Malaysia's 6th PM, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, is a product of St. John's Institution in KL. Recently, he went back to his alma mater and proclaimed that the missionary school model represents what he sees in his 1 Malaysia vision. I'll reproduce the full article from the Malaysian Insider below and comment after that.
LUMPUR, June 27 — A visit to his Christian alma mater was used today by
Datuk Seri Najib Razak to drive home his vision of 1 Malaysia which was
officially launched at Dataran Merdeka earlier this morning.
prime minister, who officiated the opening of the Conference of
Christian Mission Schools in Malaysia at the St John’s Institution here,
paid tribute to mission schools and their role in nation building.
He said mission schools had a special ethos which promote unity, very much like his vision of 1 Malaysia.
Najib is led by the school captain, as he walks to the St.John's school hall for the conference.
“The ethos of mission schools shaped the values and beliefs of students which is in line with 1 Malaysia.”
said that part and parcel of the concept of 1 Malaysia was to accept
diversity and a plural society as a heritage and strength instead of a
source of problems.
“1 Malaysia goes beyond tolerance but accepts
diversity,” he said, adding that it would be achieved if Malaysians
could look beyond race, colour and religions.
“I am convinced it we continue on this path Malaysia can be stronger.”
Najib said that St John's had provided him the sound grounding which eventually made him the prime minister of Malaysia.
said that returning to the school had brought back special memories,
including the times he walked up the hill (Jalan Bukit Nanas) to the
school with his heavy bag and playing pranks with his friends.
also joked that his father gave him a promotion, enrolling him straight
into Standard Two at St John’s Primary School, where he spent five
years, and a further three years at St John’s Secondary.
tribute to the former and present teachers of the school and even called
out to a La Salle Christian Brother in the crowd, who was his former
This was the scene earlier when Najib entered his alma mater accompanied by the famous St.John's school band.
Najib also took the occasion to have a swipe at Victoria Institution, the traditional rivals of St John’s.
“We are even better than the ‘other school’ in KL,” he joked.
closed his speech with a special announcement, saying that he would
officially declare his old school a National Heritage Site on July 12.
I won't go into the debate on what 1 Malaysia means exactly.
Rather, I want to make a couple of observations:
I think it's a good thing that Najib is planning to declare SJI as a
National Heritage Site next month. Hopefully this means that the school
will not be torn down to make way for a shopping center, the way BBGS
was torn down because it was located in prime real estate.
More importantly, I think the spirit and nature of many of the
missionary schools in Malaysia, including SJI, has changed since the
time when Najib was in school. The 'nationalization' of these schools
which includes putting in headmasters and headmistresses which have no
conception of the philosophy of the missionary schools or the La Sallian
tradition and many attempts by MOE officials to 'de-Christianize' these
schools have led to a drop in standards, both academic and
It is not enough to just say that the philosophy of
the missionary schools capture the spirit of what 1 Malaysia means but
Najib has to act in such a way to ensure that this spirit is returned to
the missionary schools and promoted in other national schools.
One possible way, which Dr. Goh Cheng Teik has recommended, is to bring back the brothers into the school boards of the various La Salle schools to that their influence is still felt.
ways include emphasizing a culture and spirit which respects diversity
and inclusiveness in the teacher training schools so that the teachers
and headmasters can teach as well as practice what it means to respect
all religions and races.
I'm not sure about the educational
background of Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the current Minister of
Education, but hopefully he can pick up on what Najib has said and will
make this an important priority in his agenda.