Three of Penang’s most venerated schools celebrate major anniversaries

Three of Penang’s most venerated schools celebrate major anniversaries

Penang Free School, St Xavier’s Institution and the Methodist Boys School have educated many generations of influential Malaysians

THREE of the oldest 20 schools in Malaysia recently held their anniversary celebrations in Penang – a testament to the state for having reputable institutions around.

Penang Free School, St Xavier’s Institution and the Methodist Boys School in Penang are among the oldest and most prestigious educational institutions in the country, going by the alumni they have produced over the years and on how many of their graduates have gone on to lead the country in many fields.

Penang Free School recently celebrated its 206th anniversary – founded in 1816 according to historical records – by far the oldest school in the country and one which has produced, among others, the founding father of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman.

Other alumni include Datuk Seri Cheah Cheng Hye, the co-partner of Value Partners, accomplished economists Prof Danny Quah and Dr Jomo Kwame Sundaram, as well as the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, the second Penang Chief Minister.

The school has also taught students from outside of Penang, notably the late Tengku Ahmad Rithauddeen Ismail, who was a former foreign minister, and the present Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail.

The father of Penang’s civil society movement, Datuk Anwar Fazal is another among the ex-students at the school.

Some PFS alumni, including Datuk Anwar Fazal and Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Abdul Rahman. – Ian McIntyre pic

Anwar shared the importance of preserving alumni ties, as what was absorbed at the school were lessons that were used in future undertakings.

Especially on character building as the world navigates a difficult stage in its history with the pandemic, social imbalances, climate change and economic hardships.

Located at Green Lane, it is the oldest English language school in Southeast Asia too, but what has made it stand apart is its ability to produce a consistent flow of talent, who have gone on to lead the country.

Its academic achievements lead to its inclusion in the Education Ministry’s cluster of high-performance schools.

Days later, the Methodist Boys School in Penang celebrated its 131st anniversary.

It is the oldest Methodist school in the country and another testament to Penang’s claim to be among the leading states for education since the early days of independence.

It too has produced many top leaders, among them were the fifth prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the state’s third chief minister, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, as well as the late Datuk Kee Phaik Cheen, the former tourism czar of Penang.

A drone shot of the Methodist Boys’ School. – Facebook pic
While the two schools held earlier celebrations, the biggest one this year was the 170th anniversary of St Xavier’s Institution, which is among the oldest schools in the country too, having traced the origins to its founding in 1852 by the La Salle Christian Brothers missionary schools.

Although there are historical anecdotes that it began as an informal educational centre even earlier, in 1787, the school was only formally established in 1852.

Despite being bombed by the Japanese during World War II, the school was restored and it has carried on with the tradition of producing top students.

The school board chairperson Victor Tan has been busy organising a series of events to mark the anniversary, including the establishment of a heritage gallery, exhibitions and unearthing of a time capsule, as well as a pledge dinner.

The highlight will be a gala dinner in December where hundreds of ‘old boys’ are expected to descend to their alma mater in Farquhar Street here.

The heritage gallery will showcase the historical richness of the school and its ability to educate Malaysians from all walks of life, from the sons of the Malay Royalty to the daughters of hawkers, as well as the children of famous personalities such as DAP chairman Lim Guan Eng.

“It is a bedrock of what symbolises Malaysia’s diversity and so when they co-exist well and learn to tolerate each other at the young age, this can translate to the same ability when they are adults, hence they are born leaders,” Tan observed.

A 1960s era photograph of St Xaviers Institution. – Facebook pic

Coincidentally in time with the 170th anniversary, the school will likely also have several former students contesting in the coming GE15, each trying to showcase their leadership traits, some of which they had honed at this school.

Among them are Myocho Kan, Martin Lim Huat Poh, and Shahrudin Shariff.

They will likely join the incumbents who had contested and won in 2018, such as Chris Lee Chun Kit, the Pulau Tikus assemblyperson, and Zairil Khir Johari, the Tanjung Bungah assemblyperson.

Kan is counting on his Xavierian pals to help him in his struggle, as he is contesting as an Independent under his civil society movement, MyKita.

Among the famous pupils from the school are the late Karpal Singh (DAP chairman), Tun Daim Zainuddin (former finance minister) and Tan Sri Nor Mohamed bin Yakcop (former senator and second finance minister).

Former Bar Council president Datuk Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor went to the primary school of St Xavier briefly, but recalled the special memories he experienced there.

Fareed makes it a point to catch up with the alumni’s activities, saying growing up with boys of different races and faiths had only enriched him.

It is from such schools that the sense of belonging as a Malaysian is nurtured, and Tan hopes that future generations will continue to enjoy such a disposition.

“Education is not just about the knowledge. It is also about character and childhood friends tend to be friends for life,” he said.

source – The Vibes

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