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5 Historical Schools In Malaysia And The Alumni Who Graduated From It 

Step into the rich tapestry of Malaysia’s educational legacy as we embark on a journey through the hallowed halls of its historical schools. Each institution stands as a living testament to the nation’s commitment to knowledge, reflecting a blend of cultural heritage and educational excellence. From their humble beginnings to the significant roles they played in shaping Malaysia’s intellectual landscape, these schools bear witness to the evolving narrative of the country’s educational history. 

Join us on an exploration as we delve into the humble beginnings, uncover historical trivia, highlight pivotal milestones, and celebrate the impressive legacies of alumni nurtured by these five schools over time.

#1: Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), Perak

You can take the boys out of Malay College, but you can’t take Malay College out of boys. – Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK)[1]

The institution proudly boasts as the alma mater of seven out of thirteen Yang di-Pertuan Agong, a Sultan of Brunei, and prominent political figures such as PMX Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Rafizi Ramli, Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Aziz, and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein[2].

These influential alumni, making waves in politics, education, and the arts, are brought together by the Malay College Old Boys’ Association (MCOBA), a historically predominantly Malay group until 2009. Notably, 2009 marked a significant shift when the association welcomed its first non-Malay member, Liew Yong Choon.

Nestled in Kuala Kangsar, Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) stands as an iconic institution renowned for academic excellence, as well as prowess in rugby and basketball. Established in 1905 by R J Wilkinson, the school earned the moniker “Eton of the East” and initially catered to the Malay elite. Over time, it transformed into one of Malaysia’s two boarding schools with royal patronage, achieving titles like Cluster School of Excellence and High-Performance School in 2010[1].

Originally intended for the Malay elite, including royal children and nobility, MCKK underwent a transformative change during Tun Abdul Razak Hussein’s tenure as Minister of Education in 1955. Admissions were democratized, paving the way for a more inclusive student body[1].

#2: Kolej Tunku Kurshiah (TKC), Negeri Sembilan

Kolej Tunku Kurshiah (TKC), which started as Maktab Perempuan Melayu in 1939, went through several moves from Kuala Lumpur to Seremban in 1962 and then to Bandar Enstek, Nilai in 2013, facing many challenges[2]. Initially suggested by Yang Berbahagia Dato Sheikh Ahmad Al-Haj, with support from the Sultan of Selangor and the Sultan of Perak, it became Malay Girls College in 1947. After moving to Seremban in 1962, it was renamed Tunku Kurshiah, honouring the first Raja Permaisuri Agong of Negeri Sembilan and becoming a secondary school in 1969.

In 1967, Malay Girls College started offering literature classes and became a secondary school in 1969. By 1972, they reversed the decision to stop Form 1 intakes, offering both Science and Arts to Form 1, 4, 5, and 6 students. The move to Nilai in 2013 led to adopting the Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (MYPIB), earning recognition as a Candidate School. In March 2016, they implemented the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), giving students access to top universities worldwide. TKC is acknowledged as a Smart School, High-Performance School, School of Global Excellence (SGE), Trust School, and Apple Distinguished School (ADS)[2].

Alumni of this prestigious institution actively engage in the TKC Old Girls Association (TKC OGA), established in 1962. Initiated by E. M. Pereira, the college principal, and Puan Abbasiah Amirin Wiloughby, the first head girl[4]

Notable alumni, including Malaysia’s first female Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Mazlan Othman, the nation’s first astrophysicist, and Tan Sri Tunku Puteri Intan Safinaz, chairperson of the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, not forgetting Malaysia’s illustrious former first lady, Rosmah Mansor, adorn the school’s Hall of Fame.

#3: Victoria Institution, Kuala Lumpur

Established in 1893, the Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur is the city’s oldest school. Initially situated on Jalan Shaw (now Jalan Hang Tuah), it was set up by the British government, Loke Yew, Kapitan Yap Kwan Seng, and businessman Thanboonsamy Pillay. The goal was to train capable English-speaking staff for local government roles[5].

With a prestigious history, the Victoria Institution proudly houses the country’s oldest Cadet Corps, the Victoria Institution Cadet Corps, and its renowned Cadet Corps Band. It is also home to the oldest Scout Group in the nation, initially called the First Selangor Scout Troop and now known as the First Kuala Lumpur Scout Troop[6].

The institution relocated to a new site in Bukit Petaling in 1929[5], featuring the iconic clock tower. The school witnessed the formal surrender ceremony of the Japanese army to the British in 1945.

