Tag Archives: La Salle

La Salle School, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur

A guest post is a piece of writing that is published on someone else’s website or blog. This post today is a guest post by Denis Armstrong, one of nine pioneer teachers of La Salle Brickfields when the school was established in 1954

Beginnings
I was present at the creation. No, not THAT big one but a more modest one: the creation of La Salle Brickfields (LSB), K.L.

I was born and grew up in the fifth house in the first block of houses in Rozario Street (“Hundred Quarters”), a stone’s throw from LSB. Directly in front of my house was the Vivekananda Ashram. To the left, about 50 metres away was the Gajjan Singh petrol station along then Brickfields Road. To the right at the end of Rozario Street and the beginning of then Temple Road was the Lutheran Church.

Adjoining the church was the Buddhist Temple and a bit further on the opposite side of the road was a rice mill just next to the iconic toddy shop. Continuing along Temple Road, and where now are Brickfields Primary School and the Methodist Primary Girls’ School, used to be the town dump site for waste and discarded material. As children growing up in Brickfields in the late forties, we used to scavenge the dump site for old bicycle and motorbike rims. We removed the spokes and ran around and raced each other with these “wheelies”, controlling them with a stick.

Other landmarks at that time which now no longer exist were the original YMCA building which was demolished to accommodate the petrol station; and the Lido Cinema Theatre, also once known as the Cathay Cinema and earlier still as the Princess Cinema. Just behind the Lido cinema was the Kishan Dial Secondary School, possibly the first private school in the country to prepare students for the Overseas Senior Cambridge School Certificate.

The Anthonian Book Store started as a tiny business selling religious items like Catholic bibles, prayer books, rosaries, crosses and medals. It occupied a half shop lot in the block of shops just next to the Holy Rosary Church. Other landmarks in the vicinity of Brickfields at that period were the Royal Selangor Museum on the site of the current National Museum and a public swimming pool at the spot now occupied by the Police Station along Travers Road. These two landmarks received direct hits during the Allied bombing of the railway marshalling yards in Brickfields and Sentul in 1945 towards the end of the Japanese occupation of Malaya.

Creation
In those days the future home of LSB was a low-lying expanse of swampland. As the land was a foot or so above the canal running alongside it, the land had to be raised before the school could be built. And the cheapest solution for the landfill was garbage and discarded material from the town. Hundreds of lorry loads of this waste were dumped on the future site for the school building.

Layers upon layers of rubbish were sandwiched between layers of sand until the required level was achieved. Bulldozers were used in the operations. Almost immediately after the landfill was accomplished in early 1953, the freshly-laid landfill was promptly dug up, the foundations laid and the erection of the school commenced. Everything was completed sometime towards the end of 1953.

I saw it all happen. I was in my final year in school (St. John’s Institution) preparing to sit for the Overseas Senior Cambridge School Certificate at the end of year 1953.

Growth
In January 1954 La Salle School, Brickfields, opened its doors to welcome its first intake of students who had been housed in St. John’s Primary School the previous two years while awaiting LSB to be built. Together with the new admissions for the year 1954, there were in total eight classes. There were nine teachers. I was one of those nine pioneers.

I joined LSB in January as a temporary teacher while awaiting my exam results. After receiving my exam results in May 1954, I was accepted as a trainee teacher and began my three-year Normal School* teacher training. Thus began my teaching career.

What were those times like when LSB first opened its doors in January 1954? It was a mere eight and a half years after the end of the Second World War.

LSB then had no field for its sports activities. The land in front of the school was still a swamp. Once again, sometime in 1957, the lorries rolled in with their loads of rubbish and the bulldozers set to work to convert the swamp into a playing field. The field was ready for use in 1958. Engineers from the government’s Survey Department measured the field and succeeded in fitting an eight-lane 400-metre running track on it, thus making LSB the only school in KL other than Victoria Institution to possess such a facility. Prior to LSB having its own field, all sports activities were conducted in nearby “Chan Ah Tong Stadium”, a small playground adjoining Chan Ah Tong Street and a Brickfields landmark.

Reminiscences
What were those times like when LSB first opened its doors in January 1954? It was a mere eight and a half years after the end of the Second World War. The country was still recovering from the turmoil, destruction and ravages of the Japanese occupation. Times were still hard.

The country was in the midst of a guerrilla war, the so-called emergency, with the Communist Party of Malaya (MCP). The British High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney, had been assassinated by the MCP in 1951 while travelling in his car to his holiday retreat in Fraser’s Hill.

Life was simple. There were no computers or Internet, no TV or mobile phones – just fixed land phone lines and these were few and far between. There was radio but no FM, just AM broadcasts; and there was Rediffusion, a cable radio broadcast with continuous service from 6.00am to 12.00 midnight for a monthly fee of six Malayan dollars.

Fast food outlets were non-existent. The popular meeting places were the coffee shops where you could get a cup of tea or coffee with Milkmaid condensed milk (genuine milk!) for less than 20 cents. Ovaltine was then the popular health drink. Ice balls made from shaved ice, and ice cream potong were available to quench your thirst.

The most popular pastime was going to the cinema. There were cheap matinees and midnight shows in addition to the regular screenings. The first four or five front rows of the cinema hall, directly in front of the screen, were fondly referred to as “parliament seats” and tickets for these seats initially cost only 45 cents. Ticket inspectors with torchlights made spot checks to discourage “parliamentarians” from sneaking into the more expensive sections of the hall when the shows started and it was dark.

A vendor with a tray filled with tidbits and drinks and cigarettes (yes, cigarettes) made a couple of excursions along the aisles of the cinema hall during the show and you could buy things from him. The pickings “downstairs” were rather slim for the vendor. His main takings were from the patrons “upstairs” occupying the expensive balcony seats, the majority of whom were our colonial masters.

Another big attraction was the Bukit Bintang Amusement Park (BB Park) in the area now occupied by Sungei Wang Plaza. It was a brightly lit place with a carnival-like atmosphere. There was something for everyone. It had restaurants and a cinema hall (Rialto) which played second-run films. There were gaming stalls and shooting galleries where you could try your luck and win prizes. There was a cabaret and a joget stage with live music where you could dance with professional dancers for around 30 cents per dance.

Boxing and wrestling rings were erected to stage fights. Small halls offered various performances like Chinese opera and magic shows while those who fancied it could pop into Bali Hall and catch Rose Chan strutting her stuff. To keep the younger crowd and children happy there were Dodgem/Bumper cars, a Ferris wheel, a Carousel, a Roller Coaster and even a Ghost Train to scare the wits out of you.

