Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Town School of Yesteryear

Almost fourty years ago, Papa started his primary schooling in Sultan Abdullah School (SAS), Kuantan. He remembers the school’s centrepiece, a multi-storeyed timber building. The busy Wong Ah Jang Road along which the school is situated. The names of a few classmates that flicker intermittently; Khuzaimah, Kushairi, Michael and Razif. And not to forget one of the enduring distractions of his time there was the ocassional opportunities to turn his head away from the blackboard during lessons to steal a glance across the window at the deafening and dramatic Chinese funeral processions along Wong Ah Jang Road. Always replete with raw emotions.
This week, while rummaging through the photo albums kept at Opah’s place, Papa stumbled upon an old black and white photo taken in 1970. It shows the school’s Green House team (Papa’s elder brother was seated at the extreme left) that emerged as the overall champion during the Annual Sports Day. The ethnically diverse teachers, including the Sikh headmaster, all looked glamorous and respectable. Sports were the de rigueur and part and parcel of the school activities then, and the primary school boys were exposed to a slew of fancy games, including the hurdle race. That, and the whole experience at SAS, were oh-so-fun. As Papa reflected many moons ago in the decorous 3540 Jalan Sudin’s blog:

"The annual sports days were always a glittering event, with parents attending in droves. Same with the annual prize giving days. They were plenty of wonderful entertainments provided by the 10-12 year old boys on stage, sometimes in drag (no choice what?). We learnt to sing “kookaburra sits in the old gum tree”, and write the lyrics line by line in our exercise book, and between the lines we drew our own patterns. I was very good at this and drawing in general. I remember at one time, my teacher asked me whether I was interested to do illustrations to accompany a famous children book. Before she gave the responsibility to me, she asked whether I could draw a fairy. I lied and said yes, because I badly wanted it. A few days later I showed the product to her. And she said “how come your fairy is without wings and magic wand?”, but she accepted it all the same. The good thing is when my Wan visited the school during the Parent-Meet-Teacher session, she proudly showed my work of art to her. We experienced similar kind of situation in Anwar Al-Majd International School (managed by Lebanese) Riyadh where we enrolled our children Arman and Ainaa from Sept 2006 to June 2007. But now our roles are as parents, and of course no sporting, singing and dancing in public. Rather sadly we have yet to recapture the “feel good” sensation in Malaysian primary schools in the new Millenium."

All is not lost though. My elder brother’s secondary school, the Sultan Abdul Hamid College (SAHC), is still committed to churn out an all-round scholar, sportsman and gentleman. Way to go …
UPDATE: 6 July 2009
The photo below shows young scholars, sportsmen and gentlemen of SAHC waiting to receive their excellence awards from the affable and young-at-heart the Regent of Kedah during the Iskandar Hari Anugerah Cemerlang 2009 today.
UPDATE: 10 July 2009
In those days, parents had a choice whether to send their children to Malay-medium or English-medium schools. Papa's parents decided to send their eldest and third boys to Sek Bukit Galing, a Malay-medium school, and their second son and Papa to SAS, an English-medium school. Although Papa's cohort in 1970 was the first batch to learn Maths and Science in Malay at a formerly English-medium school, but he did well in his Standard One assessment, and was selected to fast-track to Standard Three (skipping Standard Two) the following year. In Standard Three, he learned Maths and Science in English, the last batch to do so, before the PPSMI policy was reinstated in 2003 (which has benefited my siblings). However by 2012, it's back to square one, and round and round the circle again, instead of moving forward in the 21st Century.
Why can't parents be given a choice like the good old days whether to opt for PPSMI or otherwise? I am pretty sure my parents want the best education for me that prepares me well to compete in the globalised world. We have no conventional private schools in Kubang Pasu. Even if we have one, I really don't know whether they can afford it. Assuming they can afford it, they would rather prefer me to have a balanced and complete social life, and not mingle exclusively with the children of the so-called elites of our society.
Read an erudite analysis on the dark side and "unintended" consequences of PPSMI here.