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Saturday, January 19, 2019

The 'Real' Reason Dato Maharajalela Killed JWW Birch

The following is reproduced verbatim [in full] from Malaysiakini here :

Do read my comments which follow.

The recent controversy over the contributions of non-Malays in the war against the communists in this country has once again raised questions over Malaysians’ general knowledge of our own history.

One disturbing aspect arose from the controversy is how history, or the lack thereof, has been distorted to instil racial antagonism among ethnic groups.

Such a malicious tactic is still being used because history is more than a record of the past, it shapes how we see ourselves and others in the present.

Learning about our colonial past in the 1900s is a case in point. My generation was taught that the British were the exploiters of our land and the destroyers of our local traditions.

Such indoctrination has led many to believe that the West is the immoral agent of decadence. The West is thus conveniently scapegoated so that the ruling regime can get us to see ourselves as victims, to see the West as a threat, and to see the present rulers as our needed defenders.

That is the recipe for a siege mentality, a proven method to win votes.

I am not here defending colonialism or the West, but to point out one piece of our history that has been forgotten, not even footnoted in history textbooks. 

That is the fact that it was the British who liberated the bumiputeras (Malays and Orang Asli) from slavery, a cruel age-old trade practised by locals for hundreds of years.

An old tradition

There was a saying in the sixteenth century Melaka, “[It] is better to have slaves than to have land, because slaves are a protection to their masters.”

Slavery was a valued regional trade, woven into the economy and social fabric of the local society. It was, contrary to today’s society, a widespread and perfectly acceptable practice in Malaya, before the arrival of the British.

“In the early period,” remarked historian Nordin Hussin, “slaves were an integral part of Melaka, the descendants of those who had lived within the socio-cultural context of the old Malay world.” 

The Italian trader John of Empoli, after he visited Melaka, wrote in 1514 of a certain “Utama Diraja” who owned 8,000 slaves.

In the mid-seventeenth century, slaves comprised more than 30 percent of Melaka town’s population

According to anthropologists Robert Knox Dentan, Kirk Endicott, Alberto G Gomes, and MB Hooker, the practice of slavery was common among the ancient kingdoms in Southeast Asia. When the Portuguese and Dutch colonised Melaka, they “took advantage of this old practice and kept the slave trade alive as a cheap means of obtaining labour.”

Two types of slavery

Slavery in Malaya has its own characteristics. As historians Barbara and Leonard Andaya describe in their important chronicle:

“Europeans tended to define such slavery in Western terms and to see slaves as an undifferentiated group of people condemned to lives of unrelenting misery. But among Malays, slaves were generally divided into two classes: slaves in the Western sense, and debt bondsmen. The latter type of slavery served a particular function in Malay society. Debt slavery usually occurred when an individual voluntarily ‘mortgaged’ himself in return for some financial assistance from his creditor, frequently his ruler or chief.”

Other scholars likewise note that, “There were even two ranks of slaves, “debt slaves” (orang berhutang), who lost their freedom by being unable to repay a debt, being above “bought slaves” (abdi). In theory, debt slaves - usually Malays in the Malay kingdoms - were freemen with some rights, while bought slaves had none.”

However, theory and practice are different. As pointed out by anthropologist Kirk Endicott: “In theory, debt-slaves could redeem themselves by repayment of the debt but in practice, this was virtually impossible because work performed by the debt-slave did not count toward reduction of the original debt.”

The arrival of the British

When they came to power in Malaya, the British began to register slaves, partly because they wanted to abolish the practice. “[The] English administration,” wrote Hussin, “made a compulsory order for all slave masters to register their slaves with the police. Regulation was passed and those who refused to register would see the slaves liberated.”

From their record, we know that there were male and female slaves, and child slavery was also a norm: “In 1824 the number in the town of Melaka was 666 males and 590 females, with 86 under-aged males and 75 under-aged females, making a total of 1,417 slaves, including 161 children born into slavery.”

In Perak the issue of slavery,” according to the Andayas, “was more apparent than in Selangor because the Perak ruling class was considerably larger. In Perak, slaves and debt bondsmen numbered an estimated 3,000 in a total Malay population of perhaps 50,000 (approximately six percent).”

Apparently, one record shows that the price for a slave in Kinta, Perak was “Two rolls of coarse cloth, a hatchet, a chopper and an iron cooking-pot.

