TWO years after becoming Mentri Besar, Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan set an ambitious target for Negri Sembilan – to be ranked among the top three states in national examinations such as the PT3, SPM and STPM.
Mohamad, who graduated from Universiti Malaya and had spent years in the banking and corporate sectors both here and abroad, set the benchmark upon discovering that the state was always positioned in the lower rungs of the tables whenever the results were announced.
Mohamad even took over the education portfolio to ensure his target of catapulting the state into the top academic achievers was realised.
“When I took over the state administration in 2004, my desire was to turn the state into a valley of knowledge.
“I wanted Negri Sembilan to be among the high-achieving states when it came to national examinations. We have no reason not to be aiming for the top positions,” he said.
The state government then introduced and funded several programmes such as getting teachers to undergo a nine-month Project to Improve English in Rural Schools.
This, he said was implemented after a survey found that rural students fared poorly in English although they did well in other subjects.
At the same time, Mohamad set another target. In his quest to boost Negri Sembilan’s standing as a valley of knowledge, he encouraged undergraduates born in the state to excel while in university.
He then announced a reward programme where any Negri-born who obtains a first class honours degree from any public university was to be rewarded with RM25,000 by the state government.
Those who took study loans from the Negri Sembilan Foundation and the state Islamic Affairs Council also had these loans converted to scholarships.
With only one student graduating with a first-class honours degree in 2006, the number increased to 25 the following year.
A delighted Mohamad then reduced the cash reward from RM25,000 to RM10,000 in 2008 as the numbers continued to increase sharply.
In 2009, the reward was further reduced to RM5,000.
“We had no choice but to reduce the amount as we did not expect the numbers to increase so fast. Nevertheless, we are happy that our plan has been a success,” he said.
Today, Mohamad is an even happier man.
Negri Sembilan has not only been maintaining its position among the top three achievers for national examinations, it has also continued to produce more top achievers in public and private universities both here and abroad.
In 2017, a whopping 478 Negri-born graduated with first-class honours degrees.
Mohamad, who likened the first class scorers to modern-day Pendeta Za’aba (Tan Sri Zainal Abidin Ahmad), said these individuals were assets to the state and country.
“It does not matter if you are from an estate, kampung, Felda plantation or some rural area in Negri Sembilan.
“What is important is that you have now proved to be a top achiever and you must continue this culture of excellence when you start working,” he said.
Mohamad’s vision to turn the state into a Valley of Knowledge has also borne fruit with the state now home to more than 25 institutions of higher learning.
There are now several international schools in the state including
Matrix Global Schools, Epsom College, UCSI International School, Nilai International School and Zenith International School.
And among the universities that have set up operations here include Nottingham University, Manipal University, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Inti International University and Nilai University.
The prestigious all-girls Tunku Kurshiah College (TKC), which was built on a 8.8ha site in Bukit Merbah in Seremban in 1963, relocated to Bandar Enstek in 2013.
The premier boarding school sits on a sprawling university-like campus in Bandar Enstek near Nilai with modern facilities for its growing number of students.
TKC, which was also known as the Malay Girls College, was established in 1947 in Jalan Damansara in Kuala Lumpur.
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