On the roads, trishaws had replaced rickshaws. Few could afford cars; motorbikes and bicycles were predominant. Aircond was a rarity. Men carried handkerchiefs and wore sleeveless cotton singlets (Pagoda brand) under their shirts, presumably to absorb sweat. The first “skyscraper” was the Loke Yew building, all seven storeys of it, in downtown KL. “Hundred Quarters” and most houses still had the bucket sanitation system (gasp!!). These buckets, made of solid rubber, were emptied daily during the early hours of the morning by workers in their lorries (“honey wagons”).

Children still flew kites and played with marbles and spun tops and climbed trees and caught fighting spiders. An outing to Port Dickson was a treat. Visiting Singapore and shopping at Change Alley and the Arcade was a big deal. Anyone earning a so-called “four-figure-salary” was looked upon with awe.

There was hardly any pollution and the air was clean and the skies were clear. On a cloudless night you could look up and witness a sky strewn with literally hundreds of brilliant stars and you could even identify the various constellations. Today, count yourself lucky if you can spot a dozen stars.

There were fighting spiders, huge atlas moths, lots of different types of butterflies and dragonflies, bumble bees and even the occasional fireflies. The clearing of trees and greenery, all in the name of progress and development and plus all that fogging, took care of them.

Pupils and Parents
The pupils of LSB came mainly from Brickfields proper and the surrounding Bangsar and Old Klang Road areas.

Catholic families from the rubber estates and tin mines in Puchong who wanted their children to attend a Catholic school sent them to LSB. The Catholic families in newly developing PJ did likewise. Federal Highway had not been built and Old Klang Road was the only link to PJ. The land now occupied by La Salle PJ and Assunta Secondary School was then a rubber estate and tin was still being mined in Taman Jaya Lake and its surroundings (A&W Drive-In Restaurant and Amcorp) when I moved to live in PJ in 1956.

The parents were all for their children to do well in their studies so as to get decent jobs and escape the grim cycle of hardship and poverty. It was just a few years after the end of the Second World War and the Japanese surrender in1945.

The majority of the pupils’ families were from the low and lower income groups, many of them with household incomes less than 200 dollars a month. With their meagre incomes, they had to house, clothe, feed and educate their children.

In those days large families of five, six or more were the norm. At that time too, monthly school fees at the rate of two dollars and fifty cents were payable. This was a large financial expenditure, especially when multiplied by the number of school-going children in a family.

The parents were all for their children to do well in their studies so as to get decent jobs and escape the grim cycle of hardship and poverty. It was just a few years after the end of the Second World War and the Japanese surrender in1945. The dark memories and scars of the physical, mental and emotional trauma of the brutal Japanese occupation were still raw. And the parents brooked no nonsense from their children when it came to conduct and application to studies. They supported the efforts of the teachers one hundred percent.

On its part, the school did its best to assist needy pupils. Money was collected through various fundraising initiatives including cinema shows held on Saturdays. The money collected was used to clear unpaid school fees and to purchase textbooks and stationery for deserving students. Food, especially powdered milk, was obtained from charitable organisations and made into milk treats for the pupils.

Teachers
I have taught in only one school: LSB.

I witnessed the landfill on the future site of the school. I saw the school come up brick by brick in 1953. I started as a temporary teacher in January 1954. I was accepted as a trainee teacher in May 1954. I qualified as a trained teacher in 1957. I left LSB and the teaching profession in May 1974, twenty years to the very month when I began my teaching career.

I look back with fond memories of my two decades teaching in LSB. Out of humble beginnings during the final years of British colonial rule in Malaya, there rose a school second to none in its professionalism, dedication and focus on the holistic education of its students. Academic excellence is important but stellar academic results are no guarantee of success in life. Character, values, discipline and living skills are equally important in facing life’s challenges and “the arrows and slings of outrageous fortune”. In LSB there was zero tolerance for indiscipline, disrespect, vandalism, bullying, gangsterism and suchlike anti-social behaviour.

The school provided a wide range of extracurricular activities for the pupils’ participation. In addition to a robust sports and games programme, pupils were encouraged to join one of the uniformed groups such as the Boy Scouts and the Red Cross Society. The successful implementation of these initiatives would not have been possible without the fullest support and active participation of the teachers.

Fine buildings do not make a great school. It is the teachers and especially their leaders who make a school great.

All these extracurricular activities helped develop beyond-the-classroom skills: living skills which are almost impossible to impart with chalk and talk in a classroom setting. Participation in these practical activities instilled in the pupils the concepts and values of team building and co-operation, obligations and responsibilities, courage and true grit and a never-say-die mindset. This holistic approach to an all-round education was a hallmark of LSB.

Fine buildings do not make a great school. It is the teachers and especially their leaders who make a school great. LSB was very fortunate to have dedicated teachers and exceptional leaders. I was asked to highlight the contributions made by some of the teachers but I refrained except for the three stalwarts mentioned.

On my scorecard every teacher contributed, every teacher co-operated and everyone played his/her part, the only difference being that some contributions were highly visible while others ran below the radar. Therefore, to highlight one will be to highlight everyone.

For the record, every teacher was involved in at least one, if not two or more, of the following activities :
 Athletics, Football, Hockey, Rugby, Badminton, Table Tennis, Sepak Takraw. (Note: The scope of work involved all competitions viz. intramural, inter-La Salle; MSSS district, inter-district and finals).
 Boy Scouts, Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance, School concerts, Saturday cinema shows to raise funds for needy students.
 Women teachers who home-cooked delicious food for school functions.

Yes, loads of work, loads of contributions – lots of unsung heroes/heroines.

It was a privilege to be a part of this pool of dedicated professionals drawn from the various ethnic groups of our country. They viewed their pupils with 20/20 vision: each and every one was treated fairly with no bias towards race or colour or whatever. I was fortunate to share my journey with this band of professionals.

I learned so much from all my colleagues, particularly Brother Gaston, S. Ratnasingam and Albert Rozario. They were visionaries and led where others followed, and were largely responsible for the excellence, the unity and the unique esprit de corps that prevailed in LSB. All of them have passed away but their legacy still lives on.
Denis Armstrong
11th November 2017
Revised
4th April 2018

*Normal School
Educational institution to train teachers
A normal school was a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers by educating them in the norms of pedagogy and curriculum.

In 1685, St. Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, founded what is generally considered the first normal school, the Ecole Normale, in Reims, Champagne, France. The term “normal” herein refers to the goal of these institutions to instil and reinforce particular norms within pupils. Norms included historically specific behavioural norms of the time, as well as norms that reinforced targeted societal values, ideologies and dominant narratives in the form of curriculum. From this beginning in France, the concept of normal school teacher training spread all over the world.
(Source : Wikipedia – Normal School)

DA01

LSB in the mid-fifties. Note that the canal has no embankments. The embankments to contain the water were built later. If you look carefully, you will notice a signboard to the left as you cross the bridge to enter the school. The signboard reads “Catholic High School” (in English and Chinese), indicating the temporary occupation of some of the classrooms by CHS students prior to their school building in PJ being built.

