Mar 7, 2009

The Early Years

The Beginning:

STAR did not feature as a school until 1958. Its history, however, started two years earlier, in 1956, with the identification of a few hundreds promising rural children who had completed their Malay primary level education, and their placement in a few selected schools in Ipoh, Pulau Pinang, Kuala Lipis, Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bharu. The children were chosen to be the pioneer students of the first three Malay residential secondary schools for rural children which were being planned in Ipoh, Tg. Malim, and Melaka. These schools were later known as Sekolah Tuanku Abd Rahman (STAR), Ipoh; Sekolah Dato’ Abd Razak (SDAR), Tg. Malim; and Sekolah Tun Fatimah (STF), Melaka.

In 1957, 360 of these 13-15 year old children were placed in five old wooden military barracks vacated by the Malay Regiments, at what was then known as Baeza Avenue, Ashby Road Ipoh (the site where Sekolah Kebangsaan Sri Kinta, Jalan Hospital, Ipoh, now stands).

For these children, the military barracks, with twelve wooden classrooms, were to become their “home” and their school, known as the Malay Secondary School (MSS), Ipoh. Classrooms, sleeping quarters (dormitories), dining hall etc. were all cramped in the barracks within barbed wire fences surrounding the 4-acre site. There was no space for the school to have a hall, or a playing field.

The school started on January 13, 1957, with the admission of 200 of these children into Form One. And in the first week of March, another 160 joined the school to commence their study in Remove Class. A year in what was called “Remove Class” was deemed necessary for every intake of students at the start. The purpose was to equip the students with sufficient command of English language that would enable them to commence their secondary education with English as the medium of instruction. Hence nearly as much as 60-70% of the time in Remove Class was devoted to the teaching and learning of English Language. The Remove Class, however, ceased to exist when Bahasa Malaysia was made the sole medium of instruction in secondary schools in the country in the early 70’s. ((photos of the Ashby Road school).

Teaching was done by a group of 15 teachers led by En Hamdan b Sheikh Tahir (Allahyarham Tun Hamdan b Sheikh Tahir) as the first principal. Classes were conducted following the standard curriculum offered in the English medium secondary schools of the day. A firm believer in the provision of well-rounded education, En Hamdan ensured from the beginning that co-curriculum activities became an important part of school life. Hence associations such as the English and Malay Literary and Debating societies were initiated. as soon as the boys settled in. A Boy Scout group, a Red Cross Society and a St. John Ambulance Association group were also formed within the first few months. The lack of a school hall did not deter the boys from staging a school play for the town folks using another school hall at ACS Ipoh. The absence of a school field of their own did not prevent the boys from playing soccer, hockey and rugby two days a week on “borrowed” ground at the Anderson School new field. The tradition of having Annual School Sports Day was also started in the first year when on 12th July 1957, using the Anderson School field, the school held its first School Sports Day. In essence, despite the constraint of space, and other shortcomings, under the sterling stewardship of the Principal, En Hamdan, supported by a group of young energetic teachers, the school was kept busy in lying the foundation of a school tradition that was to become the pride of all STARIANs.(photos of the first school play “Nyawa di Hujung Pedang” –; first school sports day, photo of staff and HM of 1957)

The busy first year also saw a number of VIPs visiting the school. Since it was the first fully residential school to be established for rural children in the country, and indeed it was a new phenomenon in the country’s education system, the school was visited by many distinguished officials including YB Dato Abd Razak Hussain, the Deputy Prime Minister and the former Minister of Education; Mr JN Davies, the Chief Education Adviser, Federation of Malaya; and Sir Donald MacGillivray, the British High Commissioner to the Federation of Malaya.

The Motto:

A month after MSS was established, on 20th February 1957, the school launched its motto - “Ilmu Panduan Hidup” . It also decided to have red and white as the school colours. Following that the school flag and and the school badge were designed. And later in the year the school song “Ilmu Panduan Hidup” was composed. Indeed the motto and the song “Ilmu Panduan Hidup” could not be more apt in reflecting the mission and the tradition the school wanted to establish. (illustration: school badge; school flag; lyric and musical score of school song).

