MY SCHOOLDAYS: ‘You get what you deserve, not what you want'
TAN Sri Yahaya Ibrahim, 83, knew he wanted to be a teacher while he was at school.
And he went on to carve out a career in education which has spanned more than five decades. The octogenarian is Pro-Chancellor of Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris; chairman of Kirkby International College and Institute Megatech; and governor and director of KBU International College, among other positions he holds in the field. As head of Yahaya Ibrahim Educational Services Sdn Bhd, he advises: “You need a sound, progressive academic plan starting from
Year One until secondary school. School-leavers should work hard and work smart. There are no short cuts to success.
“After all, in life you get what you deserve, not what you want.”
Yahaya trained as a primary school teacher in 1954 and later as secondary school teacher at Malacca High School. This was followed by his appointment as state organiser and then federal school inspector under the Education Ministry from July 1968 to February 1984 when he retired.
He was named Tokoh Guru of private colleges in 1991 and Bapa National Association of Private and Independent Educational Institutions Malaysia in 1994. He received the Tokoh Guru Kebangsaan award in 1998. With such accolades, he naturally believes that the “best gift a person can give to friends and strangers alike is hope, to children a role model, to parents a sense of pride and to himself a sense of achievement”.
For Yahaya, his role model is Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former Education Minister and the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia. “I have served under six Prime Ministers and some 17 Ministers of Education and Higher Education,” says Yahaya with pride.
He answers questions on his schooldays:
Yaqin: Which primary and secondary schools did you attend?
Yahaya: Bayan Lepas Malay School, Francis Light School and Penang Free School, all on the island.
Yaqin: Did you have a favourite teacher and why did you like him/her?
Yahaya: Mr Tay Hooi Keat. He was charismatic, inspiring, articulate, passionately interested in Art and life in general, and a great teacher. He later joined me at the Federal Inspectorate of Schools.
Yaqin: What subject(s) did you like at school?
Yahaya: Languages — Malay and English — Geography, Science and Art (watercolour). Before 1965, Science was not taught in primary schools — only Nature Study. Subsequently, Scottish Integrated Science was introduced at the Lower Certificate of Education level (equivalent to Penilaian Menengah Rendah), followed by Nuffield Science for Form 4 onwards nationwide.
Yaqin: Were you rewarded for good performance by your parents? If yes, in what way.
Yahaya: Good Hari Raya clothes and subscriptions to magazines such as Reader’s Digest and National Geographic.
Yaqin: What was your best (and worst) school holiday?
Yahaya: My best school holiday was when I joined my eldest brother on a trip to Singapore on-board the ship of which he was Captain. The worst was when I was on a train bound for Singapore when it was derailed near Tapah, Perak by Communists during the Emergency. All the passengers had to walk for kilometres to board a bus for the nearest railway station.
Yaqin: What hobbies did you have while at school?
Yahaya: Gardening, watercolour painting and seascouting.
Yaqin: What was your ambition while schooling?
Yahaya: To become a great teacher and a dedicated district officer.
Yaqin: If you were to live your schooldays all over again, is there anything you would like to change?
Yahaya: Be more deeply interested in music and acquire the skill of playing musical instruments.