A significant artefact in the school’s history is the second watch bell from the HMS Malaya, a Queen Elizabeth-class battleship used during World War Two. Given to the Victoria Institution after the war, it replaced the original school bell, which the Japanese armed forces had removed and misplaced during their occupation of Malaya. The bell, presented on September 12, 1947, remained a part of the school’s legacy until it was handed over to the Royal Malaysian Navy in 2007[7].

Initially exclusive to male students in Forms 1 to 5, the Victoria Institution admitted female students in Form 6 (Lower and Upper) and earned the designation of a Cluster School of Excellence in 2007.

Once a Victorian, always a Victorian. – Victoria Institution[6]

The Victoria Institution Old Boys Association (VIOBA), established in 1922 boasts. distinguished figures like self-made tycoon Tan Sri Ananda Krishnan, footballer Allahyarham Mokhtar Dahari, “Flying Doctor” Datuk Dr Mani Jegathesan, former Minister of International Trade and Industry Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz and Semporna’s Member of Parliament, Dato’ Seri Hj. Mohd Shafie Apdal, among others, have emerged from this esteemed institution, contributing significantly to the nation in various fields.

#4: Penang Free School, Pulau Pinang

Founded on February 6, 1816, Penang Free School holds the distinction of being Southeast Asia’s oldest English-medium school[8]. It started in rented premises on Love Lane as a racially and religiously inclusive Day School for boys. Due to capacity issues in the 1920s and a lack of additional land for annexes, the school underwent a major move, relocating to Green Lane by December 31, 1927, after construction began in 1924[8].

After the Japanese Occupation, the Educational Ordinance in 1957 transformed Penang Free School into a national-type fully assisted secondary school, managed by a Board of Governors. Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister, alumnus of the school, inaugurated the new Form 6 block in 1958, marking it as the first in northern Malaya to provide secondary education beyond Form 5[8].

Adapting to the times, the school transitioned to a single-session system in 1992, now exclusively for boys, with an exception for girls in the Sixth Form.

The alumni, known as The Old Frees, include notable individuals like Seniman Negara, P. Ramlee, physician Dr Wu Lien Teh, economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram, and Lim Chong Keat, the visionary architect behind Penang’s towering landmark, Komtar.

#5: St Joseph, Kuching, Sarawak

In 1881, the Mill Hill Fathers, a group of Catholic priests, recognised the need for formal education in Sarawak. In response, they established the first Catholic missionary school, St Joseph’s School, in 1882. 

Initially, it was in a simple wooden shack on land granted by Sir Charles Brooke. The school’s goal was to provide basic education for everyone, regardless of race, religion, or socioeconomic status. Early structures like “Noah’s Ark” in 1886 and the first brick building, the Mill Hill Block, in 1894 marked the school’s early years[9].

During the Japanese occupation, the school was repurposed for the navy and army. However, it resumed its mission in 1945. Recognizing the need for efficient administration in 1950, the Mill Hill Fathers handed over the school to the Christian Brothers[9].

In 1973, the Sarawak Service Scheme was introduced, and in 1977, the medium of instruction shifted to Bahasa Malaysia. This led to the school being renamed Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) and Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) St Joseph when fully government-run. Brother Columba Gleeson’s retirement in 1988 marked the end of the La Salle Brothers’ administration, and since then, the school has been led by laypersons[9].

Notable alumni, such as Sarawak’s Yang di-Pertua Tun Pehin Sri Taib Mahmud, and Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg, attest to the school’s legacy of producing accomplished graduates who contribute significantly to the state[10].

Explore our sources:

  1. Malay College Kuala Kangsar. (n.d.). About MCKK. Link 
  2. Fiezreen. (2022). Diasaskan Oleh Empat Sultan Melayu, Ini 10 Individu Popular Malaysia Yang Merupakan Bekas Pelajar MCKK. Remaja. Link 
  3. Tunku Kurshiah College. (n.d.). History. Link 
  4. Persatuan Murid-murid Tua Maktab Perempuan Melayu. (n.d.). About OGA. Link 
  5. British Malaya. (2022). Victoria Institution, the oldest secondary school in Kuala Lumpur (1893). Link 
  6. Malay Mail. (2018). Victoria Institution, 125 years of excellence — Dharm Navaratnam. Link 
  7. Tan., Y.L. (2022). QuickCheck: Did a bell at KL’s Victoria Institution come from a British battleship? The Star. Link 
  8. The Old Frees’  Association. (n.d.). Brief History of Penang Free School. Link 
  9. St Joseph Kuching. (n.d.). Our History. Link 
  10. Dayak Daily. (2021).  Abang Jo: St Joseph School always holds a special place in my heart. Link

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