On Saturday, 7 December 2013, I attended the National La Sallian Conference held in Kuala Lumpur, together with about ninety five other individuals from all over Malaysia. There were representatives from Sabah, Penang, Seremban and Malacca to name a few. Many of them were from the Board of Managers, the Board of Governors, Parent Teacher Associations, Alumni, Administrators, Teachers and the Infant Jesus Convents. There were also a few representatives from St Joseph’s Training College Alumni. They were all there to lend support for the conference on the theme: The La Sallian Response to the Malaysian Education Blueprint.
Four Distinguished Speakers
The event was promoted, marketed and organised by the Malaysian Federation of La Sallian Associations in collaboration with De La Salle Brothers Malaysia. The conference featured four distinguished speakers: Mr. Megat Mizan Nicholas Denny, Chairman of Board of Governors, St John’s Institution and St John’s International, Kuala Lumpur; Rev Bro Anthony Rogers FSC, Director – La Salle Brothers Malaysia; Dr. Francis Loh Kok Wah, Chairman of Board of Governors, St Xavier’s Institution, Penang; and Ms. Julia Willie Jock, Super Principal – La Salle Kota Kinabalu.
La Sallian Efforts at Adopting and Enhancing Initiatives
Mr Megat Mizan, who is Head of Group Business Development and concurrently Executive Director at K & N Kenanga Holdings Berhad, gave an insightful presentation on the National Educational Blueprint: A Focus on La Salle Schools in Malaysia. He outlined some of the 25 Key Initiatives under the 1st Wave ( 2013 – 2015 ) of the National Blueprint. His focus was on areas where the La Sallian Educational structure can adopt and enhance these initiatives to provide a higher standard of education in all the La Salle schools in the country.
Reviving the La Sallian Ethos towards Integrity, Unity and Spirituality
Rev Bro Anthony Rogers, who is Director of De Salle Brothers Malaysia and Chairman of Malaysian La Sallian Educationa Council (MLEC), highlighted the fundamental premise that the La Sallian Family in Malaysia has the urgent task to re-discover a new sense of hope. Rev Bro Rogers stressed that the world today is fragmented within and divided outside. The La Sallian Education has the task of restoring integrity, promoting unity and fostering spirituality.
Rev Bro Rogers believes this is possible because La Sallian Education is synonymous with a responsible education, contrary to an education model that creates one dimensional individuals, entrenched comfortably in their tiny world and pursuing their own interests, and incapable of connecting themselves with the larger picture. He made the case persuasively for our return to the Last, the Lost and the Least in our collective quest to build a new world order founded in Faith, cherished with Hope and expressed in Service.
Case for Decentralisation to Restore Excellence
The third speaker, Dr Francis Loh was Professor of Politics in Universiti Sains Malaysia until he retired in 2012. He is president of Aliran and a regular contributor to its Aliran Monthly. Dr Loh mentioned that there is much criticism of the state of education in our schools and universities. They range from: declining standards, especially in science and mathematics; biasedness in the history and civics curriculum; poor grasp of the English language; lack of awareness of the globalised world beyond Malaysia; worsening discipline among students; poorly trained teachers; inadequate attention given to weaker students especially in rural schools; and marginalisation of national type and mission schools in terms of financial support.
Dr Francis Loh made a strong case for decentralisation. In fact, he said, many of these problems stem from over centralisation of the education system. He called for decentralisation of this machine to allow parents, old boys and girls, and the community writ large to complement the roles of teachers, administrators and the MOE. Drawing from the experiences of several mission schools in Penang, he proposed some areas for effective community engagement with this massive machine, in order to restore a sense of mission in our schools. He challenged those present to consider deeply in the light of the sad reality that there are very few La Salle Brothers left, how we as caretakers of their admirable tradition should proceed.
Touching Hearts, Teaching Minds and Transforming Lives
The fourth and last speaker was Ms. Julia Willie Jock, Super Principal of La Salle Kota Kinabalu ( LSKK). She has held this post since 2006 and was incidentally a student of La Salle Secondary School, Kota Kinabalu from 1974 to 1976. She is also a Master Trainer with Institute Aminuddin Baki at the MOE as well as a Principal Coach for the MOE and mentors novice principals and aspiring principals.
Ms Julia shared with passion the journey of Touching Hearts, Teaching Minds and Transforming Lives undertaken by La Salle Kota Kinabalu in their quest to reenergise their La Sallian heritage and traditions. This task, she acknowledged, was made that much easier with enormous help and support from the La Salle Board of Management, the PTA, the Alumni and the school population and partners in education. It was collectively decided that their focus should be on La Sallian values of faith, service and community. They also agreed to share a common dream and a common mission and to especially focus on the Last, The Lost and the Least. In that process, it was their intention to ensure that every La Sallian matters!
I must confess that I had not realised we had such a gem of a true La Sallian school in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah and a jewel of a principal to steer it to greater heights of endeavour. What also struck me were the effectiveness, fellowship and cohesiveness of the tripartite partnership in LSKK. We have much to learn from them. We were also informed that the Minister of Education in Singapore made a special visit to the school to learn first hand how they managed to achieve so much. That is real recognition.
“ The mediocre teacher tells,
The good teacher explains
The superior teacher demonstrates.
The great teacher inspires.”
The purpose of the ideas labs, thereafter, was to allow the participants to examine some of the pressing issues that need to be addressed collectively by all. The participants were divided into four working groups: Group A – Issues related to the Board of Governors and Managers; Group B – The Reality of Students in and outside Schools; Group C – The Situation of Administrators and Teachers; and Group D – Parents and Home Environment, the Community and Alumni. Each group was expertly steered by a moderator and it also had a recording secretary. The ideas and recommendations that were agreed are currently being compiled and will be published in due course and thereafter a copy of the publication will be sent to all registered participants.
Our Priority and Challenge as La Sallians
The conference managed to highlight with renewed zeal our identity as La Sallians in Malaysia. We are a community of diverse races and ethnic groups, religious and faith traditions aspiring for unity as Malaysians. As La Sallians, we see the holistic and integral, human and spiritual formation of the young with preference for those who are weak and poor. The dynamism of the La Sallian community in Malaysia is linked to a new partnership with the La Salle Brothers, Parents, Board of Governors / Managers, PTA and Alumni.
There is no doubt that the challenge before us, in this country, is an enormous one. It is up to each and every La Sallian to rise to the challenge and demonstrate that the Last, the Lost and the Least really do matter.