The Big Move:

In January 1958, MSS moved to a new site – a newly built school complex on a 46-acre piece of land situated along Tiger Lane (now Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, Ipoh). Built and equipped at a cost of more than RM2 million then, the complex consisted of a three storey classroom block with an administrative annex; a “specialist block”, containing science laboratories, woodwork and metalwork workshops, an art room, a Geography room, and a library; a school hall; 6 blocks of hostels; a dining hall and a kitchen; 5 full-size playing fields for soccer, rugby and hockey; and courts for games such as basketballs, volleyball, badminton, sepak takraw and tennis. The school complex also contained a number of living quarters for the academic and auxiliary staff. The classroom and the administrative blocks, the specialist block, the hostel and the dining hall are connected to each other by concrete covered paths to allow students and staff to move freely even in bad weather.

With a new intake of two Remove Classes that year, a total of 440 boys became the pioneer students of the present STAR campus. The new site, with its facilities and luxurious space, gave so much pride to the students and staff. As soon as they had moved in, they took to cleaning and beautifying the premise with gusto in preparation for the school official opening in May 1958. (photos of school, hostel etc; also aerial view)

The Official Opening:

May 14, 1958, is one of the most significant dates in the school history. The day marked the beginning of STAR as it is now known. On that auspicious day the name Malay Secondary School (MSS) gave way to the new name “STAR” after the school was officially opened and renamed “Sekolah Tuanku Abd Rahman”
Ipoh, by the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Allahyarham Tunku Abd Rahman Putra.

The hope and the aspiration the government placed on the school in helping the Malays were reflected by some of the words of the Yang Dipertuan Agong, the Prime Minister, and the Minister of Education in their messages commemorating the day:

“The main object of your school is to impart knowledge more particularly in English and to mould character, and it is imperative that there should be schools of this kind in Malaya, if the Malays, as a race, are to be able to climb the educational ladder and to enter technical colleges and universities”

Yang Dipertuan Agong, Istana Negara, KL.

26th April 1958.

“The official opening of this residential secondary school is an event of vital importance for all young Malay boys. Coming from kampongs all over the country they will find here every facility for training under the best conditions, providing a firm foundation for their work and study in the years to come……….As Tuanku Abd Rahman School is the first of its kind, it can be both a spur to the ambitions of the people and an inspiration to all Malays..”

Tunku Abd Rahman, Prime Minister, Fed. Of Malaya.

8th May 1958

“The ceremony today marks a new chapter in the history of Malay education, a milestone for the Malay secondary education, since the first primary Malay schoosl were started about ninety years ago……The school, as well as the other Malay Secondary Schools and classes, have been established with the purpose of meeting the wishes and resolution of the Government and the people of independent Federation of Malaya towards raising the standard of Malay education, and through it, to attain further development of the Malay language and the improvement of the living standards of the Malays.”

Mohd Khir Johari, Minister of Education, Federation of Malaya.

10th. May 1958.

The official opening and the renaming of the school was symbolized by the Prime Minister unveiling a brass plaque with the inscription of the school name mounted on a granite boulder placed in the roundabout in front of the main school block. The ceremony was witnessed by the whole school in the presence of many dignitaries including the Deputy Prime Minister, YAB Dato Abd Razak Hussain, Federal Ministers and the Menteri Besar of Perak YAB En Ghazali Jawi. The occasion was celebrated with an exhibition of handiwork put up by the boys, a mass drill and a display by a military band, a soccer match between the young school team and the junior team of the Malay College Kuala Kangsar, and a variety concert. (photos of official opening and related programmes).

The Royal Visit:

Five months after the official opening, the school had its first royal visit. On 23 September 1958, the country’s first Yang Dipertuan Agong, DYMM, Tuanku Abd Rahman ibni Tuanku Mohamad, after whom the school was named, and DYMM Raja Permaisuri Agong visited the school. The royal highnesses were accompanied by DYMM Sultan and Sultanah of Perak and the Menteri Besar of Perak. To commemorate the royal visit the Yang Dipertuan Agong planted a fir tree in the same roundabout in front of the school building. (photo of tree planting, and the tree).

