FRESH START: Kirkby International College breathes new life into the now defunct Malayan Teachers’ Training College in Kirkby, the United Kingdom, which was closed down 50 years ago
FANS of the Kampung Boy comic by cartoonist Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid, better known as Lat, fondly remember the character Mrs Hew — the fierce teacher with butterfly-rimmed spectacles and beehive hairdo.
But few realise that the well-loved personality immortalised in Lat’s comic series was inspired by his primary school teacher Moira Hew, an alumna of the Malayan Teachers’ Training College in Kirkby, Liverpool, England.
Mrs Hew made a strong impression on the young kampung boy. Similarly, the services of other teachers who graduated from the same training institution, located 10km from Liverpool, are remembered to this day, some 50 years after it closed down.
Head of Kirkby College Alumni Association Tan Sri Yahaya Ibrahim still harbours thoughts of seeing a new Malaysian teacher training college in the United Kingdom modelled on the old Kirkby.
“We sponsor hundreds of school-leavers to further their studies abroad. It might be worthwhile to send 200 of them to an English language college in the UK,” he says.
But others disagree, saying that Malaysia has adequate teacher training facilities.
The establishment of Kirkby International College (KIC) last year, whose core business is training preschool and English teachers for the new Primary School Standard Curriculum, might be the answer to such calls.
KIC president Bismillah Khatoon Abdul Kader believes the teacher training college, which was called Internexia College until its name change in 2011, could be the new “Kirkby College”.
The Cyberjaya-based institution was officially launched recently by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also Education Minister.
Kirkby College — A Heritage, a coffee-table book which documents the history of Kirkby College and its contribution to Malaysia’s English-medium education “from day one till its last day in 1962”, was also launched at the event.
“Internexia College meant nothing to anybody. Kirkby, on the other hand, is a well-known name in teacher education and it has become a standard which is understood by all,” says Bismillah.
“We want to train teachers so that they, in turn, can produce talents in all fields,” she adds.
Bismillah’s response to appeals for the reestablishment of a teacher training college in the UK similar to the old Kirkby is what you would expect of an educator, who is highly progressive in outlook.
It is “time to move on”, she says.
“We’re grateful for the contributions of past (Kirkby) teachers, but the present Kirkby is the best place to train teachers while maintaining Malaysian values such as integration and pluralism,” she says.
She disagrees with the notion that teachers must be trained in England to master English.
“English is an international language. It belongs to us (as much as it does to Westerners),” she adds.
The former Internexia College was set up in 2006 and it had focused on co-producing learning management systems content, teaching and learning material for Science and Mathematics in English as well as software for Smart schools.
The institution currently has 1,036 students who are mostly in-service teachers undergoing the Bachelor of Education programme under the Graduate Teachers scheme that enables non-graduate teachers in public primary and secondary schools to obtain their degrees through online and distance learning modes.
It also offers diploma courses in English, Early Childhood Education, Creative Media and preparatory programmes in Information Technology, A levels and soft skills.
“We aim to have 10,000 teachers on campus and up to 60,000 online distance learners so that we can offer our education to the world,” she says.
As KIC aspires to be an education hub of Asia, it also emphasises the learning of languages such as Bahasa Malaysia, Tamil and Mandarin.
“Producing teachers of English is our immediate goal but we want to offer more than that,” says Bismillah.
Kirkby College — A Heritage is produced by Kirkby College Alumni Association and it acts as a reference to all that is related to the former Kirkby College.
“It depicted how we lived under one roof as a big family. It was an experience that money cannot buy,” says Yahaya of the 305-page hardback edition, divided into 16 chapters, which will take readers back to the day when the first batch arrived in Kirkby in 1951.
“The teachers served the needs of that time. They didn’t just teach those days — they multitasked as peons and headmasters. Passion was something very evident then,” adds Yahaya on what makes Kirkby teachers so famous.
To order Kirkby College — A Heritage, call 03-7727-4475; fax 03-7727-4476 or email firstname.lastname@example.org The book is priced at RM150 (alumni member) and RM200 (non member)