Thursday, January 11, 2007

Looking Back


STAR created history when in 1964 for the first time accepted 7 girls as students. The girls reported one by one – starting with Hajira Rahman from Kampar in the lower six science class. She was joined by Zaimunah Haron from Seremban. In the lower six arts class there were Raja Fatimah Raja Kamarulzaman, Safiah Jaafar and Che Mah Wahidin from Penang, Salbiah Abdul Rashid (has since passed away) from Perak & myself Salmiah Abd. Rahman from Kedah. I guess there was some degree of puzzlement in everybody’s mind – how come we were offered places in this school when it is actually a boys residential school. And to make matters worse where were we to stay, there was no hostel (understandbly because we were very few) and we came from outside Ipoh. But soon this was sorted out when the non- academic staff of the school were willing to give us lodging.

There were a lot of adjustments to be made and new areas to be looked into by the school. The girls were given the liberty to design and choose the colour of the uniform and since the students toilet are for the boys, the girls could only use the ladies toilet meant for female guests in the school hall. There was even a lady teacher assigned to be in charge of we girls.

The first few months were times of fitting in – the girls to the new environment and the boys to having girls arround in the school. Imagine there were about 700 boys in the school and only 7 girls in 1964, 13 in 1965, and 6 in 1966 – what an unbalanced co-educational school. So it was quite taxing for the girls since we were expected to take part in several school activities – choir, drama, quiz, debate, forum & athlethic. Whether one can sing or not all the girls were roped in the school choir for the schools functions, take part in school dramas, quiz, debates and forums even at inter-school level especially among the form six schools in Perak. What was more daunting was that the girls had to form a relay team to run againts the other form six girls from other schools. Looking back I think the group of girls were an all rounder !

In 1964 the head boy was Jaafar Kamin (Dato’). He was such an understanding and caring big brother. We would go to him when we have problems especially when we were disturbed and teased by the boys or even when we were ticked off by the teacher supervisor, Miss Naranjan Kaur – for being too friendly with the boys. Generally, schooling was interesting, we could get along well and everybody tried to be nice and accomodating. With our classmates we got along well and the comraderie lasted untill now. In fact when we were staying in the school compound we joined the prep classes and extra – curricular activities at night.

STAR admitted 6 girls in 1965 making the total number of girls to13. 1966 did not bring in any girl student to the school. The 1st group left at the end of 1965, so the girls population was left with 6. This group left at the end of 1966 and in 1967 another group was admitted – STAR opened one class of Malay medium form six and among them were girls. When this group left at the end of 1968 no more girls were brought in untill the matriculation classes under USM were set up in the school.

With the admission of girls in the school, lodging was a problem. The school cannot cater for this since the number was so small. At one time (1966) one of the teachers quarters was given to the girls to stay. At the end of 1964 a few of us squat at Sekolah Raja Perempuan Taayah (a state religious residential school) for 5 weeks. In 1965 we rented a house in Canning Garden and some of us stayed there. Furniture was provided by the school. We hired a helper to cook for us and we walked the 4 km distance to and back from school. It was a good experience being independant managing the rented house. The matriculation girls were lucky. Because their number was big one block of the hostel was turned into a girls block. But of course after the school had renovated to provide for certain facilities and also to make sure privacy was maintained.

Looking back after having left the school for 40 years we cherished quite a lot of happy moments in the school like joining the boys to cheer the rugby team even though we did not understand the game, participating in whatever activities required or even for being called names, teased and whistled at, it had been enriching and school life took a different dimension. I would also dare say the girl’s stint in STAR – an all boys residential school – is a precursor to the setting up of mix residential schools in the country viz Science Residential Schools and MARA Junior Science Colleges – a golden opening for girls education in Malaysia.

Salmiah Abd. Rahman


Monday, December 25, 2006

tun hamdan-a tribute


In the annals of Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman, lpoh, Tun Dato' Seri Utama(Dr.) Haji Hamdan bin Sheikh Tahir is the nonpareil of efficiency, dedication, discipline and far sightedness.

He raised the standard for the pioneer teaching staff whom he guided, nurtured and led the way, for a couple of the College-trained teachers were still in their teens when Tun was at the helm. These graduates of the Malayan Teachers' College) of Kota Bharu, Penang, Kirkby and Brinsford Lodge owe Tun a debt of gratitude which cannot be itemised nor repaid in full.