The canal running alongside the school is actually a little stream (Sungei La Salle?!). If you follow it upstream, you will eventually arrive at its source: it starts as a spillover from then Lake Sydney in Lake Gardens. As a small boy growing up in Brickfields, I used to catch fish in the canal. The water was much cleaner then and there were many different types of fish : rainbow fish (guppies), striped tigerfish, arrowan, small prawns and plentiful mira meen.

DA02

LSB sports meet in the mid-fifties held in “Chan Ah Tong Stadium”. Our sports meets were held there before the present field was ready. The prize giving ceremonies for the sports events were conducted in the school hall after the end of the meet.

DA03

That’s me with my pioneer batch of Standard Two students. The class photo was taken in early December 1954. LSB started as a single session primary school. The secondary classes were introduced later.

Note the rather simple, plain “home clothes” worn by nearly everyone. No fancy haircuts (some even sporting “homecuts” done inhouse so as to save money), no neckties, no socks, no school badges and not a single fatty in the group, reflecting the economic realities of those years.

Fourth row :
Third student on my left is Jerry Koh Sek Lee. He now runs a successful private tuition centre (Jerry’s Tutorials) in PJ.
Sixth student in the same row (face partly hidden) is the late George Jansen, brother of Julian Jansen who is also an LSB old boy.
Front row kneeling :
Third from left, shielding his eyes from the sun, is insurance agent extraordinaire George Devan. (His memorable tagline: When you see me don’t think of insurance, but when you think of insurance see me).
All of them in this group should now be in their early seventies.

DA04

An informal group photo of the pioneer teachers taken in front of the school main entrance in 1954.

Standing left to right :
Vivian Sequerah, Francis Fernando, Denis Armstrong, S. Ratnasingam, Kok Yew Weng.
Front row left to right :
V. Thangarajah, Clifford Sequerah.
(Not in picture : Victor Santhanam (photographer) and M. Rokk)

Francis Fernando migrated to Australia. Victor Santhanam left teaching in 1955 and went to Singapore where he started VICSAN, a successful magazine distribution company.
All the pioneer teachers who taught in LSB in 1954 have passed away except for Vivian Sequerah and me.

DA05

Band of brothers…
Another informal group photo taken in front of the school in 1959

From left to right :
Noel Cheow, Victor Nesadurai, Albert Rozario, Mohd. Idris Basri, Denis Armstrong.
I am the last one standing. Sadly, all the others have passed on…

I am seen wearing my Ray-Ban sunglasses (genuine!). I was already a qualified teacher (qualified in 1957) so I could afford those Ray-Bans!
The monthly gross pay for a Normal Class trainee teacher was Malayan $175. Upon qualification, the gross salary was Malayan $375.

To put that salary in perspective, consider its purchasing power in those times :
 Cars (Morris Minor) – Around Malayan $5,000 (approximately 13 months salary)
 Houses (A single-storey bungalow, land area approximately 6,000 sq. ft. in Section 6, in newly developing Petaling Jaya) – Around Malayan $15,000 (approximately 40 months salary)

DA06

An ad in the Pan-Malayan Telecommunications Magazine “MERCURY”. Vol 2 No. 5 September 1955
FAIRWINDS HOTEL was a top class establishment famous for its Hainanese Western/Local cuisine. The building is now a private residence. It is just next to the Avillion Hotel. Food inclusive means Breakfast, Lunch (Tiffin!), Afternoon Tea and Dinner!
Yes, those were the days!

DA07

Another ad in MERCURY.
SI-RUSA INN was managed by Chelliah, an Indian Malayan and his Japanese wife. Japanese food was a rarity in those days.

DA08

An end of the year picnic at the Lake Gardens in 1959 for Std. 6A (Albert Rozario class teacher) and Std. 6B (Denis Armstrong class teacher).
Albert Rozario is in the front row, centre and I am on the left.
The boys were the pioneer batch of Std 1 pupils when LSB first opened its doors in January 1954. They would be 71-year-old senior citizens now.

 

DenisArmstrong170x200px

This is a guest post by Denis Armstrong, one of nine pioneer teachers of La Salle Brickfields when the school was established in 1954.

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A Singular Privilege to Have Been a Teacher!

at La Salle Secondary School, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur

On 14th January 2017, I attended an enjoyable La Salle Secondary School Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, Class of 1969 reunion dinner and fellowship event. Prior to that, a few former teachers and I had received many invitations over the years from various groups to attend their reunion gatherings.

Wherever and whenever possible, I try to attend these wonderful reunion gatherings for a couple of reasons.  If former students still remember me and make it a point to invite me to attend their reunions, then the least that I can do is to return the kind courtesy and join them at the event. The other reason is that we (  former teachers ) must have had a positive, lasting impact and influence on these former students.

Successful but still Down to Earth

Many of these former students, I am pleased to report, are now leading academics, successful entrepreneurs, busy professionals, senior government officers and seasoned corporate leaders. A number of them, at least ten by the last count, have been bestowed high state honours and in one case, federal honours.

If these old boys really wanted to have had a closed door event, then they would not have invited the former teachers. Some of these groups even go so far as to provide transport for these teachers to attend the events.

Who are these Amazing Teachers? 

Having served as a teacher at this school for fifteen years ( 1966 to 1980 ), these are the few teachers that I vividly remember. I will name them in no fixed order.

Diana’s commitment to the students was so deep that she even held special tuition classes after normal school hours for those who were weak in the subject. This was her idea and these students did not have to pay any fee for this extra service.

Mrs Diana Yeoh was the teacher who taught mathematics with an uncommon passion. She is married to Mr. Yeoh Jin Leng, a former art lecturer at the Specialist Teachers Training Institute in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur and a well known Malaysian sculptor. She was a teacher, who dressed very simply, tied her hair up in a ponytail and got down to teaching with great skill and determination.

Extra Classes for Weak Students

Diana’s commitment to the students was so deep that she even held special tuition classes after normal school hours for those who were weak in the subject. This was her idea and these students did not have to pay any fee for this extra service. This was truly service above and beyond the call of duty and thus was hugely appreciated.

Influence for Good

A former student, years later, even wrote to the editor of a mainstream newspaper to remark that he decided to specialise in mathematics while at the university because of Mrs Diana Yeoh.

Mr Denis Armstrong is best remembered as a teacher, a feared disciplinarian and a formidable athletics coach. When I first arrived at La Salle Brickfields, Denis was already the supervisor of the Secondary School. Technically speaking, we were not recognised as a school but as a number of secondary classes attached to La Salle Brickfields Primary School 1. The headmaster of the primary school, the late Mr Albert Rozario also doubled up as headmaster of the secondary school.

Why was Denis a feared but respected disciplinarian?

