I have very often been asked to explain just what are the core values, principles and practices of that eminent education philosopher St. John Baptist De La Salle. As a former student of St John’s Institution in Kuala Lumpur, a former college student at St Joseph’s Training College in Pulau Tikus, Penang and as a former teacher at La Salle Brickfields Secondary School, Kuala Lumpur, I have been repeatedly requested to elaborate of this man’s huge legacy to mankind, especially to the Last, the Lost and the Least.
In doing so, I have relied heavily on a paper presented at a seminar in Ipoh, Perak on 11 May 2013 by my college senior, Dato Dr. Anthony Sibert, a renowned educator in Penang. Let me now share with you SOME of the highlights of the core values, principles and practices of the education philosopher.
De La Salle’s contribution was and still is to popular education for all in establishing a religious congregation of Brothers whose sole ministry is the provision of education relevant to spirituality, citizenship and human development.
The La Sallian school is seen as a place of integral education of the human person through a clear educational project and its mission of education as a work of love, and its service to society. These are traits which should characterise the educating community, especially the poor.
Forming and Developing School Teachers
De La Salle had intentions of forming and developing school teachers with a total dedication to the instruction and education of the children of the working class and the poor through ethical and professional standards.
He believed that these should govern the teacher’s behaviour in relation to students, parents, fellow teachers and the public at large.
Founder of Modern Education
As the founder of modern education, he introduced new teaching methods as he systematised and made practical many of the educational methods considered standard today. It is a system of teaching which is adaptable to the wants of school going youth in every country. It also centres on deeply meaningful values and vision and should also assist them in developing their character and moral sense through experiencing the consequences of their acts rather than through physical punishments.
Growth and Development of La Sallian Schools
The growth and development of La Sallian schools were exercised by three principal means: vigilance, good example and instruction at every level. It ranged from pre-school, elementary and secondary education to preparation for careers and advanced / university education. It was accomplished in every class of society but especially among the poor and needy and in developing countries or among young persons who have learning or behavioural problems.
Faith, Zeal and Community
The pioneering Brothers of the De La Salle fraternity were equipped with the La Sallian spirit of faith, zeal and community when they arrived on the shores of George Town, Malaysia in 1852. The Brothers took note of the realities of the rich plurality of Asia, particularly the diverse faith traditions.
Catholic faith education was confined to the Catholics. The spirit of the Brothers and their lay teachers who ably supported them in terms of work ethics and universal values touched the hearts of a vast number of orphaned, poor, working class and elite Malaysians.
Brothers as Role Models
It is worth nothing that in France at that time teachers were referred to as Masters. De La Salle took a deliberate, different approach and chose to have the students and parents refer to them as Brothers. He wanted the students to see the teachers as a sort of elder brothers. He also wanted them to look up to the Brothers as role models.
These are some of the core values, principles and practices that truly characterise what a La Sallian education is all about. To this day, a La Salle education is synonymous with a wholesome and complete education. It is not just academic results that matter but equally important are the many extra curricula activities that are available for students to choose from. It addition, there is also importance placed on moral and ethical values as well as the importance of being a good and caring citizen of the country.
Benedict Morais currently serves as a Member of the Board of Governors, La Salle Brickfields Secondary School, Kuala Lumpur, Chairman of the Board of Managers, La Salle Brickfields Primary Schools 1 & 2, Member of the Selangor La Salle Regional Education Council and a National Steering Committee Member of Direct Educational Services for the Poor (DESP) a La Sallian initiative that was pioneered in Penang more than 25 years ago.