The cruelty of slavery

Slavery, as practised in Malaya as well as in other parts of the world, involved rampant cruelty and injustice. Slaves were generally despised. They were kidnapped, sold, abused, raped, and killed.

Some slaves were born into slavery, inheriting their parent’s enslavement. Slaves were deemed sub-human. Thus, common folks would not even want to carry out tasks that were affiliated to slaves.

As a mid-sixteenth century record states, “You will not find a native Malay, however poor he be, who will lift on his own back his own things or those of another, however much he be paid for it. All their work is done by slaves.

Slaves owners on the other hand are dignified and reputable. Malay chiefs would raid villages and rural settlements to hunt for their human commodity.

Due to Islamic teaching that forbids enslaving fellow Muslims, the indigenous people, or Orang Asli, who weres labelled as ‘Sakai’ (slave) or ‘kafir’ (infidel) became the usual target. The Orang Asli were the “greatest local source of slaves”.

Walter Skeat and Charles Blagden recorded certain Orang Asli’s account in the period between late nineteenth to early twentieth century:

Hunted by the Malays, who stole their [Orang Asli] children, they were forced to leave their dwellings and fly hither and thither, passing the night in caves or in huts (“pondok”), which they burnt on their departure. ‘In those days,’ they say, ‘we never walked in the beaten tracks lest the print of our footsteps in the mud should betray us.’”

One of the survivors recalled, “Many of my brethren were killed and many others were taken away as slaves…”

A British Royal Navy officer Sherard Osborn wrote in 1857 on how Orang Asli “were tied up or caged just as we should treat chimpanzees.” Sir Frank A Swettenham, the Resident of Selangor from 1882 to 1884, reported a case to the British Parliament in July 1882: “[A] Chief from Slim had a fortnight before captured 14 Jacoons and one Malay in Ulu Selangor, had chained them and driven them off to Slim.”

Those slave raids, wrote activists for Orang Asli Jannie Lasimbang and Colin Nicholas, had “prompted many Orang Asli groups to retreat further inland and to avoid contact with outsiders. For the most part, from this time the Orang Asli lived in remote communities, each within a specific geographical space (such as a river valley) and isolated from the others.”

“Sometimes,” notes Endicott, “Malays tempted or coerced Orang Asli into kidnapping other Orang Asli for them in order to ‘preserve their own women-folk from captivity.’” But ultimately those who were captured will be traded and enslaved by the Malays.

The slave owners “reduce [the Orang Asli] to the condition of hunted outlaws, to be enslaved, plundered, and murdered by the Malay chiefs at their tyrannous will and pleasure.

Like all forced servitude, the captured individuals suffer greatly at the hands of their master. “Owners could neglect, abuse, or even kill the [slave] at will.”

There are also instances where one Malay tribe subdued another Malay tribe to slavery. As recorded by Skeat and Blagden:

“The Mantra of Malacca have suffered like other aboriginal tribes from the raids and incursions of the neighbouring Malays, their most implacable foes being the members of a Malay tribe called Rawa. This people are natives of a country in Sumatra called Rawa, Rau, and Ara... They are now settled in considerable numbers in Rembau, Sungei Ujong, and the western part of Pahang... [Large] bands of them, under one Bata Bidohom, who was reputed invulnerable, attacked the Mantra in several places, killing many of the men and carrying away more than a hundred of their women and girls into Pahang, where they sold them as slaves. The Rawa declared that they would hunt down the Mantra everywhere and deal with them all in the same way.

The theoretical distinction between debt-slave and actual slave was used by Malay-Muslim rulers and aristocrats to enslave fellow Muslims.

Although the practice of slavery differs in different parts of the world, in the case of Malaya, “Admittedly the lot of many, especially the women, was indeed deplorable. Slaves proper were often subject to rank exploitation because they were non-Moslem Orang Asli and were therefore considered outside the pale of the Melayu. Among the debt slaves [Malay-Muslim slaves owned by Malay-Muslims] there were also cases of cruelty and other abuses; a chief, for example, might not mistreat his debt slaves but simply refuse to accept payment when the debt fell due.”

Subjecting the entire family to slavery was common through the debt-slavery system. As Endicott remarked, “Usually spouse of debt-slaves were included in the debt and in the resulting state of servitude, and all children born of debt-slaves were debt-slaves as well.”