Brickfields at that time had a poor reputation. Our students came mostly from socio-economically disadvantaged communities in Brickfields, Old Klang Road and Bangsar. Petty crime was rife and small time thugs made life miserable for many residents. Denis did not want this situation to be the norm at the school. Denis, I must add, is a black belt Tae Kwan Do exponent.

Over the years many former students have commented that this strict discipline in school was truly appreciated.

Tough Love at La Salle Brickfields

He imposed his brand of discipline with an iron resolve. But he also knew when to relent and look the other way on occasions. Many old boys recall that when they entered Denis’s office, he would allow them to choose from among his range of canes. He had thin ones, slightly thicker ones and a thick one. The whole episode consisted of three parts: having to wait agonisingly for him to arrive; having to choose the right sort of cane; and having to endure the number of strokes.

Over the years many former students have commented that this strict discipline in school was truly appreciated. None surprisingly expressed any resentment whatsoever! In fact, I remember a former student, Jeffery Felix, now an accomplished musician and a well-known glass artist residing in Alabama, USA saying something to the effect that they certainly needed such tough love!

A Passion for Athletics

Denis was also a highly competent athletics coach as attested to by many old boys who excelled in athletics. During his tenure as a coach, La Salle Brickfields became a powerhouse in the district and in the state much to the chagrin of bigger and better-equipped schools.

Such was Denis’s fame and stature that I once heard an old boy remark that had Denis coached the US 4 X 100 metres track team in the 1968 Mexico Olympics they would not have fumbled with the baton change! It is high praise indeed. It is worth mentioning that in all these athletics-related activities, Denis had one faithful and reliable colleague to assist him, Mr. K. Raja from LSB Primary School 1.

Mr Yong Hin Hong was a Brinsford Lodge, United Kingdom-trained teacher with an uncanny ability to teach effectively especially the subject of general science. When it was time for his lesson, the whole class had to move over to the well equipped and spacious science laboratory.

For many keen students, this trip to the science lab generated their interest in the subject. You will recall that it was an era when the first man, astronaut Neil Armstrong, landed on the moon! Science was and still is an intriguing subject and greater emphasis was being given to that subject.

A Rough Diamond

I remain grateful to Hin Hong because he was a truly supportive colleague and we got along well. At my request, he willingly assisted me by covering a part of the agricultural science syllabus. He was small in size, had a short fuse but a truly big heart. It was something in his DNA because both he and his father suffered from heart problems.

Success on the Soccer Field

Hin Hong was also the able coach for the soccer team. He and many of our students then followed the English Premier League ( EPL ) with a passion that I could not understand. He cultivated this love for soccer, coached his players with skill and competence and this usually translated into success in the field. The La Salle Brickfields soccer team did very well in district and state level championship competitions. Hin Hong sadly passed away a few years ago.

Some Other Teachers

There were, of course, many other teachers like Mrs Suan Fredericks, the talented teacher who taught art and who was responsible for the lovely, striking mural on the outside wall of the new building block at La Salle Brickfields.  The others including Mrs Theresa Oh who taught history, Mr Eric Koh who taught physical education and Mr Low Kim Seng who taught agricultural science have all migrated to Australia.

Mr Lucas Wong who taught general science, Mr V Sequerah who was the class teacher of Form Three Blue and Mrs Amarjeet Mahendran who taught English Language still live in the Klang Valley. Mrs Thana Ponnudurai, a state level hockey player and who was the class teacher of Form Three Blue now lives in Switzerland.

Some Quotes on Teachers

An arrogant individual in the past is reported to have famously made the following mean statement: ‘ Those who can, do; those who can’t teach.’ Be that as it may, there is always another side to that argument.

There is the celebrated case of how a primary school teacher in the US once put a high-flying chief executive officer in his place when he talked down to her at a social event.  He had cheekily asked her what she makes i.e. her salary.

She coolly, calmly and in a measured manner said: I teach children how to read, I teach them mathematics, I also teach them about the importance of good manners and civility. In addition, I teach them about respect….for their parents, for elders etc. I make a difference in their lives. What do you make sir? There was a stunned silence from the duly embarrassed individual.

I would, however, take some measure of comfort in the thoughtful statement attributed to Lee Iacocca, former celebrated chairman and chief executive officer of Chrysler Corporation. He said: ‘ In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less.’

And as you and I know, in these days, we do not live in a completely rational society.

No Text Book for Agricultural Science

On my part, I was tasked with the teaching of agricultural science in my very first year at La Salle Brickfields. It was a newly introduced subject in some Malaysian schools and none of the teacher training colleges had prepared budding teachers for this task.

There was not even a text book out at that time but I was nevertheless required to teach the subject to the best of my ability! It was a tall order indeed.

With the kind assistance from a senior agricultural science teacher at Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur who willingly lent me his notes, I was able to carry out the task with some success.

Promoted Debating Activities

In addition, for many years, I was also the class master for Form Three Yellow.

I also taught English Language to my class. I enjoyed teaching that subject and perhaps did it with some degree of success. This assessment is based on the feedback I received many years later from some of my former students. I also actively promoted debating activities. Many students were reluctant and shy to engage in debate but over time, they somehow got the hang of it.

These were not just reunions of old boys but also occasions to sincerely acknowledge the contributions of their teachers in no uncertain terms.

It is good to keep in mind that many students spoke dialect at home i.e. either Malay, Cantonese or Tamil. Thus, debating in the English Language was seen as a task too far! But I persisted, coached and cajoled them and over time they came to appreciate the merits and joy of that activity.

Acclaimed Actress’s Words

At a recent academy awards ceremony in the US, one of the greatest actresses of our time, Meryl Streep, said something to the effect that being an actor was a special privilege. She added that this remark originally came from another well-known actor, Tommy Lee Jones.

Taking that as my cue, I now feel somewhat along the same lines. The few teachers and I from this school have been on the receiving end of a seemingly endless series of reunions / dinners.

These were not just reunions of old boys but also occasions to sincerely acknowledge the contributions of their teachers in no uncertain terms. These former students, to their great everlasting credit, have been unfailingly courteous, kind and grateful for all that we did.

It was for them, I believe, the sum total of the whole edifying La Salle educational experience where due emphasis was given not just to academic activities. The unique mix of ethos, culture, traditions and extra mural activities played a huge part in the whole educational process. In addition, by being in a small school with a small enrolment and a small group of teachers, everyone got to know each other pretty well.

In that La Sallian spirit and on looking back with a degree of nostalgia, I cannot help but feel that teaching and teaching at La Salle Brickfields, in particular, was a singular privilege that I shall treasure for the rest of my life.

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Debt of Gratitude to the De La Salle Brothers

The Superior General of the Institute of the De La Salle Christian Brothers made a brief but meaningful visit to three cities in Malaysia towards the end of March 2015. Rev. Bro. Dr. Robert Schieler who was elected the superior general last May was on his first visit to Malaysia as the head of this international body of De La Salle Brothers.

