Sunday, May 13, 2012


There is much to be said of two great teacher training institutions that were established in Britain to train Malayan teachers before and in the early years of Merdeka. They were the Kirkby Teachers' College in Liverpool for primary school teachers and the Brinsford Teachers College for secondary school teachers at Wolverhampton. These institutions and the teachers that were trained there are not only history today but also perhaps considered legends to the younger generations. Some of it is romantic myth and some of it is also true to a greater extent. Many like me are still around to tell the tale.

In the early 1950s, the Federation of Malaya was in the process of achieving independence from the United Kingdom and, at that time, schools in Malaya were staffed predominantly by expatriate British teachers. In order to assist Malaya in becoming self-sufficient in teaching staff after independence, Brinsford Lodge was offered to the Malaysian government as a Teacher colleges for Malaysian students after passing Senior Cambridge (Form V) between 1954 and 1965. They opened in 1955 and were among the first of MTCs to be established by Malaya. The courses taught there lasted for two years. There were up to 300 students - 150 juniors and 150 seniors on site at any one time and the last cohort left the college in 1964.

Our Minister of Education cum Deputy Prime Minister recently mentioned re-establishing them or similar ones for some of our present teacher training purposes. I do not want to sound pessimistic but the situation today is totally different. For starters, those chosen for teacher training in the 1950’s and 1960’s were the cream of the school leavers. Yes, indeed teaching in an English school was a much desired and first choice job and vocation unlike today. Today, the cream of the graduating Form V classes has too many options and sadly, teaching is not one of them.

Teaching has instead has become a “last resort” vocation, sorry to say. Trust me I know what I am talking about. I myself had the qualifications when I passed my Senior Cambridge in 1959 but was under aged to apply for either of these colleges because one had to be at least 18 years old to apply. When I did become eligible in 1962 the Kirby and Brinsford programs were already discontinued. However, the MTCs that were had meanwhile been set up locally in Penang, Kota Bahru and Kuala Lumpur all followed the Kirby-Brinsford model too to a great extent.

If we are to send our aspiring teachers to UK today to renew the Kirby-Brinsford type of training I doubt our present generation can fit in to it and emerge successfully. There are bound to be socio-religious problems besides following a totally “alien” curriculum. The original Kirby-Brinsford teachers were top achievers not only in scholastic terms but were also required to have good extra-mural credentials. Those chosen also had a healthy racial mix which we are not seeing today.

If I were the good minister, I would instead appoint British administrators as heads of all schools and IPGMs in Malaysia for at least 10 – 20 years….why even at IPTs. The Kolej Tuanku Ja'afar in Mantin for example can be the model if we are so British inclined. It has established itself over 20 years as the leading British-style, co-educational boarding school in Malaysia. With over 600 students from 11 to 19, KTJ offers a top-quality education with extensive facilities. Students at KTJ achieve high quality exam grades, while being able to undertake a wide range of sporting and extra-curricular activities. They are also renowned for their independence and confidence, qualities that stand them in good stead as they progress to higher education anywhere in the world.

Whatever it is education in Malaysia needs a major and drastic overhaul. Perhaps our Dato’ Seri Muhiyudin Yassin is getting the picture right although it is still hazy to him.


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rozmanshah said...

was blogwalking and chanced upon your blog, loved your matter-of-fact write, my favourite would be your 2007 posting on the Malay psyche,thx for a wonderful read

Rozmanshah Abdullah

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