The prestige of slave-owning

Despite its systemic cruelty, slave ownership was a local prestige, a symbolic status for Malay chiefs and sultans. Slave ownership testifies to one’s power and stature in the society. Slaves were the “main labour force” for the Malay chiefs and sultans.

“The motive for keeping slaves,” according to anthropologist Robert Knox Dentan, “is prestige.” As the logic goes, “For male aristocrats in precolonial Malay society, as for such men in most patriarchal regimes, the prestige comes in part from their power to coerce sex from attractive women.

Besides that, slaves are a visible indication of wealth since they are a commodity in the then economy. “Through debt bondage, chiefs and rulers gained followers to increase their status and an economic asset which could be transferred, if need be, to some other creditor.”

Ownership of slaves,” as Hussin writes, “was a measure of one’s wealth and the more slaves one owned the greater one’s status and prestige.”

The more slaves a Malay chief or sultan owns, the wealthier he is perceived to be. Thus, the Utama Diraja mentioned earlier, who owned 8,000 slaves, was also reported as the wealthiest merchant among his contemporary.

Slavery was a key institution

“Malay custom and Islamic law,” wrote Cambridge University’s historian Iza Hussin, “allowed for slaveholding, and the power of a ruler was judged in part by the size of his retinue, making slavery a key institution of Malay society when the British arrived in Malay.”

The Malay chiefs, elites, and sultans benefited from - and thus perpetuated -slavery. Therefore, slavery was not a fringe practice among some inhumane underground syndicate, but a traditional custom in the Malay worldview, a cornerstone of the community’s economy, social structure, and politics, uncontroversial and allowed by religion.

Referring to the slavery in Perak, Swettenham wrote that it was one of the “pillars of the State,” and “every one of any position had debt slaves of their own.”

Given such centrality, any hint of its disruption, in the like of policing and abolishment, will be seen as seditious to the Malays.

As the Andayas wrote: “[Because] slavery was so bound up with a chief’s prestige, British inquiries into alleged mistreatment aroused considerable resentment among Malay nobles. Sultan Abdul Samad of Selangor was so incensed by the intrusive questions that he refused point-blank to permit his slaves to be counted.”

The British attempt to abolish local slavery

The Pangkor Treaty signed on Jan 20, 1874 legitimised British’s colonialism over the Malay states and designated Abdullah (leader of lower Perak), rather than his rival Ismail (upper Perak), as the twenty-sixth sultan of Perak.

The treaty also led to the appointment of JWW Birch to be the Resident in Perak, through whom the British exercised indirect rule over the state.

To the Malay chiefs, the treaty also meant that the “Resident could not interfere with Malay custom [“adat”] and they could continue to capture and enslave as many aborigines as they like.

However, less than a year in office, Birch was murdered by the Malay chiefs. And one of the main reasons for his assassination was Birch’s opposition against the Malays’ highly-valued adat, a key institution of their society: slavery.

This bloody episode was so well-known that thirty years after Birch’s murder, Swettenham could still recount:

  • “In the courses of his wanderings Mr Birch met with numerous cases of great oppression; poor people fined and even murdered for supposed offences, traders squeezed and robbed, and men, women, and children subjected to the infamous practice of debt-slavery... 
  • The practice of debt-slavery was particularly rife in Perak, and as Mr Birch determinedly set his face against it and helped several of the most oppressed to get out of the country, his action did not increase his popularity with the chiefs. 
  • Sultan Abdullah and the Lower Perak chiefs were amongst the worst offenders in this respect... they began to consider how they could get rid of the British Adviser, who interfered with their most cherished privileges, the collection of taxes, the power to fine and kill, and the institution of debt-slavery.”

Birch’s abhorrence over slavery is recorded in his diary: “[Men] and women of the country of the Sakkais or wild people of the interior are captured after being hunted down, and are then sold, and made slaves. These poor people, from what I have seen, are worse treated than any other slaves.”

  • Birch’s attempt to abolish slavery was perceived by the locals as a threat to their symbolic social stature, intrusive to their way of life. 
  • In practical terms, the human commodity, with its accompanying prestige, labour force, and economic asset, belonged to the Malay chiefs but was stolen from them.
As the Andayas described: “[Birch’s] attitude to slavery and his willingness to provide a sanctuary for fugitive debt slaves, especially women, was regarded by Malays as simple theft.”