Rev. Bro Dr. Schieler in addition to having an undergraduate degree has also earned two post graduate degrees: one in Modern European History from the University of Notre Dame and another in Asian Studies from the University of the Philippines. His Ph.D in Educational Administration is from the University of Pennsylvania.

Ability to Harness the Networks within the Family

Shortly after being elected the superior general of the De La Salle Brothers, he made a perceptive and telling observation: ‘ I know that anything that can be accomplished will be done only because of the great Lasallian Family that we are all part of‘.

In Kuala Lumpur and at a dinner in his honour at St John’s Institution, he further elaborated that what the De La Salle Brothers achieved over the many years was only possible because of the La Sallian Family’s ability to effectively harness the many networks within the family.

Solid & Ready Support from Old Boys

He went on to state that the loyalty, goodwill and solid support extended to the De La Salle Brothers from old boys of their schools, colleges and universities was second to none! He also paid tribute to the many lay teachers who shared the same teaching philosophy and taught alongside the De La Salle Brothers over the years. Furthermore, he also mentioned the role played by Parent Teacher Associations and a host of similar minded groups.

The La Salle Family in Malaysia had every reason to give him a warm welcome. Those who have studied at a La Salle school in Malaysia owe an immense debt of gratitude to the De La Salle Brothers who first came to this country more than one hundred and sixty years ago.

Unique La Sallian Characteristics

La Sallian schools in Malaysia have, over the years, earned an enviable reputation for excellence in academic, sporting and extra-curricula activities. They achieved this eminence and status through their unique La Sallian characteristics.

These include the following: respect for each student. La Salle teachers chose to be called brothers rather than masters as was the case in France at that time. They were seen as older brothers and role models by their students. Another characteristic is quality, all round education. The young student really learns and develops a thirst for truth and knowledge. They are also helped to think clearly.

Focus on the Last, the Lost and the Least

A third characteristic is openness to all: the poor, the rich, the neglected… these La Sallian schools opened their doors to all irrespective of race, status and religion. A fourth characteristic is La Sallian schools have dedicated teachers who would work with strong faith and ardent zeal for the good of their community.

De La Salle Brothers and their fellow lay teachers gave special attention to the Last, the Lost and the Least in society. This unrelenting focus on the socio economically disadvantaged remains to this day.

A Force for Good in the Community

Today the La Salle Family in Malaysia consisting of loyal alumni and students, teachers and principals both past and present, board of managers, board of governors and parent teacher associations are a force for good in their respective communities in the country.

A case in point to consider is the dinner in honour of the superior general was organised by the De La Salle Brothers in collaboration with the Malaysian Federation of La Sallian Alumni Associations. This was a big undertaking, given the time constraints. It also involved attracting and inviting attendees from the La Salle Family in Melaka, Muar, Johore, Seremban, Negri Sembilan, Klang, Petaling Jaya, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. As it turned out, about two hundred and fifty guests were present for the dinner to welcome and meet the superior general.

Malaysian Federation of La Sallian Alumni Associations

The biennial La Sallian Educators Conference, the last one in Taiping, Perak in September 2014, is another example of this fine collaboration. The federation is an active and forward looking umbrella body for all La Sallian associations in Malaysia. However, no one should underestimate the many challenges facing La Salle schools in Malaysia.

I am sure that the superior general would have gained a first hand appreciation of the fine La Sallian heritage and traditions in Malaysia. Rev. Bro Dr. Robert Schieler will also take back with him the ever lasting gratitude of thousands of individuals who have benefitted from the selfless sacrifice of the De La Salle Brothers. The herculean challenge ahead of us here in Malaysia is to do our very best in reviving the La Sallian ethos towards integrity, unity and spirituality.

The La Sallian Contribution to Moral and Ethical Education : Character Building

I would like to start with a quote from that famous Chinese writer, linguist and inventor, Lin Yutang. He said,

‘It is not so much what you believe in that matters, as the way in which you believe it and proceed to translate that belief into action’.

To really understand the La Sallian contribution to moral and ethical education let us pause for a while and examine a part of St John Baptist de La Salle’s last will and testament. In it he emphasized unity among the Brothers. He advised them not to get involved in doctrinal debates of the church for which they were not prepared.

Good News for the Poor

However, the founder of the religious order reminded them of the purpose for which they were founded. Their main mission was and still is to become Good News for the poor and the working class through the service of education.

The Raison D’etre

Why did the founder emphasize this particular aspect? St John Baptist de La Salle lived in seventeenth and eighteenth century France. The country was then a hierarchical society with a small upper class and a large under class.

In his time, the French upper class was immersed in a lifestyle of immense wealth, extravagance and splendour. The poor, unfortunately, had no place in this society except as servants to the rich.

The founder wanted to change that initially by focussing on educating the poor and the working class. His goals for education were thus socially motivated. In short, he urged the Brothers to serve the LAST, the LEAST and the LOST.

Brief History

In 1719, there were 100 Brothers teaching in thirty seven educational institutions in France. Sixty years later, at the time of the French Revolution, there were 1,000 Brothers teaching throughout France.

By the turn of the 20th century, there were more than 15,000 Brothers serving in ministries throughout the world.

La Salle Brothers first came to Malaysia 162 years ago. The first school was established in Penang in 1852. There are now forty four schools in Malaysia.

Definition of Character: What Embodies Good Character?

Let us see what the great American president Abraham Lincoln had to say on this matter. He said:

‘Reputation is the shadow. Character is the tree. Our character is much more than just what we try to display for others to see. It is who we are even when no one is watching. Good character is doing the right thing because it is wise to do what is right ‘.

Now let us examine three definitions of character.

One dictionary defines character as ‘ the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual ‘. Another says it is ‘the complex of mental and ethical traits marking a person’. A third dictionary says that it is ‘the stable and distinctive qualities built into an individual’s life which determine his or her response regardless of circumstances’. As you can clearly see there are commonalities in all three definitions. As such, character building is a very important part of the total education process.

Compelling Reasons for Character Education

Professor Thomas Lickona who specialises in this field offers us seven compelling reasons for character education. He maintains that it is the best way to make an enduring difference in the life of a student. He believes that if it is carried out properly, it will improve academic achievement. Moreover, he states that many students are not getting strong character formation anywhere else! Professor Lickona believes that it prepares students to respect others and live in a diverse society.

Furthermore, it goes to the root of a range of social-moral problems including incivility, dishonesty, violence, premature sexual activity and a poor work ethic. He also believes that it is the best preparation for the work place. And finally, teaching the values of a culture is the work of civilisation.

What Embodies Good Character?