Life As It Was:

For this pioneer group of students, and indeed for many more batches of students in the early years, hostel life and life in STAR as a whole, was far removed from the life they were used to with their families in the kampungs, most of which had no electricity or running water. To all the students, it was a totally new environment that provided a new invigorating experience. After years of sharing everything with their siblings at home, many of the boys found that sleeping on their own beds in dormitories and, for the first time, having their own locker to keep whatever little things they had, was something they had to get used to. For many it was the first time they had studied with electric lights and fan above their heads. Indeed for most it was the first time they encountered flush toilets!! And since English Language was the medium of instruction in the school, it was of course the first time the “kampong boys” were exposed to, and being confused by, so much English in their life.

Hostel and Houses:

The boys were accommodated in six blocks of hostel. Each hostel was supervised by a teacher-warden who lived in the warden’s flat in the same building. To look after the discipline and the well being of the boys in the hostels, the warden was helped by a few prefects appointed among the more senior boys.

Each hostel was identified as a “House” simply named after a colour: Green, Blue, Black, Red, White and Yellow. This “house system” promoted cooperation and a deep sense of esprit de corp among the boys in the same house. And it also provided a basis for competitions in many areas such as games, athletics, and debates. These inter-house competitions, no doubt, had instilled in the boys a strong sense of competitiveness and pride In the early years, the competitions were taken very seriously, sometimes too seriously by the boys, that the spirit of healthy competitiveness they tried to promote, on a few occasions the writer could recalled, led to some unhealthy disciplinary issues. It was no surprise that the hostel-based House System was changed and modified a few times during the course of the school history to suit the situation of the day.


Discipline was indeed the essence of life in the hostel and the school. Rules and regulations were drawn up to guide students in their daily activities.. A 23-page typewritten single-spaced document entitled “School Rules and Regulations, Constitution and Bye-Laws of Club and Societies of Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Ipoh” printed by the school in 1958, outlines the do’s and the don’ts, in every aspect of the students’ life in the hostel and the school. The document contains the rules and regulations under topics ranging from: “Discipline in Life”; “School General Rules” and “Hostel Rules” to “Constitution and By-Laws of Societies” and even “Rules to observe When Answering Examination Questions”!!

A few excerpts from the documents illustrate the type of discipline meant to be instilled in the students:

“One of the most important needs of young people going out into the world from a secondary school is discipline…. Self-discipline means that we do not act according to our likes and dislikes, but according to principles of right and wrong……Good discipline in school requires that we establish and maintain wholesome conditions for learning…..” pg.2.

On dress: “A well-dressed person automatically commands respect and admiration. We should dress well and cleanly on all occasions. When going to town boys must always try to put on school uniform and wear the school badge in the right way……” pg.3

On manners: “Good manners show good breeding in a person. We can all show good manners by greeting visitors respectfully. Boys should also not put their hands in pockets when talking to visitors or to superiors. Boys should use freely the appropriate words “Please” and “Thank You” on all occasions”… 3.

On dining/food: “While food is to be enjoyed, the enjoyment will not be lessened, though, if the monotonous clanging of forks against spoons is reduced considerably”…pg. 4… “Food will be eaten only in the dining hall. Food must not be wasted. No food is allowed to be taken in the dormitory”….pg.6.

And, on Rules to Observe in Examination: “…Be confident, calm and cool, that is do not be nervous. If you are confident, half the battle is won. (Confidence comes easily to a pupil who has revised his work constantly and who has had a good night’s rest”…

Although the document had no mention on the forms of reprimands, it was fully understood that to break any of the regulation would mean getting a punishment of some kind. No doubt the kind of punishment meted out would depend on the seriousness of the offence committed. For misbehaving or being uncooperative, for example, a boy would be slapped with a DC – an acronym for “Detention Class” – whereby he is detained in a room for specified length of time, or specified number of weekends during town leave. A serious offence such as stealing would earn the offender a very shameful punishment in the form of public caning ie. being caned by the headmaster on the school stage in front of all the students and teachers during the weekly school assembly.

Daily Activities:

Classes, self-study, activities for clubs and societies, games and physical exercises were mandatory for every student according to the allotted days and times. The boys daily life was “ruled by the bell”. It would start with a wake-up bell at 6.30 in the morning, followed by other bells for breakfast, classes, meals, games, prayers, etc., with the final bell for lights-out and sleep at night. A time table extracted from pg. 5 of the document “School Rules and Regulations, Constitution and Bye-Laws of Club and Societies of Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Ipoh” mentioned earlier, illustrates part of the boys daily routine:

“(a) School Days:

7.15 am…. Breakfast

11.00 am…. Snack*

1.30 pm…. Lunch

2.30 pm…. Afternoon Preparation*

4.15 pm…. Tea

4.30 to 6.30 pm … Games and Physical Activity

7.00 pm…. Prayer Maghrib (jumaah)

7.15 pm…. Dinner

8.00 to 9.30pm…. Evening Preparation.

