mr Lim Thean Poh headed the private school.

St Patrick's was a small school during my time, its enrolment not exceeding 300 students. Like all mission schools,it was partially assisted, meaning that most of the time, the school had to depend on private donations from well wishers to survive. Most of the teachers were normal college trained or from Kirkby and Brinsford, and among them of us could fondly remember the late Mr Chin Kong Gooi, the late Mr Douglas Scully and Mr Johnny Thoo. Standards were high in the then English medium of education, and many of the students did the school proud by performing very well in their Lower Certificate Education (LCE) and Overseas School Certificate (SC) examinations, chalking up a string of As in their results. It was truly meritocracy at its best.

The Christian brothers as well as our teachers not only taught us to be good academically, but also imbibed in us good moral values so that many of us could be good citizens of the then Malaya and from 1963, Malaysia. Which many of us did and were proud, at least up to 13 May 1969.

The racial riots of that year in KL, and the subsequent change in educational policy from 1970 which abolished English medium schools, badly affected all mission schools in the country, including St Patricks. It was a blow they were never to recover from and which explains the pathetic state of affairs most of them are in today.

The Education Ministry soon came to control the school's administration which meant that it deployed teachers and students over the years, deploying a lot of Malay bureaucrats and teachers who had no tradition of mission schools and did not understand their needs and the way they were developing. Slowly but surely the character of the school was changed beginning with the switch in the medium of instruction from English to Malay. Over the years, the school lost its missionary identity and today (2007), the school has all the characteristics of a Malay school, with its principal being a Malay, its admin staff being overwhelmingly Malay as well as its students, right down to the office boy. The school had set up corner as a Malay prayer house, a thing unheard of in a Christian brother's school in those days. The only thing that reminds me and others of the school today, is still its name, St Patrick's school or Sek Menengah St Patrick, which strangely has not been changed.

I left the school in 1960 after completing my LCE and went on to further my studies in other schools, colleges and eventually the university.

I am presently working in Singapore, but each time I return to Kulim, and casually dropped in at my old alma mater, I feel a deep sense of shock and disappointment, disappointed that I cannot rekindle the old boy spirit, because the school is not what it used to be. Save for its name, it is an entirely different school altogether. It might as well choose a Malay name and its transformation into a Malay school would have been complete.

Old Boy (1953-1960)

05 May, 2007 14:24  
Blogger Johnny Ong said...

Thanks Old Boy for your contribution on the past history. Will post yr comments on my main post for other readers to read (as most readers don't go into comments to read what other had commented unless they have commented in it too)

06 May, 2007 01:44  

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