Some of those then-fledging teachers have gone on to carve a name for themselves, particularly in the field of education as education officers, as school and college principals and lecturers, and as text-book authors.

Tun consistently raised the bar for the first few batches of Starians from rural areas whom he imbued with a comprehensive spectrum of education and in whom he instilled confidence to face all kinds of challenges.

No platform was too low and humble nor too high and lofty for Tun to stride on to deliver speech after speech at assemblies al fresco and indoors, dressed impressively in his academic gown. He also spoke at the high table during Thursday dinners. His resounding and inspiring voice required no microphone for effect. (After all, electronic sound systems do break down!) Which principal can match Tun for unfailing and punctual weekly appearances in the dining hall to partake of meals with his teacher-wardens and his pupils, and to give inspirational and motivational lectures there gratis?

Then there was the weekly Sunday morning inspection of all six hostels. If everything was to Tun's satisfaction in a hostel, the inspection would be over within the half hour. Woe betide the hostelites whose dormitory had cobwebs in one corner of the ceiling. Punishment did not consist of just removing the offending item pronto ... it would be akin to

performing community service (by today's definition of the term) afterwards.

Greater misfortune awaited the last hostel to be inspected if the above hiccup had occurred in the first or second hostel scheduled for inspection. Those hostel boys last in line would not be able to take the bus (some Starians in those days even walked!) to town for their ais kacang before noon! Hostels of STAR in those good old days were truly spick-and-span and their toilets and bathrooms smelt fine.

Which principal of which residential school would devote three hours and more every Sunday morning of term time to inspect every dormitory and every toileta and every bathroom of every hostel in the campus? Tun walked the talk. Tun led by example.

Education and character-building of pupils should not be confined to the four walls of the classroom, the laboratory, the workshop and the library. Tun subscribed to the all-round development of Starians.


And so it was that the school's First Annual Athletics Sports Meet was held on the borrowed field of Anderson School as the Malay Secondary School (as STAR was called before it was officially re-named) in Baeza Avenue off Ashby Road did not have a big enough area for a sports field.

Besides all the usual games, Tun introduced padder tennis to Starians. Is this game still making its rounds in schools?

Swimming and life-saving activities were carried out at the Kinta Swimming Club many miles away on the other side of town. Absence or lack of facilities should not be used as an excuse to deprive pupils of opportunities to experience and to excel.

The more hardy and never-say-die Starians were sent to the Outward Bound School for courses. Some were recommended to continue their upper secondary education at the Royal Military College. Needless to say, the latter group of graduates has done the school and the country proud.



Nothing was too difficult for Tun to overcome to ensure that Starians under his charge were exposed to the excitement of learning and living life to the fullest.

Cross-country running for Starians in Tun's days was cross-country in the truest sense of the term. On practice days, the boys had to jostle through brush, skip over bush and wade across a stream, holding unto a thick rope stretched over the more-than-a-foot-deep water. And if it rained the day before a practice run, the unfortunate boys and their teachers on duty had to trudge through thick, muddy and sticky terrain. Many a pair of tainted white-turned-brown canvas shoes was sacrificed to nature as it would then be easier to lift the feet and jog on than to be hogged down every few steps! You think boys and teachers would go through all these nowadays? Just for practice runs?

Dressed in white Bermuda shorts, white T-shirt, white stockings and black leather shoes, Tun would be in the pack scaling the hills behind STAR to take pupils and teachers on an expedition to observe a Tambun tin-mine in operation as well as to explore caves with wall paintings. Tun was not only an honours-degree holder in geography, he was also a history scholar. Another unforgettable outing organised by Tun was the one to Kellie's Castle near Batu Gajah. Can Starians of later batches boast of having visited the above two sites during their schooldays?

A keen scouter himself, Tun propagated scouting in STAR, roping in members of the teaching staff to instil the love of adventure and service among Starians. Tun took pride and honour in sponsoring two Starian Queen's Scouts to the 10th. World Scouts Jamboree in Manila in the Philippines.

Mens sana in corpore sano. With this motto in mind, Tun ensured that the Red Cross Society and the St. John's Ambulance Brigade play their


rightful roles in STAR, especially during official functions held on the

school grounds.

Tun himself would be present practically every afternoon or evening during, school week-days and on Saturday or Sunday mornings as weil to oversee meetings of clubs and societies. Teachers under him did not think twice about answering his clarion call of duty at any time of the day or night. More than a dozen of them are still around to serve as living proof of their invaluable contributions to STAR when the school was young and beautiful.

