As we know, Reunions were usually held by alumni associations of schools, colleges and universities as a social gathering, giving opportunity for them to come together and remember old days. However this Kirkby College Alumni Grand Reunion which is held for two days on 28 and 29 November is not to be the usual and sundry Reunion but with a great difference in term of objective and programme. It will feature four main events of immense important to Kirkby alumni as well as to teachers and educators at large.
Firstly, yesterday evening, the Honourable Minister of Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage was invited to launch a definitive book on Kirkby College . This hard-cover 320 pages book was written in English, and it took us more than a year to publish this long overdue book. This book documented the background, the achievement of the college and its alumni, the academic and social life at Kirkby, the vacation and British Council courses, the opening as well as the closing of the college, and many more exclusive information collected from personal interviews and from the National Archives. The title “ Kirkby College – A Heritage” was deliberately chosen to reflect the significant contribution of this college and its alumni in the Malayan education history.
I would like to quote here some of content from the book.
Kirkby College was a unique educational experiment whereby a foreign country was allowed to operate a teachers training college in England . In retrospective the Kirkby experiment was a great success due to several factors, firstly the students were selected from the best - cream of the cream of the Cambridge School Certificate, with distinction in English Language. Secondly Kirkby lecturers were highly qualified and experience, a quality hard to find in Malaya after the war. Thirdly, the curriculum was designed and accredited by the Institute of Education University of Liverpool. Academic wise, the content of the courses and the pedagogy were world class and the trainees took home innovative approaches and a liberal attitude to learning. And finally, all of Kirkby students were exposed to English education practises which were considered one of the best in the Western world at that time and even today.
The book highlighted the important role contributed by teachers and specifically Kirkby teachers in the realm of national human capital development or Modal Insan, for the past 50 years. They have devoted most of their lives to teaching, teaching in remote places and in classrooms without the comfort of air-con rooms that administrative officers (PTD) enjoyed. In those days in 1950s and 1960s, much of the rural areas were still undeveloped; teachers had to travel on kampong road that was muddy during the monsoon season and dusty during dry season. Some of the unlucky ones were forced to travel by boat to reach schools miles upstream. There were not given incentive allowances or hardship allowances as enjoyed by ulu teachers today.
Kirkby teachers contributed to education in Borneo even before the formation of Malaysia in 1963. The fact that the newly independence Malaya had sent Kirkby trained teachers to Borneo and Brunei which was still under the British at that time, was always overlooked in our education history books. Kirkby teachers again made a significant contribution when Brunei set up the first Teachers College in 1959. This to show that Kirkby certificate were recognized world-wide as it was accredited by Liverpool University .
Our founding fathers and lecturers of Kirkby College should be proud that its graduates had made a significant contribution to Malaysian education, before independent (1952 – 1957) and more so after the country achieved independent. Their contribution was far and wide reaching - as teachers in schools, as Head Masters, as Principals, as Schools Supervisors, as Organizers of Schools (today’s Pegawai Pendidikan Daerah), as State Directors of Education, as Teachers College lecturers, as administrative officers in the State or Federal Education Department. It is noteworthy that, for all the sacrifice made, four of Kirkby-trained teachers were chosen as Tokoh Guru Kebangsaan: Harith Liki (1988), Idris Tain (1990), Lau Hut Yee (1992) and myself (1998). It’s not too late to add a few more names while most of us are still alive.
Unfortunately teachers and educators were seldom portrayed as important leaders of the community despite their immense contribution to the nation. Until today they remained at the backstage as unsung heroes. Another good reason for Malaysians not knowing the role of educators in the nation’s development was that until now our nation did not have a National Education Museum dedicated to publicise the role of education and teachers. It is quite embarrassing that almost every other government department such as army, police, even Orang Asli has its own museum to display their heritage, but until today teachers has no museum to be proud of. This National Education Museum will try to do some justice to all educators and teachers as most of us realize that the recognition and respect for our beloved teachers were long overdue.
For this reason that the Kirkby College Alumni Association has submitted a National Education Museum proposal to three ministries (Ministry of Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage; Ministry of Education and Ministry of Higher Education), requesting an urgency for such museum to established in Kuala Lumpur. Without a proper Education Museum , sooner or later much of valuable education artefacts such as papan batu, kalam, mesin cyclostyle, Kirkby records, will be lost forever.
As a complimentary event for the book launching, after the launching of the Kirkby book, the Honourable Minister was invited to officiate a Kirkby Pictorial Exhibition, where many rare pictures and artefacts related to Kirkby College and college life at Kirkby more than 50 years ago were put on display. The items on display came from Kirkby Gallery at Muzium Pendidikan UPSI and from Tuanku Bainun Teachers College at Penang .
This morning, an International Convention on Teachers’ Education is being held at INTAN Auditorium where YB Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, our active, progressive and far sighted Minister of Education was invited to present a keynote address and officially open the convention. Two more papers will follow after YB Hisham’s keynote address, one by Dato’ Prof Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid, a professor at INTI University College, well known educator who will present a paper on world class teacher training and Prof Diana Burton, Pro-Vice Chancellor of John Moores University of Liverpool will present a paper on teacher education in England.
And finally, tonight a Grand Dinner will be held a PICC Putrajaya whereby all of Kirkby-trained teachers will receive certificates of appreciation from the government. Even though all of them had left the teaching profession more than 15 years ago, this gesture from the Minister of Education is in line with government’s policy to value the service rendered by government servants. It was most appropriate that INTAN, the public department training college, give full support for this function.
INTAN and Kirkby College had one thing in common; both of these institutions are training institution; Kirkby College trained teachers while INTAN trained government officers. This showed that our Government gave high priority to training, even before Merdeka and even more after Merdeka. Our Government was a firm believer and supportive of using training as a mean to increase efficiency and productivity of its officers that now practically all Government Ministries have their own training academies.
During the Grand Dinner, a Kirkby College Coffee Table book in Bahasa Malaysia published by UPSI will be launched by Tuanku Bainun the Raja Permaisuri of Perak (Kirkby alumni 1952 – 54). This book had more pictures compared to the documentary book published by Kirkby Alumni.
The Kirkby College Alumni Association is honoured that for the first time three ministries are involved as joint organiser; the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Higher Education and Ministry of Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage.
In conclusion, once again, on behalf of the organizing committee, I would like to thank the honoured guest, YB Menteri Pelajaran, paper presenters, session chairpersons and all the attendees, especially my colleagues Kirkby alumni that came from all over the country, for your support and presence to make this Reunion and International Teachers Convention a success.
As a parting note I would like to ask the YB Minister to consider tapping the huge talents and experience of former teachers and lecturers by creating a post service scheme for experience lecturers, especially as contract teaching staff at the newly upgraded Teachers Training Institutes. Kirkby College Alumni Association members, many of them proficient in English Language, some with masters and PhDs and specialised in many academic subjects, will be ever ready to answer the call for post-service scheme, if there is an urgent need for them to go back to classrooms and lecture rooms.
TAN SRI DATO' DR YAHAYA IBRAHIM