RECENT years have witnessed a mushrooming of international schools in Malaysia. In a matter of years, such schools have sprouted up all over the country. Somehow, the demand for such schools has been on the rise. Parents who can afford the higher fees are willing to send their children to such schools. So much so that many educational entrepreneurs have taken the decision to invest in such schools.
Why? Many attribute their popularity to a number of factors. One has to do with their better teaching environment and better delivery of the curriculum. But there is general consensus on the fact that the biggest motivator has to do with the medium of teaching. All their lessons are taught in English. Even the ardent language nationalists in our midst send their children to such schools.
Even those who protest vehemently on the use of English in the teaching of science and mathematics send their children to such schools. Only those who cannot afford it are deprived of such opportunities. These are mainly those in the rural areas.
Most, if not all, international schools are in urban areas and are therefore less accessible to those in the rural areas. A pity. But there is hope if we can revisit the era when education in the country was at its peak. We were the envy of the region then. Most of our neighbours looked up to us then. Even Singapore! To be more precise, the era of the 50s through the 70s may be considered the time when high school education in the country truly flourished. And among the model schools then was the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK).
Few would disagree that MCKK established itself as a model school in the country in that era. One only had to look at the leaders of the nation during the period into the 90s. Not only in government but more so in the corporate sector.
They were literally peppered with old boys of MCKK. Even the captains of the media had a generous share of MCKK graduates. The recipe was quite simple really. The curriculum at MCKK provided the right balance between study and play. Both were given almost equal emphasis. Adequate times were provided to learn and even to have some fun. Ask any old boys what was the best time of their life?
Chances are many would say it was the time they spent in MCKK. No wonder the Malay College Old Boys Association, MCOBA, is well patronised even to this day.
Each batch is closely knit. They remain brothers literally forever. Last year, 2016, marked the 50th year for our batch since our Form Five days in 1966. It was our Golden Jubilee year. And we did not let the anniversary go without celebration. Thanks to some individuals in our group who volunteered leadership, the Golden Jubilee year will be etched in our memories forever. We even produced a commendable coffee table book to mark the occasion. The book documents nostalgic anecdotes of our times in college contributed by all surviving members.
At the closing dinner, more than half came. Including spouses and a few ex-teachers, about 120 were present. An endowment fund was also launched. Most of the contributions came from the richer among us. The fund will come in handy for the college, which abandoned some of its traditional programmes over the years because of the shortage of finances.
This is where there is need to rethink the business model of the college. It may be time to consider privatising the college. For many years now, the college has been operating just like any other secondary school in the country.
Understandably, the college dropped many of the activities which in the past formed the core aspects of the learning and character building experience at MCKK.
As a result it has lost some of its past flavour as a vibrant residential school. There have been attempts by others to simulate the college model. However, all have been found to be lacking the MCKK brand. The impact has been much less. It may now be the right time to run the college privately so that it will have enough financial muscle to maintain its past rigour and continue to produce the talents Malaysia needs in this age of globalisation and intense competition.
Capitalise on the strong MCKK brand. If done correctly, the brand can even be exported!
PROF DATUK DR AHMAD IBRAHIM
Academy of Sciences Malaysia
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