Sunday, May 06, 2007

Comment on Mission Schools

Received this comment from an Old Boy (1953-1960) of St Patrick. The whole comment has been pasted here in verbatim for your reading:-

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)
Tags: St Xavier's Institution, St Patrick, Mission School, Education, Missionary, Kulim, Kedah, National School, Malay

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