Nonetheless, abolishing slavery was a must for the Resident. The stake that Birch probably did not realise for wanting to eliminate slavery from the Malay world would be his life. His assassination resulted in the Perak War, the trial and execution of his murderer Maharaja Lela Pandak Lam, and the deposition of the Sultan.

Nonetheless, many of us were taught that Maharaja Lela was a nationalistic martyr who fought against the oppressive British for intruding into their way of life.

  • Our school history classes do not tell us that Westerners like Birch had lost their lives partly due to their effort to help, shelter, and free Bumiputera slaves. 
  • Instead, they are demonised as threats from the West who came to destroy the locals' cherished tradition.
  • Despite the violent reaction against the Resident, the British were resolute to eliminate slavery in Malaya. Not even the Perak War could deter them.


Since the signing of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty on 17 March 1824, which established British’s rule over Malaya, the colonial administrator took active measures to phase out slavery. In the 17th century, more than 30 percent of the population of Melaka town were slaves. By 1827, the slave population was less than 11 percent.

When the British politician Edmund Wodehouse inquired about Malaya’s slavery in the parliament on 19 May 1884, the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, Evelyn Ashley replied, “All slave debtors became free in Perak on January 1st of this year [1884] , so that slavery of any description is now illegal there, as it already was in Selangor and Sungei Ujong.

In 1901, the British appointed Giovanni Battista Cerruti, an Italian explorer known for his deep affection for the Orang Asli, to be Malaya’s Superintendent of the Sakai. All forms of slavery by 1915, a year after Cerruti’s passing, were officially abolished.

Commenting on the slavery custom that has lasted for centuries in Malaya, Cerruti wrote: “The British Protectorate came as a blessing to the Sakais because it officially abolished slavery and shortened their neighbours’ talons, that had grown a little too long.”

The same blessing had also come to many Malays who were trapped as debt-slaves, whose great-great-grandchildren are now being taught to hate the West, so that the present regime will continue to remain in power.

Joshua Woo Sze Zeng is municipal councillor with the Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP).

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

My comments :  A long time ago I have read about slavery in Malay culture and history.  I recall graphic descriptions of how a Malay chief stepped on the head of a slave in a shallow river until the slave drowned. Those were terrible times.  But I missed the part where JWW Birch was adamant about abolishing slavery in Malaya.  Do read on. 

Here is some history which I gathered from various websites :  

  • Slavery in England "abolished" via Somersett's Case 1772
  • Slave Trade Act 1807 prohibited slave trade in British Empire 
  • Slavery remained in most of British Empire until Slavery Abolition Act 1833

OSTB : So when JWW Birch arrived in Perak in November 1874, slavery had already been abolished in England for over a hundred years and in the British Empire for 41 years.

JWW Birch was killed on 2 November 1875 by Sepuntum [a follower  of Dato Maharajalela] who speared him to death while he was in the bath-house of his boat, SS Dragon, moored on the Perak river-bank below the Maharajela's house, in Pasir Salak, near today's Teluk Intan.

Richard O. Winstead in his "A History of Malaya" on page 226 published in the Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, reprinted in 1986, wrote that a Malay deputation entreated with Governor-General Andrew Clarke in Singapore 

"to prevent the Resident [Birch] from interfering with religion and custom, from acting without consulting Sultan and chiefs, and from depriving them of their property, namely fugitive slaves and feudal dues." 

OSTB :  When studying history in school, I always wondered what was the adat Melayu that JWW Birch had so interfered with that had invited his assassination?  So this was the complaint - JWW Birch was interfering in Malay slavery as well. 

Governor-General Andrew Clarke had already observed on 25 March 1875 that, "I am very much annoyed with Birch and the heads-over-heels way in which he does things; he and I will come to sorrow yet, if he does not mind." 

On 21 July 1875 Raja Abdullah, in despair, called a meeting of chiefs where after a talk of poisoning Birch accepted the Maharajalela's offer to stab Birch to death.

Dato' Maharajalela, who was the individual chiefly responsible for Birch's death, is regarded by most Perak Malays as a heroic figure who resisted British imperialism. He and the others involved were hanged by the British.

Sultan Abdullah, who was also believed to have some complicity in the assassination, was deposed and exiled to the Seychelles. His arch-rival Raja Yusuf was installed as Sultan in his place.