9.45 pm…. Milo (sic)

10.00 pm…. Bed and lights out.

10.05 pm…. Roll Check.

(b) Fridays:

Changes in the above:

11.30 am…. Lunch

12.00 noon… Mosque.

(c) Sundays:

Changes from time table (a):

8.00 to 10.00 am… Formal Inspection of Hostels

12.00 noon…. Lunch

4.00 pm…. Tea”

The time table shows that during school days the boys spent most of their waking hours in the school building attending classes in the morning, and studying on their own during the afternoon and evening preparation hours (preps).

Some forms of organized activities usually replaced the Thursday evening prep. Inter-house or inter-class Bahasa Malaysia or English debates, for example, were often held in the school hall in place of Thursday prep. Although understandably, not every student was able to, or expected to actively participate in such activities, attendance was compulsory for every one. Skipping it would earn the truant a confinement in a DC.

While not all boys looked forward to Thursday evening activities, Friday evening were highly anticipated by many because it was the time when the boys were treated to their weekly cinema show in the school hall. The title of the film to be shown and its promo posters that were usually posted on the school notice board for a few days prior to the show would heighten the anticipation and fire up the imagination of the boys. To say the least, Friday evening cinema shows were, no doubt, one of the highs in the life of STARIANs then.

On Saturday mornings the boys were kept busy with activities of uniform groups such as the Cadet corps, Boy Scout, Red Cross, and the St John Ambulance. Boys who did not belong to any of these groups were expected to participate in other form of organized co-curricular activities, or do their washing and ironing.

Classes, preps, games and co-curricular activities were not the only ways through which the boys were to be molded into a rounded personalities. Instilling the care for, and the maintenance of clean surroundings, was an important aspect of the boys education. Thus maintaining cleanliness, sweeping the floors in the hostel and classrooms, and cleaning the hostel bathrooms and toilets etc. was also an important part of the boys daily life.

This regimented life of attending classes together; having meals together; playing together; and even bathing together, instilled a great sense of discipline and a profound feeling of camaraderie among the boys – parts of the elements that made them proud to be STARIANS.

Town Leave:

Town leaves were given on week ends. Students were allowed to go to Ipoh town after lunch on Saturdays, and after the formal hostel inspection on Sundays. They must however be back in the school compound by 6.30 in the evening. To most of the boys, town leave meant an opportunity to have ice kacang at the Ipoh-Tg Rambutan bus station (whatever had happened to the station now?), to watch a movie in one of the many cinema halls in Ipoh at the time, or just to pace up and down the kakilima along Ipoh famous Hugh Low Street (now Jalan Sultan Yussof). The amount of pocket money most of the boys had then (if they had) would not allow them to venture more than that. …Of course the stories they would tell their friends who stayed back in school would sound like they had just been on a trip to the moon.

Sunday Inspection:

One of the many steps taken to instill discipline and to train the boys to keep themselves and their surrounding neat and clean at all times was the enforcement of Sunday Inspection. Starting from 8.30 every Sunday morning, the hostel warden on duty, sometimes accompanied by the headmaster, would walk through and inspect every nook and corner of the the hostels - the dormitories, bathrooms and toilets, the prayer rooms, the store rooms, etc. The boys had to stand in line by their beds with their lockers opened. Every room in the hostel, every corridor and walkway, every bed and locker, and of course every boy had to be in spanking state - clean and tidy. Dusty window panes, any stain on any part of the bathrooms and toilets, cobweb in the store rooms, less than smooth bed linen, dirty shoes etc were not tolerated. Apart from daily sweeping of the floor and clearing the rubbish, scrubbing the bathrooms and toilets, cleaning the drains, and dusting the walls and window panes etc, was a serious business for the boys every Saturday evening and Sunday morning before the Sunday inspection.

No comments:

Post a Comment