The Character Training Institute of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma provides us with a range of values that embody good character. These include the following: creativity, decisiveness, deference, dependability, determination, diligence, discernment, discretion, endurance, enthusiasm, faith, flexibility, forgiveness, generosity, gentleness, gratefulness, hospitality, humility, joyfulness, justice, loyalty, meekness, obedience, orderliness, patience, persuasiveness, punctuality, resourcefulness, responsibility, security, self-control, sensitivity, sincerity, thoroughness, thriftiness, tolerance, truthfulness, virtue and wisdom.

As you can see there is a whole range of values that go into the heady mix of what embodies good character. The challenge for educators in Malaysia is to provide the setting and the example for these values to be absorbed and then internalised by our students in our multi cultural setting.

Fundamentals of La Sallian Contribution

The Brothers and the lay teachers who support them in this noble mission are constantly reminded that their focus should be on the Last, the Least and the Lost in our society. As such, one fundamental is to educate the working class. The next is that the Brothers are seen as elder brothers and role models and not as Masters… the term used to describe teachers in France at that time.

There is also recognition that no man is an island. There is an on–going commitment to excellence in teaching. In addition, there is due respect for human dignity and a reflection of faith and it’s relation to reason. There is much emphasis placed on ethical conduct and finally, there is a deep abiding commitment to social justice.

Characteristics of La Sallian Schools

These are some of the characteristics of La Sallian schools.

There is due respect for each student. A healthy community spirit is established and nourished. There is an emphasis on quality education. There is a spirit of openness to all, regardless of race, colour or creed.

In addition, there is support for dedicated teachers who go beyond the call of duty and sacrifice a lot for the students under their care. The teachers in these schools have an understanding and knowledge of St John Baptist de La Salle

La Sallian Measures that Contribute to Character Building

The La Salle Brothers and their lay teachers provide the environment to foster the development of academic, social, inter-personal and professional skills which assist the students to become successful young men. They also contribute their talents and energies to the communities in which they live. As such, the students work towards the following goals:

Specific Goals

To become educated men who possess academic, social, interpersonal, professional and job related skills which enable them to think critically, to assume leadership and to exercise their freedom;

To become cultured men who appreciate the fine arts;

To become patriotic citizens who are prepared to live in and appreciate a diverse, integrated society; and finally

To become men and women who are emotionally prepared to deal with the complexity of life in our changing society.

Range of Extra- Curricula Activities

La Sallian schools, therefore, encourage their students to participate actively in a wide range of extra-curricula activities. These include participation in one or more of the following activities: Boy Scouts movement, Cadet Corps, Red Cross / Crescent Societies, chess, athletics, sports – soccer, hockey, rugby, cricket, tennis, table tennis, badminton, basketball and swimming just to name a few.

There is also encouragement to participate in public speaking events and debates for the upper secondary school students. In addition, it is de rigueur for La Salle schools to organise and host an annual school concert and/or a play or musical event. In some instances, teachers also participate in the school plays or musicals. In such cases, the La Sallian family spirit thrives.

A Range of Benefits that Ensue

As a result of these La Sallian measures and a range of appropriate activities, the following benefits ensue.

Students take a much broader view of their education. By participation in these activities, they learn what it is to be an educated person. It inculcates values and principles of fair play. Students also understand that good sportsmanship is not just about winning but to play the game. They are also taught to show a round of appreciation for a gallant loser in a game or contest.

In addition, there is acceptance and understanding for the views of others. Students also learn to generously share knowledge, skills and experience. They learn to stand up for what they believe to be moral and right. And thorough it all, they are being groomed slowly but surely in leadership. In other words, students are taught to be responsible citizens. At the end of the day, this is what Character Building is all about.

Comparative Perspectives

At this juncture, it will be useful for us to be aware of the approach taken by two premier schools in the Klang Valley. One of the schools is Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur and the other is Assunta Secondary School in Petaling Jaya.

This is the feedback that I received from a former student of Victoria Institution. He is a chartered management accountant by profession and is currently serving as executive director of a public listed company.

Victoria Institution

At this school, rules were rules and they were applied across the board. There were no exceptions made even for sons of royalty, senior civil servants or the rich. The goal posts were fixed… more like cast in concrete!

The teachers here did not engage in private tuition. They were born teachers, for the most part. Teaching was then considered a noble and respected profession.

All Malaysian principals at Victoria Institution were former students or were made fully aware of its rich heritage, history and ethos. On one occasion when a principal made a mistake on a matter affecting the history of the school, he was quickly taken to task by the senior members of the Old Boys Association. The matter was then immediately set right!

There was heavy emphasis on sports and athletics. Teachers were involved personally and often went beyond expectations. Many were prominent sportsmen and a few were Olympians.

All these measures helped to create a strong bond amongst the students. They understood rules, believed in team work and fair play and willingly shouldered responsibility.

Assunta Secondary School

In the case of Assunta Secondary School, I received feedback from a former student who is now a chief executive officer of an integrated communications agency based in Honolulu, Hawaii.

This school was founded and run by Franciscan nuns. She imbibed a Catholicism that prioritized the person over rules.

The Franciscan lens encouraged the students to view others and the world around them more sympathetically. A wider and more compassionate perspective encouraged care of the environment and good stewardship of the planet.

Compassion and respect for the integrity of people of other faiths was fostered. The nuns and lay teachers encouraged a sense of personal empowerment and the ability for the girls to rise to their fullest potential.

Finally, an Assunta education gave the girls the encouragement of independent critical thinking.

As you can see the approach taken by these two premier schools has much in common with the La Sallian values, ethos and traditions.

The Role of the Lay Teachers

No discussion about the La Salle education system can be complete without mention of the key role played by lay teachers in these mission schools. These dedicated teachers played an important supporting role in furthering the cause of the La Salle mission because they chose to be teachers!

Most of them chose to be exemplary teachers. Many of them received their teacher training at St Joseph’s Training College in Penang. This is the very same La Salle college where the Brothers themselves received their formative and teacher training sessions.

Quite a number of these teachers were keen sportsmen and athletes. By their example, they inspired the students to follow suit.

Such teachers in La Salle schools were held in high esteem by La Salle Brothers, students and parents.

The La Salle Brand

The La Salle brand enjoys an enviable reputation for excellence in academic matters, sports, athletics and a host of extra mural activities. It is synonymous with a solid all round education.

As such, the La Salle educators continuing focus on the Last, the Least and the Lost in our society remains undiminished.

Re-positioning the La Salle Brand

There is an on-going move to slowly but surely re-position the La Salle brand in Malaysia. This is necessary because today we are operating in ‘ restrictive spaces ‘.

The challenge before us, therefore, is to work within these restrictive spaces but with a big heart!

The need to work within these confines is partly because of badly framed laws, flip flops in policy decisions, limits on media and failing public services. The good news here is that a La Sallian education provides teachers and students alike the intellectual and emotional tools to navigate these restrictive spaces.

We need, therefore, to remain open to new and equally beneficial ways to implement the La Sallian philosophy and in the process, re-position the La Salle brand in Malaysia.