In the aftermath of the event, the administration shifted to Taiping. A new Resident, Sir Hugh Low, was appointed and went about his administration of Perak in a more diplomatic way. Whilst still banning outright slavery, he gradually phased out debt-slavery and assuaged the feelings of the ruler and chieftains by allowing for adequate monthly compensation to them.

Conclusions :  Well it looks like then until now the 'yang berada dan yang berkuasa' have always exploited the 'yang tidak berada dan tidak berkuasa'.  The slavery still continues.

And now the more clever among the beggars have learnt to manipulate religion, race and politics to still keep the Malays down - there is now a more evil and worse kind of slavery - Mental Bondage.  The net result is the same - enslave the Malay masses.  

I have seen a remnant of slavery among Malays when I was a child in Ipoh in the 60's and early 70's. 

There was a dark skinned woman in our neighborhood who was said to be a 'slave' to another Malay lady by the name of Kak Mun who also lived in our area. Kak Mun died around  1972

When I knew about her,  the dark skinned woman was already married and lived in her own house with her husband and children. She was no more a slave.  

She had a son  who was my age and who attended ACS Ipoh with me. During one long school holiday her son and I played football, cycled around, attended mengaji Quran class and hung out together. One day he told me 'Mak aku hamba abdi'. He was laughing when he said it - implying it was something from his mother's past.  So the practise of slavery was part of our not too distant past. [He dropped out of school after Form Three].

As a footnote the British did perform some virtuous acts [aamilus solihaat in arabic or amal solih] around the world.    

In India the British ended the Hindu custom of suttee and they also destroyed the murder cult of the Thugees  [from whence the English word thug is derived].

On the negative side the British also introduced opium into China. 

We must be thankful that the British abolished slavery in Malaya . . . although a few cases still seeped through the cracks.

Brigadier-General (Rtd) Mohd Arshad Raji - A Very Honest Patriot

This is from Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: Supporting the call by Armed Forces chief Gen Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor to increase the recruitment of non-Malays into the forces by 10% annually, the National Patriot Association today laid bare the reasons non-Malays are no longer interested.

Patriot president Brigadier-General (Rtd) Mohd Arshad Raji said in a statement the organisation was giving its views as truthfully as possible to “some of these issues that are ultra sensitive”.

Arshad said from the 1960s until the late 70s, non-Malay Armed Forces personnel comprised about 30% of the total manpower. The Navy and Air Force had a higher percentage. Over the years, this figure gradually dropped to around 5% at present.

He said one reason non-Muslims shied away from joining was because there was now a distinctive division along ethnic lines in the armed forces.

Saying the government’s affirmative action policies of the 1980s had seeped into the military administration, Arshad said “strange sayings like ‘orang kita’ had crept into the minds of military commanders”.

“Slowly and surely, the commanders saw some of those under their command as half-brothers or stepsons, unlike all as equal previously. Individuals were not made to feel important and desired. Instead, a feeling as an ‘outsider’ made many feel unwelcome. Thus began an era of individualistic and selfish attitude and behavior among those in the military.”

[OSTB : I believe this attitude also prevails in the Civil Service, in the government teaching profession, universities etc.]

While many generals were sympathetic and caring towards everyone under their care, the little Napoleons in the ministry of defence – the civil servants with authority – made policies pertaining to promotion and enforced an unwritten regulation and a quota system regarding non-Malays.

“In the late 70s and 80s, any promotion for officers above the Major rank would be considered as political. For military officers and men, politics was an extra-terrestrial creature. Particularly for the non-Malay officers, this strange creature entered their lives and continued to haunt them since the 1980s and left an ever-lasting bitter taste. When these officers left the service in the 1990s, few would speak highly of the organisation.”

Arshad said non-Malays did not mind if their really deserving Malay subordinates got promoted, but “very much undeserving” officers were actually promoted over the years.

“This was followed by having to address them as ‘Sir’ and salute their one- time subordinate, which was another demoralising factor.”

He said there was no recourse for complaint and any form of protest or dissent could be deemed insubordination and an offence under military law.

Needless to say, a mediocre officer given promotion and command on patronage would breed mediocrity and substandard results.

[OSTB : "breed mediocrity and substandard results "  That is why Mat Sabu said only FOUR RMAF jet fighters were flying. Perhaps this is also why in 2013 in Lahad Datu  it took the Armed Forces 41 days to rid Sabah of a bunch of 235 rag tag Moro intruders, not all of whom were even carrying weapons.  And 16 lives of our young men were lost in that debacle.]