Behind every successful man is a woman. Toh Puan Dato' Seri Utama Hajjah Siti Zainab binti Haji Baharuddin played her role as the ever­-loving, dutiful and dedicated wife to perfection. She not only steadfastly

accompanied Tun to the various functions he graced but was also his chauffeuse when that great person did not possess a driving licence then. She answered her master's voice without fail. STAR appreciates all that Toh Puan had contributed to make Tun's time at the school such a memorable one.

Today, Starians can be found in government, in academia, in industry, in business and in all the noble professions. Some are very successful in their spheres of work and influence.

Tun would have been very proud of the fruits of his labour of love which he had embarked on 50 years ago. May his soul rest in pcace.

One strrng voice can keep us in tune

One constant star can increase the radiance For all of us at STAR there is only one Tun For it's you who had made all the difference.

Lau Hut Yee ( Teacher1957 - 1989)

Tan Teong Leong( Teacher1958 - 1993)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

On entering STAR

I have a vague memory of how I was introduced to the idea of going to a residential school. An officer from the Education Department ( who I now think must be the District Inspector of Schools), in his effort to motivate us to work hard and make the grade to be selected to a boarding school, titillated us with the notion that in the hostel where we would be living, if selected, we could bathe in cubicles where there would be spouts on the wall shooting out showers of water for a most pleasurable bathing experience. I guess most of the prospective students came from families in rural districts where baths would be taken from dug-out wells or just by jumping into the nearest canals or rivers.

I sat for a series of tests ( which today I can recognize as IQ tests) though I cannot remember what my results were but I turned out to be the only one selected to go to a residential school. None of the girls, if I remember correctly, made it.

Towards the end of the year my parents frantically went about buying the stuff we were supposed to bring with me when I reported to the school. The list was a long one - six pairs of navy blue shorts and white short sleeved shirts, six pairs of white underpants and singlets, six pairs of white socks, a pair of white canvas shoes, a pair of black leather shoes and many more other articles which I can no longer remember. Even for my father, who was a lower middle-class government servant with ten mouths to feed at home, this must have been a very tall order! He must have scraped the bottom of his coin box to buy me all those stuff.

I cannot remember if I was excited about going to the hostel. Forced to examine and recollect what my emotional experience was, at best, I can only say that it was a kind of numbness. I must have been quite anxious to leave home and separate from my family. I was very attached to my mother. I followed her to the market every time I could. I helped her in the kitchen to peel garlic, pound chillies, clean the anchovies. When she was ill, she would ask me to go to the market for her for she knew that I was familiar with her marketing habits and choices. Making my feelings numb was probably how I survived that separation anxiety.

My father drove me to Ipoh, where my designated residential school was. My mother came along and I remembered the journey was a long and silent trip which I have very little memory of. Today I presume it was probably most emotionally nerve wrecking but I must have coped with it by effective suppression thus the emotional numbing and lack of memory of that day.

What I remembered was that when it was time for my parents to leave me in school, my mother broke down into tears undermining my hitherto very effective coping mechanism. I too went into a weeping hysteria and I cannot remember how long I took to get hold of myself again.

As I try to recollect my first day in school, I can only remember the first night when we were met in class at the Form Remove Block where Encik Perdaus picked me out and asked if I played football. He was the school’s football master and STAR was a football champion in Perak. So I guess he was looking for new recruits to his football team. I was also singled out by a few other teachers because I was one of the few who spoke and read English. My father had sent all my elder brothers and sisters to English schools. So English was somewhat spoken at home. For reasons only known to my father I was sent to a Malay primary school. He must have been caught in the wave of nationalism that came with the Independence of the country. Since STAR was established to enable students from Malay medium primary schools to be put in boarding schools like the MCKK and the TKC, I was plucked out of this little urban Malay primary school to join a band of pupils from mostly rural Malay primary schools who had very little exposure to the English language at all. It was this advantage, I suppose, that helped me remained at the top of the class in all the examinations in all of my school years in STAR.

The nights were the most difficult times for me. I became very homesick and missed my family, my mother, in particular, the most. I sobbed every night to extreme tiredness until I slept. This did not stop until Form Two when my mother passed away from Breast Cancer. On Sunday mornings I would go to my classroom, located on the top floor of the school block and scout the horizon, imagining I could see my home in the far distance. I was not alone. There was another classmate of mine who probably was just as homesick as I was and I had caught him crying in class on those Sunday mornings too. I could empathize with him then and still can now because his hometown was in Kelantan. That was a long long way from school.