A Few Proposals

  1. Direct Education Services to the Poor (DESP) was first initiated in Penang by Bro John D’Cruz, a former principal of St George’s Institution in Taiping twenty five years ago. It started quietly as a project amongst a very poor community in Penang evolving over the years into a Community Based Learning Centre(CBLC).

There are currently four CBLCs in Sarawak and one in Penang. There are also Community Based Tuition Centres. At present there are four in the Bau district and one in Kuching, Sarawak. In addition, there are two residential hostels in Sabah. School Based Learning Centres are also sprouting. There is one in Penang and efforts are underway to establish one each in Petaling Jaya and Klang.

There is a need to provide basic training for dedicated volunteer facilitators on an on-going basis at these centres. There is also a need to schedule regular meetings for the volunteer facilitators to exchange ideas and share experiences.

DESP therefore needs to be further expanded and rolled out throughout Malaysia and especially in poor urban communities where the need is greatest. In remote rural areas, there is also a need to provide hostel facilities in order to lessen the burden of the students having to travel long distances to and from school.

  1. There is a need to revive and re-establish the very successful Annual Inter La Salle Schools’ Athletics and Games Competition. This was a winner in the past and produced many outstanding athletes and sportsmen at both state and national levels.
  1. There is also a need to revive and re-establish the Annual Inter La Salle Games for teachers serving in La Salle schools throughout the nation.

As far as items two and three are concerned, they in addition also help to strengthen the bond among students and teachers. These inter La Salle events also help to engender a family spirit within the La Salle community.

( Paper presented by Benedict Morais FIPR, MMIM, Member, Board of Governors, La Salle Brickfields Secondary School and Member, Selangor Regional La Salle Educational Council and Peter Sinniah BA (Hons) UM Geography, Member, Board of Governors, La Salle Brickfields Secondary School and President, La Salle Brickfields Alumni at the 6th Malaysian La Salle Educators Conference held in Taiping, Perak on 15 and 16 September 2014 ).

How To Organise a Reunion Dinner and Fellowship Event : With Confidence, Class and Style

On Saturday, 22 March, I attended a La Salle Brickfields Secondary School Reunion Dinner and Fellowship event at the Bukit Kiara Resort in Kuala Lumpur. The event was organised by a 10 man committee from the Class of 1976.

For the LSB Class of 1976, this was their first reunion after nearly forty years. Most of the former students, now in their fifties, come from the Klang Valley but there were also a few from the other states, including Penang. One even came from Australia and I understand that there was an individual from Canada too. Such was the reach and influence of this committee.

Encouraging Response from the former Students

I was informed that sixty five former students attended the event. In those days when these students were in Form Three, each of the four classes had about 45 students. This was a commendable effort made all the more difficult because it was being attempted after a lapse of 38 years. The committee was also able to talk to two former students during the dinner via skype … one from the United Kingdom and the other from Canada. The attendees in the hall were able to watch the candidates as they spoke and listen to the conversation.

Former Teachers who were Present

The following teachers from La Salle Brickfields Secondary School were present: Low Kim Seng, Eric Koh ( both travelled from Australia for the event ), Denis Armstrong, Vivien Sequerah, Kathy Tan Eu Toh, Denis Doss and Benedict Morais. Present from La Salle Brickfields Primary School were: Kua Beng Hock, S. P. Nathan, Mrs Bala, Magdalene Chew, L. A. Fernandez and Albert Rozario. Also present for the event was Mrs Chee, the newly appointed principal of LSB Secondary School.

The organising committee even went to the extent of coordinating and facilitating the transport arrangements for the teachers. This ensured that those teachers who needed assistance to get to the venue or those who did not drive these days because of old age problems were provided with a hassle free service by others who were pleased to lend a helping hand.

Air of Optimism and Confidence

The whole reunion exercise was conducted with an air of optimism and confidence by the committee under the able leadership of George Tan Boon Sim. He had recruited nine other similar minded and enthusiastic individuals. From the results and from what I was told, the committee worked with great passion and commitment knowing that this was going to be quite a task to successfully pull off. If you have not met or kept in touch for 38 years then the task of contacting and reaching out to these former Class of 1976 students will be that much harder. But that seemed to be the kind of insurmountable challenge that these leaders needed to give them that extra boost and motivation. If I am not mistaken, according to Tan Meng Chai from the Class of 1976, the planning for this memorable event began months ago.

Old Boy Network and Social Media

The committee made good use of the old boy network along the way. With the widespread use of mobile phones, email and Facebook, the committee was able to reach out to very many former students. This was not just in Malaysia but also wherever they were overseas. One thing led to another and in the process they also discovered that two LSB teachers who had migrated years ago now lived in Melbourne and Brisbane in Australia.

This information was gleaned through a chance encounter between a former student who was trying to get to a dinner meeting in Melbourne, who happened to ask a train commuter for directions to the dinner venue. That helpful commuter turned out to be his former teacher. Talk about coincidence. That was an amazing bit of luck and both teachers subsequently attended the reunion dinner in Kuala Lumpur. The Gods must have been smiling!

The Welcome and Dinner

From the moment we walked in, we sensed that this event was going to be something extraordinary. There was a very good reception at the entrance to the Bukit Kiara Resort. A couple of the organising committee members and a few former students were on hand to warmly welcome, with much enthusiasm and happiness, their former teachers.

We could feel their friendliness, warmth and sincerity. They had helpfully sported clear tags on their shirts that proudly proclaimed their names. This thoughtful gesture made it that much easier for the teachers, most of whom are in their seventies and eighties, to know and use their names while conversing with the individuals.

Seating Arrangements

The seating arrangements for the former students were left free and easy… they could sit at any table in the hall. However, there was a special seating arrangement for the former teachers. All those teachers present were seated in two rows facing each other, right in the centre of the dining hall. On all four sides of the hall were tables where the former students and their guests were seated.

The rationale for this arrangement was that it enabled the students to see their teachers from all angles and allowed them an opportunity to walk up and chat with individual teachers from time to time. It was, in short, a brilliant idea. I observed many students do just that throughout the night. There were also many former students who walked up to chat with me during the course of the night.

Array of Appetising Dishes

At Old Boys reunion gatherings such as these, the dinner is the excuse to meet. The food should just be incidental to the occasion… or so I thought. But my former students showed me otherwise!

It was certainly not one of the more mundane, boring dinners with a mix of equally boring, unappetising dishes. In their wisdom, the committee opted to give the guests and attendees a feast… yes, really a feast fit for a wedding bash! There was such an array of interesting dishes, including satay together with an equally wide display of local desserts.

In fact, one former student remarked that since they are all now in their fifties, they cannot ( or will not ) eat so much for health reasons. Putting that concern aside, the committee opted to treat the attendees and guests to a lavish meal. Such was the concern and care shown by the committee.

