Saturday, April 04, 2009
A large portion of our life as an old boy of MCKK revolves around other old boys and their families. We spent a lot of time sitting down together and catching up because it is so easy to relate to each other despite the generational difference. While this is common, it is even more unique when you get to spend such time with a fellow old boy who was also your Headmaster.
Last night, KE (Class of 92), Kataque (Class of 88) and myself had the privilege to be hosted by Dato’ Rashdi Ramlan, former Deputy Director General of Education and former MCKK Headmaster. He was the last MCKK Headmaster who was also an old boy.
Dato’ Rashdi went a long way with our batch, perhaps because his first son Badut is our batchmate. As a batch, we didn’t have much encounter with him (which I will explain later why) apart from one session that he had with us in TAR Hall about a month before SRP – when he alluded to us, quite gentlemanly, of how bad we were at our studies to the point that he kept repeating “this is a crisis and you must treat it as such”. I truly understand the meaning of crisis from that night onwards and I never forget the phrase (he laughed last night when I reminded him of that).
Anyway, it is not my intention to go through our life stories with him here. I want to capture my feeling of how refreshing it was to be reminded of the kind of HM that we used to have in MCKK while it is still fresh in my mind.
One of my most vivid memories of MCKK (which sealed my loyalty to it) was the first Monday morning assembly in the school. Still engulfed with a mixed feeling of excitement (being a part of something new and grand) and sadness (of parting with parents); in our short pants and long socks, we walked to the Hargreaves Hall which was clearly abuzz with anticipation (I guess it’s normal that the whole school would want to see the next crop of F1s coming in – whether they look smart, whether the no of jambus beat last year’s, whether…. errr usually the anticipation revolves around those two ha ha).
We waited and suddenly the whole hall stood up and Dato’ Rashdi walked from the right hand side door of Hargreaves Hall in his usual alacrity. I don’t remember much of what happened after that – I was amazed at the harmony of the clapping and Lagu Kolej, but beyond that there was nothing big in that assembly because it was a start of the term.
The biggest impact of that assembly was the HM’s speech.
He spoke a perfect English, with the right intonation and nuances. Even after almost 20 years later, he still speaks with clarity that is very rare among our top civil servants. The speech was short, but the message was so profound that I hold on dearly to it till this very day.
In his short speech, on top of welcoming us to the school, he told us and the seniors to “do to others what you want other do unto you”. It didn’t make much sense then, but as I grow up in my years in MCKK and beyond – I think I understand what he was trying to tell us as a Form 1.
Eventually we too would become a senior and we would go through the motion of being a senior. So while we despise many things that we were subjected to as a junior, there would come a time when we too would have expected a certain place and respect from the juniors.
Likewise as we take our place as a senior, we too should remember certain things that we wished we would not have been subjected to as a junior.
This simplest code was maintained throughout his HMship and while we did not become superstars (hmmm this sounds like Projek Pop!), the experience was so enriching that we learnt more about living skills in MCKK than anywhere else after that.
Anyway, I thought I share some of the conversations and chats that we had with Dato’ Rashdi last night and you may form your own opinions and conclusions.
On the students
MCKK is given the top 100 students from around the country after UPSR (each state has a quota and usually the top 5 – 10 students are selected, depending the size of the state) and this remains the case until today.
Once in 1990, DYMM Sultan Kedah graced the Annual Speech Day and after the session, His Majesty had a chat with Dato’ Rashdi.
Dato’ Rashdi related to us the following:
Baginda bertitah: “Beta menghantar pelajar terbaik dari Kedah, macam mana pula mereka tidak mendapat cikgu terbaik?”
It was a big knock on the head and such is the difficulty that any HM would have to live with – that due to the way our system is structured, there’s hardly a match between the breed and the breeder.
On the perpetual classes and Preps that the students have to go through: "Sometimes I feel as if we don't trust our own students and their ability to study, after all they are very smart students"
On the students and teachers
“I always say to my teachers that a teacher is like a cook. You can have the best ingredients but if you give it to a lousy cook, it will not become the nasi goreng that you want. But with a good cook, even if the ingredients are not perfect, it is still a perfect nasi goreng.”
“The teachers in MCKK must understand that not even a single boy wants to be a teacher when they grow up. They come from a different background, they meet different people and they have different ambitions. So if you want to earn their respect, you must be able to teach them differently, then they will not see you as someone who is just paid to teach; but someone they look up to”.
On being told that there was nothing that koleq could do to improve Budut’s (Class of 96) performance (ha ha apparently he was struggling with his PMR), he told the teachers: “If you say it once again that there is nothing that could be done, I will pull him out of the school because as I remember it, he was not stupid when he came in. He did get a genuine 5As in UPSR”. Of course the school said less about Budut after that and I think Budut turned out fine (career wise, he is quite fat physique's wise!).
When reviewing the “pelan pengajaran” (the light blue book, I was once a part time teacher during my A-Levels teaching English in Kemaman, I dreaded filling in the light blue book), he commented to the teachers: “If your teaching plan is the same with the teachers’ in Clifford, then something is wrong because you are treating the MCKK boys the same way as you are treating the Clifford boys.”