The Book

The Book

The history of an institution such as STAR to be narrated in a limited pages within this book and to cover a period of 50 years, has its limitations. This book is more a brief chronicle through photos to capture the events, activities or more appropriately life as a whole in STAR. It's setting up and struggle in the early years, its progress, achievements, vision, spirit and expectation. And how in a comparatively short period had shown maturity and achieving the objectives and made a name across the country.

Thousands of young boys ( and a handful of girls ) moved in and out of its gate; studied, played and stayed together, coming from across the country and proud to be called and known as Starians. On the other side are the teachers. Hundreds of them taught there since, the majority of whom are proud to be associated with STAR; and with he school fondly in their memory well into their retirement age. At the same time the school witnessed with pride its coming of age, so to say, with the "old boys" coming back as either teachers or principal while many others came back to bring their juniors to carry the proud tradition to become Starians.

Fifty years ago, the teachers knew clearly what they were suppose to do with their charges coming in by the hundreds year after year. But their charges had but very little inclination on what life was going to be apart from attending classes, read text books and sit for those compulsory examinations. Slowly but surely inside that huge fenced-up compound that resembled a hospital complex, that anxiety, fear, loneliness and desperation gave way to camaraderies, joy, leisure and the desire to do what they have been sent do in the first place.

They spent a good part of their young ( some may say naughty and rebellious ) life away from home and parents. They are now in the hands of a different parents, who not only taught to read and write, but watch over them from dawn to the next dawn. They were to be disciplined and groomed and grow up to be responsible citizens with drive and vision.

The teachers role and dedication were unmatched. They were not only there to teach, but to do the parenting job as well for 24 hours a day without any hesitation. The teachers made their mark and were given due recognition including as "Tokoh Guru Kebangsaan". While some were happy to remain within that big family house known as STAR, others were given the rise even to the highest position within the country's education service. Their work ethic, dedication and discipline have been their trade mark and their traits that were passed down to their charges.

Through the years STAR never fail to produce students that in later part of their life become young men that any parents, teachers and nation to be proud of. They become the country's administrators and diplomats, technocrats, academics, scientists, doctors, lawyers, men in uniforms, entrepreneurs as well as politicians.

This book is therefore not just pictures and words of school buildings, students and teachers, but deeply to be seen as masses of young kids far and near across the country that to bring changes to the country, and the story of the vision of the country's early leaders who fought and sacrificed to bring about independent. And STAR is proud to be born at the same time and be part of the struggle and sacrifice, and more importantly to continue with the spirit and the vision.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

”STAR – As I Remember You”

I always believe that you are what you are today because of your yesterdays.

STAR was just a short chapter in my life (only two years at sixth form) yet formed a solid foundation for the future ME.

I learnt to live together with new friends, be fascinated with different dialects, handle problems by myself, study independently even though my parents were not hovering around me and be reasonably active in many school and extra-curriculum activities.

So like the other 10 girls in school then, I was happily forced to sing and dance at school functions, (with the patient overseeing by Basri Lamsah) act as Mak Mah in the (ahem) award winning school box-office drama of the year ‘ATAP GENTING ATAP RUMBIA’ and cheer the rugby team at home and away games, including that to MCKK (though I swear none of the girls know the rules of the game even till today). Together with my closest pal Ina, we taught our classmates to dance in the locked library (which I swear too none of the teachers know till today) in preparation for the Sixth Form Nite together with the Sixth Formers from Andersons and ACS, Ipoh. Again with Ina, we got hauled up by the Headmaster for sitting pretty on the wall of the Geology Department and happily dangly our legs (as if we were soliciting!!!).

Yes, going to STAR exposed me to a world of difference then. In one STARIAN function some years back, YAB Pak Lah who was Deputy Prima Minister then, commented on stage that I must have been a tomboy to have survived a boys’ school! No lah Pak Lah, tomboy NO, resilient YES!

STAR – I look back fondly at you. Thank you for the many memories. Thank you for the lovely friends who continue to be dear to me all these years.

Dato’ Rahmah bt Abu Kassim

Sixth Form (1965-1966)

Friday, October 20, 2006

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.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Spirit and Vision

On 2 January 1957, the year that Malaya gained its independence, a group of boys mostly from across the rural part of the country converged in Ipoh, the capital of the state of Perak.