Supporters and Well Wishers

I noticed that there were a number of female guests and young children in the hall. I was subsequently informed that they were the wives and children of the former students.

Apparently some of these former students wanted to extend the invitation to their wives and children to see and observe first hand some of the teachers who had taught their fathers. One of the friendly photographers at the event was actually the daughter of one of the former students.

This was excellent team work in action at the event that night. It was good that these former students wanted their supporters and well wishers to see their former teachers.

Other Touches of Class

i. The chairman of the organising committee, George Tan, set the right tone from the very start of the dinner with some inspiring and rousing remarks. The emcee, a practising lawyer, did a fine job in moving the programme forward effortlessly. There were also a few other speakers who shared their experiences.

ii. The current principal of the LSB secondary school, Mrs Chee, also chose to speak to the crowd. She seemed very impressed and moved by the proceedings and by the spirit displayed by the former La Sallians from Brickfields. She also made an appeal for funds and other assistance.

iii. The Old Boys of LSB responded spontaneously and magnificently and in a matter of minutes raised RM 10,000 that same night. What a mighty show of support, loyalty and espirit de corps for their alma mater. The cash contribution was handed over to the principal there and then.

iv. If inviting the former teachers was not enough recognition, the committee went one step further and presented the teachers present with a glass plaque boldly emblazoned with the wording: In appreciation of our Teacher. It also had the words Class of 1976 and the all too familiar green, white and red logo of LSB.

v. The organising committee also invited the current president of the LSB Old Boys Association to the event. Peter Sinniah was, in addition, invited to speak to the attendees and he urged them to provide some assistance to the school in order to restore the lustre to LSB.

Final Thoughts

I was also invited to say a few words on behalf of the teachers by the organising committee. I shared my thoughts on the basic philosophy of La Sallian education. I also touched on the ethos, values and traditions that truly embody La Sallian education. I also took the opportunity to salute the old boys on organising this wonderful event.

Education needs to attract and retain the best of us. But that will not happen as long as teaching remains near the bottom of our professions in pay and prestige. Lee Iacocca, former Chairman and CEO of Chrysler Corporation made this statement years ago. He also famously said that: ‘ In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less!

Change that can Make the Difference

For that great and enabling change to happen in Malaysia, we have to take partisan politics out of education for good. Now that is a tall order! We need to return to what has really worked and has also stood the test of time. La Sallian education, as we all know and benefitted from it, certainly fits the bill. Dare we rise to a higher standard of expectation?

On a personal note, I have had the pleasure of attending a number of reunion dinner events organised by the LSB old boys over the years. However, none of these LSB old boys’ reunion dinners could match the careful approach, care and consideration exhibited by the Class of 1976.

The Gold Standard

The La Salle Brickfields Class of 1976 organising committee has certainly led the way in sheer organising ability. The committee has shown us all how to go about organising a truly meaningful, enjoyable and classy reunion. These guys have, in my opinion, now set the Gold Standard as far as reunion gatherings are concerned. It is now up to the La Sallians in Malaysia and even regionally, wherever they maybe, to try to meet this standard of excellence. They could, if they so wish, even raise the bar higher when it comes to organising reunion gatherings.

These old boys with renewed vigour and enthusiasm intend to meet again, this time in Bangkok, Thailand in 2016. I am sure that this LSB reunion too will set new standards in fostering fellowship and rekindling friendships.

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Below is a copy of the Remarks I delivered at the event :

REMARKS BY BENEDICT MORAIS AT THE LSB CLASS OF 1976 REUNION DINNER AND FELLOWSHIP AT BUKIT KIARA RESORT, KUALA LUMPUR ON SATURDAY, 22 MARCH 2014

Chairman, Organising Committee
La Salle Brickfields Class of 1976
Fellow Teachers
Former Students
Supporters and Well Wishers
Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you for the kind invitation to say a few words.

On behalf of my fellow teaching colleagues, let me just say how honoured, touched and pleased we all are to be here tonight with all of you from that La Salle Brickfields Class of 1976. It is simply wonderful and humbling to note that even in your quest to meet and rekindle old ties and friendships, a big effort was made to trace and invite former teachers to share in this historic gathering. The silver haired brigade thank you again for that kindness.

It is almost forty years since you left La Salle Brickfields and I understand from Tan Meng Chai that this is your very first such reunion. Well then Congratulations! It is, of course, better late than never to meet and renew ties. The large turn out tonight, both in terms of former students and former teachers is a big tribute to the organisers who must have worked really hard to ensure the success of this event. Please join me in giving them a hearty round of applause.

La Salle Brickfields Spirit

Permit me, therefore, to salute your great La Salle Brickfields spirit and the camaraderie that has brought you all here tonight. You guys have really showcased incredible organisational ability in pulling this event off so successfully. Well done guys. I must also commend you for the trouble you took to even organise / coordinate the transport arrangements for the senior citizens. That level of detail, care and thoughtfulness is deeply appreciated.

Remembering Those Who Are Not Here Tonight.

I would also like on this occasion to remember those teachers and former students who are unable to join us tonight. Some teachers like the late Yeong Hin Hong, Mrs Low Peng Lum and Mokhtar Jamil have passed on. I believe a few of the former students too have passed on. Others have migrated or are working overseas. Let us all remember them as we celebrate.

What is Special about La Sallian Education?

La Sallian education has always had the enviable task of: restoring integrity; promoting unity; and fostering spirituality in our schools. Think of those lofty objectives for a moment and then contrast that to what is happening in our country today. I do not need to elaborate. Just reflect on your days in La Salle Brickfields………. that is what we call the La Sallian ethos, values and traditions. This La Sallian education has achieved with remarkable success over the last few decades.

La Sallian education, I would like to think, is synonymous with a responsible, holistic education. Sports, athletics and extra mural activities were an integral part of that La Sallian experience for many of you. Some of you may remember with nostalgia the extraordinary exploits of our athletes in track and field events, in soccer and hockey and of course the Inter La Salle Games. There was a unity of purpose in those days and although we actually belonged to three schools ( two primary and one secondary ) we felt and acted as one school! Those were the golden years!

All these special activities have, in turn, developed well adjusted, caring and compassionate individuals who are capable of factoring in the bigger picture.

Finally, La Sallian education believes in focussing on the LAST, the LOST and the LEAST in our communities. The quest of the La Salle brothers and lay teachers was / is to build a new world order founded in FAITH, cherished with HOPE and expressed in SERVICE.

Many of us here today are products of that wonderful mission. I wish you all more career, family and personal success as you go forward. This is your peak period career wise and family wise. May all your efforts be abundantly blessed.

Let us now continue to enjoy the night.

Thank you.

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Delivering Holistic Education to the LAST, the LOST and the LEAST – the Essence of the La Sallian Contribution

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.”

Ideas Labs

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.