Besides, numerous deserving Malay officers of merit were also adversely affected. Malay officers who were promoted based on their merit earned loyalty and respect from the non-Malays.”

The Patriot president said another reason was the military becoming Islamic religion-centric over the years.

  • “Starting from the late 80s the military had become increasingly religious-centric and the non-Malays felt more alienated
  • Officers’ mess life and the lives of soldiers became very much dictated by religious sensitivity. 
  • This eventually affected esprit-de-corps and comradeship negatively in multi-racial military units.”
Arshad said these factors not only affected the military but also the police force and other public service organisations.

“The problems faced today are an outcome of the policies and decisions of our government of the past few decades. 

Right or wrong, it is left to history to determine. But we have a prevailing problem today, i.e., the officers and men who retired a decade or two ago, despite serving our king and country with honour and pride, do not encourage the youths to enrol in the military.

“The problem is endemic, a cause-and-effect of the ‘unwritten’ rules and regulations of the past. 

To solve the problem, we have to first recognise the problem. 

The intention here is not fault finding, rather to fully comprehend the grievances from the perspectives of the non-Malays, and help those in position make decisions for the betterment of our country.”

Arshad said politicians were also to blame for outrageous statements questioning the loyalty of non-Malays.

“Patriotism regarding non-Malays, in particular the Chinese and Indians, in the military has never been an issue. In fact, since the pre-independent years, through the first and second emergencies, from the early years of the Home Guard, Templer’s Super 12, the Federation Regiment, the Congo peace keeping mission, the Confrontation, the urban communist terrorism, jungle warfare in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, non-Malay officers and men fought gallantly alongside their Malay brothers-in-arms.”

He noted that the “much cherished success” of security forces against the Communist Party of Malaya and urban terrorists was to a large extent due to the many dangerous and highly classified covert operations of the police Special Branch and military intelligence, many of whom were of Chinese ethnicity.

He said his group would strive to encourage more non-Malays to join the Armed Forces.

Patriot is a non-partisan, multiracial group of retired military and police officers whose stated aim is to see a more harmonious and united nation where everyone feels wanted and contributes his share.

My comments :  This is an old soldier not being brutally honest but being  just simply honest.  He is just telling the truth.  

A few days ago I attended a seminar about The role of religion in the quest for peaceful coexistence”.  The topic by itself is a non starter. 

Let me rephrase it The role of fire in the quest for non combustible coexistence with gasoline.” That is not a possibility.

Anyway while the foreign Muslim speakers and Prof Chandra Muzaffar tried to bridge the gap between Islam and other faiths [including a very enlightening history of the relationship between Islam and Buddhism in Central Asia]  there was one local flat tyre who basically said that the non Malays in Malaysia were "permitted" to live in this country.  So the non Malays still need the "permission". 

This is exactly what the Brigadier General is saying above :

Arshad said these factors not only affected the military but also the police force and other public service organisations.

“The problems faced today are an outcome of the policies and decisions of our government of the past few decades. 

I agree with the Brigadier that the rot [or the cancer] is in the Civil Service. The entire Civil Service including the armed forces, the academia, etc. 

It is a cancer not because the non Malays need jobs in the Civil Service, the military etc. In fact it has gone quite the other way - the non Malays have been  denied  the due recognition for employment in the government sector for so long  that they have now  created their own economic and social eco system for their survival.  And more often than not the non government dependent economy is far better and far more sustainable than  government employment.  The non Malays have become more independent and more resilient.

But it is still a cancer because this 'orang kita' attitude [us versus them, orang isle versus kaum kafir] is just unnecessary and useless self created anxiety.  

Kalau cakap pasal, pasal apa lah nak cari pasal yang tak tentu pasal?

Brigadier General Raji says :

To solve the problem, we have to first recognise the problem. 

Yes Sir. 

This is indeed Step 1.  Sadly too many folks do not yet  see there is even a problem at all. An acute case of bodoh sombong.  

And for many of those who do see there is a problem their solution is disastrous - THE RELIGIOUS OPTION.

The solution is all too simple : Just be honest and accept the truth, no matter how much it is 'dislikeable'. 