There they were housed in a former British Army Barrack on the outskirt of the town - there then they started their classes in a secondary school known as the Malay Secondary School, the first Malay secondary school established on the eve of the country's independence. Across the road stood the imposing Anglo-Chinese School set up by the British Administrator in .....

The lack of proper facilities and amenities was no deterence to the boys' determination and eagerness to study knowing that they were the privilaged few to have the opportunity to be where they were, when their brothers and sisters and friends before them know only the village primary schools.

January 6 1958 the boys started their lessons in an entirely different environment. They moved to a new and permanent location not far away that was to be officially opened and renamed later in the year as Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Ipoh, Perak officiated by the first Prime Minister of Malaya YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Alhaj on 14 May 1958.

" If we are to maintain our independence and if the Malays want to live in peace and prosperity, we have to take an active interest in education. The success we have achieved today, resulting in Merdeka, can be attributed to education." Said the Prime Minister at the Opening Ceremony.

The setting up of Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman ( STAR ) and that statement by the Prime Minister are to be seen in the wider context of the newly independent country and the coming into being the National Education Policy, especially the education for the Malays, promulgated by the new government of the people. Education for the Malays prior to that had not been within the vision of the British colonial administrators. It was not within their plan to produce educated Malays whatmore intellegensia and reformists.

Whatever systems of education introduced by the British did not take into account the needs of the country and state of intellectual development, but closely focussed on the immediate and long term needs of a colonial power.

Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman came into being out of such skeweyed education policy. In that light STAR is not just any school but the school that was to grow and progress together with the nation as well as the symbol of the National Education Policy. It is the corner-stone from where the country aspire to move on and to manage its affairs and its future.

The nation's stress on education could not be more aptly put by the Prime Minister when he said in Ipoh on that auspicious day that " If there is no building or accomodation for the boys, then they can learn under the trees ".

The children from the villages are not going to be denied their right to proper education. For too long they have been ignored and marginalised. They should therefore not end up like most of their fathers and fore-fathers. They were to be the new Malays and new Malaysians taking charge of their own country and destiny. STAR was there, is there and going to be there for the future.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Time line


Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman ( STAR as popularly known ) has its root in the Malay Secondary School ( MSS ), the first Secondary School to be opened for the Malays after the country’s independence in 1957.

2 January 1957 - MSS operated from a temporary site ( a former British Army Barrack ) at Baeza Avenue, Off Ashby Road, Ipoh, Perak with a total intake of 360 students. The first Head-Master of the School was Tuan Hj. Hamdan Bin Sheikh Tahir

26 July 1957 - The last British High Commissioner to Malaya Sir Donald MacGillivery paid a visit to the School.

6 January 1958 - The School moved to its present site along Tiger Lane, Ipoh ( now Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah)

14 May 1958 - Official Opening and Renaming of the School by the first Prime Minister of Federation Of Malaya YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.

The School is now known as Sekolah Tuanku Abdul Rahman, named after the first Yang Di Pertuan Agong of the Federation, His Majesty Tuanku Abdul Rahman.

23 September 1958 - Royal Visit by the His MajestyYang Di Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Rahman

November 1959 - First batch students sat for Lower Certificate of Education examination.

January 1960 - Form Four Classes started

14 September 1961 - The Ambassador of USA made a visit to the School

November 1961 - STAR’s first batch of candidates ( 155 ) sat for the combined Cambridge Overseas School Certificate/Federation of Malaya Certificate examinations.

January 1962 - Another milestone for STAR when Form Six Classes started

November 1963 - STAR’s first batch of Upper Six Classes ( Arts and Science ) sat for the Overseas Higher School Certificate examination.

January 1964 - A history of a sort when a girl student was admitted ( STAR is a boys’ residential school) to the school joining Lower Six Science class.

January 1965 - More girls power. 13 girls were admitted to the School entering Lower Six classes.

26 June 1965 - The British High Commissioner to Malaysia His Excellency Viscount Head paid a visit to the School.

1975 - The School stopped the enrolment of pupils into Remove Classes

January 1981 - STAR witnessed the enrolment of first 2nd generation Starian. Alimin Ismadi the son of Ismail Salleh ( second batch ) joining Form One.

June 1981 - Official Launching of Kelas Matrikulasi Sains with Universiti Sains Malaysia.

1982 - STAR celebrated Silver Jubilee

15 August 1982 - Hussein Salleh ( first batch )created history when he returned to the School as its Principal.