When recollecting about Cikgu Alimah, a senior Physics teacher: "Once I visited Clifford and met Alimah there, so I asked her what she was doing there. Apparently she was transferred out, because she could not come to the school during the night, the husband did not like it much. It was such a waste that we lose a good teacher like her. If she cannot come during the night, we make sure that she does all the necessary during the day."
On the little things that make MCKK what it is
Dato’ Rashdi related to us how he introduced the robe that the Board of Governors wear each year in 1988; because it is the little subtle difference like that; which builds in the pride and distinguishes us from others. Co-incidentally in that year, the late YA Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin (ex-MCOBA President and Chairman of the Board of Governors) was recently suspended in the judiciary crisis that took place – so His Majesty Raja Nazrin who was the VIP for the Speech Day; quipped: “It’s because your judge rope has been taken away, that’s why you put on this one”.
On why and how he defended the policy that F1 wears the short and long socks attire: “It is about making things different and special, it even gives a different mood to Kuala Kangsar. Some parents called and pleaded that the school accorded exemption to their sons, I told them that it was an offer that comes with a set of rules. If you cannot honour the rules, you can always decline the offer.”
On his decision to break away from official ministry policy on admission based on 5As UPSR: “They (referring to the sons of royalty and YAM Tengku Baharuddin, the brother of the current Agong) come to the school for a different reason. They should not be subjected to the same admission policy, after all they don’t need it (referring to the formal examination certificate). We should have re-established this connection with the royalty, especially since YAM the Sultans have expressed their support after the 100 years celebration.”
On academic results
When MCKK did not pass 100% in SRP in 1991, the late YA Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin called and made this comment: “Why the big fuss, after all do we not have failures in Cambridge University too? Do we close Cambridge University just because some people flunked their exams?” His answer was “I understand that Tan Sri, but I still have to give an answer to my superior. You are not my superior (laughingly).”
On the role of HM as a leader
“The fish rots from the head”
On the need for school’s leadership to own up to decision making
“People say that power corrupts. I think it’s the powerlessness that corrupts even more in our system. People give you power, use it rightly so that you can bring something good out of it”
There were many other discussions but I guess this is enough (either it’s too sensitive or I have forgotten them ha ha).
Dato’ Rashdi was handpicked much earlier on to be the HM of MCKK. He knew that he would end up as the HM of MCKK; having been picked by the late Tan Sri Abdul Rahman Arshad, the former Director General of Education who was also his teacher in MCKK.
His time and leadership was one that put pragmatism and openness at the heart of the school policies. He understood what is MCKK and the role that MCKK plays vis-à-vis the top 100 Malay students in the country. He allowed differences in opinion and approach – in fact he acknowledged that smart students at that age expressed themselves differently. He too appreciated the difficulty in working from within the system to make do given the many constraints.
As school boys, we did not interact much with him – not because he was aloof, but due to the reverence and respect that we accorded to him given his intellect and charisma. It was obvious why he was the HM (and not others) because when he speaks, it has substance (and he rarely spoke to us). Having the opportunity to speak to him was an honour in itself, back then. Even as a very active school boy and in spite of winning PPM for the school, if I am not mistaken I only spoke to him once or twice when he was our HM, because I dare not speak to him.
If you wonder what kind of a person should be tasked to lead MCKK, there’s one living in Putra Heights (though I bet he would pass now ha ha). Even if you can’t get him, get someone who has the same intellectual capability, charisma, leadership, ownership, understanding and pragmatism.
We were such a lucky bunch of people to have come across an HM of this calibre.
Ps: Thank you to Red and Badut for the mee goreng, popia and longan!
1) Dato’ Rashdi was awarded Tokoh Kepimpinan Guru Malaysia 2008
2) His teachers also thought highly of him. This is Cikgu Malek’s (1988 – 2006) recollection of him posted on the former’s website:
"Kenangan 1988-1992 bersama Yang Berbahagia Dato' Haji Rashdi Ramlan bekas Pengetua Kolej dan Timbalan Ketua Pengarah Pendidikan Malaysia (Jabatan Sekolah),Yang Berbahagia Dato'Haji Alimuddin Mohd Dom-Ketua Pengarah Pelajaran Malaysia. Beliau bekas Penolong Kanan 1991-1992 dan Pengetua Kolej Melayu 1999-2003. Gambar tahun 2003 ini mengingatkan webmaster bersama En. Ejazi yang pernah berkhidmat di bawah pengurusan kedua-dua pengetua.
Dato' Haji Rashdi-Pengetua yang selalu turun ke padang bersama anak buah, baik pelajar mahupun guru.Webmaster masih ingat, beliau seorang pemain tenis, bola sepak, hoki serta badminton yang handal serta menjadi pemain regular mewakili pasukan staff MCKK ketika Karnival Tahunan MCKK-RMC,MCKK-MRSM Kulim, MCKK-IPSI (zaman Dr. Ashari Muhammad, bekas Pengetua IPSI, VC-UPSI yang juga senior beliau di MCKK)"
Posted by Noni Kapet at 3:39 PM