When people start to bend the truth, hide the truth, erase the truth, ignore the truth etc then they must create cocoons inside which they can imprison themselves along with their 'untruths'. 

Lets discuss this some more.   

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Malaysian Education System : Not-So-Clever-Normal Schools Versus More Clever 'Special' Schools

I received the following piece of analysis from leekh, who is obviously a teaching professional.  I am reproducing the article in full. My comments follow.

Dear T. Syed

I wrote this little piece in my blog some time back. 
Feel free to post or edit for posting at your leisure.


Stupidity Trumps

Our education system is based on the assumption that intelligence is a rare commodity and randomly distributed over the population of the country. We have figured out that only a minority in the population possess some inert talent or ability. 

The role of the school system therefore is to identify these rare gems of intelligence and provide the best possible environment for these talents to grow.  

The not-so-clever-left-behinds can be left to another type of fate.

The MOE uses the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah [UPSR] to identify the smart students.  In practice teachers start to “stream” children into “A”, “B”, “C” classes the year they step into school. 

After UPSR the best performers are sent to special schools like Maktab Sains Rendah Mara or Sekolah Asrama Penuh. 

The State Education Department will sift through the left overs and place them in other special schools called Premier Schools, Controlled Schools and the like. 

More recent creations are called Cluster Schools or Sekolah Harapan Negara. All the children in these schools must score a string of “A”s.

The rest find themselves in the normal schools. The teachers in these schools proceed to do a final streaming on these not-so-clever-left-behinds and place them into their very own “A”, “B” and “D” classes. 

This is testimony that all the teachers have also just demonstrated their subscription to the same belief that intelligence is indeed limited to a few.

Then when the public examination results come out it only cements this belief in the the not-so-clever normal schools versus the more clever special schools system that we have had for decades now in this country.  And the examination results promotes the persistence of this system.

You do not need to be a genius to know that the best performing students inevitably come from these special schools. 

The best schools in the country are these special schools by far! 

Then over in the 'normal' schools , again not surprisingly  the “best” performing children tend to come from the “A” classes.  

Apparently the MOE's sorting and isolation of these students into special schools and A classes has preserved the intelligence of these students.

This is heralded as the great success of the education system. And since we are in the process of “transforming” our education system, the MOE has proposed to showcase our world class education system by collecting all the clever or intelligent students into 40  High Performance Schools   [20 Primary and 20 Secondary]  in the country. 

Not only the best children but all the best teachers and all the best administrators will be collected and placed together in these High Performance Schools. These HPS, now already germinating are being held as the beacons of achievement by the MOE of their successful contribution to the transformation of the Malaysian Education System.

The irony of this belief system seems  to have escaped our “experts”, especially the teachers. When the “best” teachers are selected to teach in the “best” schools, does that not mean that the teachers teaching in the normal schools are “not-so-clever”? 

Ok, just so that everyone does get angry, does it not mean that most of the teachers are “stupid”? 

MOE stats show there are 415,304 teachers. If we estimate that 60,000 intelligent and clever teachers are pre-selected and safely tucked away in the special schools, then does this mean that there are 355,304  not-so-clever teachers running our normal schools?

More interesting is that all our educational experts right down to the 415,304 teachers seem to agree that “intelligence” or intelligent students have a peculiar attribute. 

According to them “intelligence” (clever children) is very fragile and vulnerable. They must be kept apart, kept away, in a special school (even away from their possibly not so intelligent parents) or in special classes. The MOE buys into this completely. This will explain why they will only allow the best teachers and administrators into the same environment. And no resources must be spared.

Conversely they seem to say that “stupidity” is very hardy and robust. It will persist no matter what. Most likely it will grow, multiply, seep, spread and overcome, especially intelligence and intelligent children. Stupidity will persist! 

So separate the schools. And separate the classes. You can put any kind of teacher or administrator. You can put all the retarded and stupid teachers to teach them. Robust stupidity will flourish on minimal resources! 

Don’t think for a moment of sending in the clever or intelligent teachers, they will most likely be overpowered by the stupid students in 'normal' schools.

Intelligent students and the stupid ones cannot mix!   When challenged by the proximity of “stupidity”, “intelligence” will  just disintegrate or evaporate! Intelligence will not permeate or be absorbed by the “stupid” students. It will just disappear!

