PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian education sector has lost one of its greatest icons, Tan Sri Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad (pic), who dedicated close to 60 years of his life to the field and was known for his determination to speak truth to power.
Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), in a statement, said its pro-chancellor died of old age, at 84, at his residence in Ampang at about 10.45am yesterday.
Abdul Rahman started out as a teacher before retiring as the Education director-general, a position he held for seven years in 1991, in a career spanning 30 years with the ministry.
He began teaching at Kuala Kangsar Malay College before moving on to become the deputy education director of Penang and then Kedah, and later, the Kelantan education director.
The Malaccan native then rose to be the ministry’s director of examinations before his promotion as the director-general.
Upon his retirement, he was appointed as education consultant to the World Bank, chairman and later pro-chancellor of UiTM, pro-chancellor of Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris and chancellor of UCSI University. He was also the chairman of Bank Industri as well as five companies listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange.
His passing is mourned by leaders of the education sector.
UCSI Group chief executive officer and founder Datuk Peter Ng said he took heart in the legacy that Abdul Rahman was leaving behind.
Ng said he first knew Abdul Rahman when the latter served as education director-general from 1985 to 1991.
“I was inspired to see how he gave his all to improve Malaysia’s education landscape.
“He was never afraid to speak truth to power. He always emphasised sound education policies and he embraced each responsibility with the dutiful cognisance that his actions would have great bearing on generations of students.
“We can honour him by emulating his steadfastness. All of us at UCSI Group will remember him as a dear friend, a towering presence and a source of wise counsel. We are blessed to have him as the first chancellor of UCSI University. I will miss him terribly,” he added.
UCSI vice-chancellor and president senior professor Datuk Dr Khalid Yusoff said the university had lost one of the country’s luminaries of education.
Abdul Rahman was an honorary graduate of Heriot-Watt University and was the first chairman of the board of Heriot-Watt University Malaysia in 2012.
Heriot-Watt University Malaysia provost and chief executive officer Prof Mushtak Al-Atabi said memories of Abdul Rahman lingered on the walls of the university.
“We will always be grateful for his selfless contributions to the university,” he said.
Education Minister Dr Radzi Jidin hailed the education giant’s dedication to the nation’s education system, which he added also made Malaysia known internationally.
“The effects of his legacy will continue forever for the present generation and future generations of the nation,” he said in a Facebook post.
Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Siti Hamisah Tapsir, who is also a former education director-general, said Abdul Rahman would be missed by the education community that worked closely with him on the evolution of Malaysia’s education.
UiTM vice-chancellor Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Mohd Azraai Kassim conveyed the condolences of all UiTM students and staff to the family of the deceased. Abdul Rahman was appointed UiTM pro-chancellor on Dec 15, 2002.
PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, a former student of Abdul Rahman, also shared the sad news in an Instagram post.
Born in Masjid Tanah, Melaka, Abdul Rahman studied at the native Malay school in Masjid Tanah and later at Melaka High School.
He entered Universiti Malaya and then continued his studies at University of Singapore, University of Reading, New Zealand Administrative Staff College, Harvard Business School and finally at University of East London for his PhD.
Abdul Rahman was laid to rest in Kampung Air Limau, Masjid Tanah.
He is survived by his wife Puan Sri Noor Hayati Mohamed.