Instead it is stupidity that will spread and permeate into the vacuum left behind by escaping intelligence! The net result of mixing the intelligent with the non intelligent is that the intelligent kids will become less intelligent or even stupid and the stupid kids will remain stupid. The effect is so deleterious. Intelligent and the stupid students cannot be put together.

The MOE has the best of intentions. Lets look at some hard facts.

The MOE’s website shows that there are 5,255,448 students in 10,091 schools taught by 415,304 teachers in our country.  [OSTB : 5,255,448 students divided by 415,304 teachers  gives a student to teacher ratio of 12:6 to 1. Wow. This is already better than Finland.  But this is NOT the case in our schools. There are still 40 students per class. I think a lot of teachers are doing the ponteng thing.]

Add up all the “best” schools in the country:

SM Asram Penuh………………..68
Premier/Controlled Schools……50 (est)
High Performance Schools…….40

Let us be generous and round the figure to 300 schools. The MOE determines that all these schools have a population of 1000 students. Based on this we have 300,000 clever/ intelligent students sequestered away [that is only SIX PERCENT of total students]/

There are 5,255,448 school children in the country. So the remaining 4,955,448 children are getting the message that they are the stupid ones. The parents of these children would also be getting the message that the children they produce are just not good enough.

Then what about the teachers? Just consider. If we staff these elite schools with 200 teachers each, there will be a total of 200 x 300 = 60,000 “guru cemerlang”. There are 415,304 teachers in the country. So the remaining  355,304 teachers get the message that they are not good enough. Well, they would not get the message if they are dumb!

In summary out of  10,091 schools, we have  9791 schools [97 percent of our schools] which are populated by 4,955,448 dumb students and taught by 355,304 dumb teachers!  

Only 300 schools or less than 3 PERCENT of the total number of schools in Malaysia are deemed as 'intelligent' schools.

Do we get the message or are we really stupid?


My comments :  For more than fifteen years now there is a deliberate policy by some really foolish policy planners [who are obviously politically influenced] to destroy some aspects of the country's education system.

They are using the 'lets just save the three percent' policy.

As the writer points out, there is an overemphasis on the sekolah asrama penuh, the MRSMs, the special schools etc. But there are only 300 of these schools with less than SIX PERCENT of the total student population. 

There is a deliberate policy to allow the mission schools to rot. Up to the early 2000s the old mission schools were still among the top performing schools in the country.

Now with the creep of religious extremism into all sectors of the government especially education, the mission schools are being treated as 'illegitimate children'.  Mission schools are undoubtedly identified with the old Christian churches. The land on which many of these schools stand are privately owned - by the Churches. 

[I think some people are eyeing these lands, especially in the high priced urban locations].

Many mission schools are now in the lower Band classification [Band 3 or lower].

The sekolah asramas on the other hand have become religious ghettos where besides normal classes, students are brought up on religious and racial propaganda.  The MRSM has even set up special 'Ulul Al Bab' versions [the religious version] of its sekolah asrama.

When the sekolah asrama was first envisaged, it was designed to extricate poor Malay students with potential, away from the debilitating environments of their homes and families in the kampongs. The kampong environment was not conducive to fast tracking smart Malay kids into the modern age. 

The sekolah asrama penuh provided a sterile and carefully nurtured environment that had none of the drawbacks of the kampong environment.  

Old sekolah asrama friends used to tell  me that the lingua france on campus was English [they are still taught in English]. They would watch English movies, be exposed to debates in English and were taught by a largely non Malay faculty.  This was the sekolah asrama of the old days - when they were first set up.  In those days, for the smart Malay students who were fortunate enough to attend the sekolah asrama, the environment in the sekolah asrama was completely different from their home environments.

The situation has now changed  180 degrees.  The sekolah asrama is now fully infected and infested with religious hocus pocus. The backward kampong has crept into the sekolah asrama system.  They have become ghettos. Not to be left behind, those remaining  9791 government schools [97 percent of our schools] have also become religious ghettos. 

Our entire school system has become ghettoised.

Maybe we should  relook the old policy of 'streaming' students into Science, Arts, A class, B class etc. The American system has students moving from one class to another. They do not stay inside a  permanent classroom.  There are no 'class monitors' etc. 

To cut it short - the education system is totally screwed up. It is NOT meeting the requirements of the 21st century.

It is the 21st century and the education system is going backwards into dubious and debateable religion.