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LIKE LIVERPOOL LOSING TO EVERTON: ’Saser’ comes to terms with dropping to fifth place among fully residential schools
THE "Majlis Graduasi" held for the Class of 2011 of Sekolah Menengah Sains Tuanku Munawir in Seremban, better known as Saser, was a subdued affair last Saturday. Very sombre indeed when compared with the jubilant mood all-round when the previous batch of Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) leavers received their scrolls a year ago.
By any account, the 2011 batch of Form Fivers did not perform miserably at all in their SPM. It's only that the batch before them had set a very high benchmark and they just did not do as superbly as their seniors.
The number of Saser students obtaining straight As in last year's SPM dropped to 93 from 143 the year before, while the number of straight A+ achievers was down to six from 16. As a result, their school's ranking dropped to fifth among the 60 fully residential schools, known as SBPs, under the Education Ministry.
For the record, the Education Ministry stopped the policy of ranking the SBPs since last year, probably to avoid any uneasiness among parents or even animosity between one school and another. Obviously, the ministry does not want to be seen as being unfair to those schools that are at the lower rungs of the ladder as well.
Nonetheless, the schools themselves would normally know where they stand within 24 hours after the SPM results are released. They simply have to compare the respective Cumulative Grade Point Average or CGPA achieved by the various schools.
With any other SBP, being ranked at number five out of so many peers would probably make the teaching staff and students very proud. For Saser itself, it's not exactly a fall from grace.
But in the all-boy Saser, we are talking about the best SBP in terms of SPM achievement for five consecutive years, from 2006 to 2010. During these five years, it gained a lot of respect, and envy, from its peers.
It's the school that the others dearly wanted to beat. Someone even described it as the new Malay College Kuala Kangsar.
The fact that the top spot was grabbed by neighbouring all-girl Kolej Tunku Kurshiah must have been another blow that Saser found hard to take.
The two schools, located merely a couple of kilometres away from each other in the Negri Sembilan capital, are great rivals in many fields, academic or otherwise. For those who follow the English Premier League, it's akin to Liverpool losing a derby match to Everton, or Chelsea losing the London derby to Arsenal.
The three other SBPs that beat Saser in terms of last year's CGPAs were Sekolah Tun Fatimah in Johor Baru, Sekolah Seri Puteri in Cyberjaya and Sekolah Sultan Alam Shah in Putrajaya.
At last week's Majlis Graduasi, which was graced by the Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan Tuanku Muhriz Tuanku Munawir who also presented the scrolls to the students, Saser principal Sabuddin Sani tried hard to downplay his and the teaching staff's disappointment.
He stressed instead on the need to take the positives from the "defeat" and move ahead, and to motivate the current Class of 2012 towards regaining the lost glory so that the school could live up to its motto "Saser Namamu Teratas" again.
Three weeks earlier, soon after the SPM results were announced, Sabuddin had similarly tried to hide his disappointment when addressing the students as well as the parents who were present.
He had said then, first in jest, that after a spell of five long years at the top, lethargy and exhaustion had probably crept in among everyone at the school.
"After five years, we probably need this break and to let someone take over as the number one, albeit temporarily."
On a more serious note, he said it could be a blessing in disguise and everyone should by now realise that remaining at the top was not a routine, or tradition, any more.
"Looking to the future, rest assured that we will not lose sight of the top position. We want to be at the very top again, not among the top five."
But judging from the tone of his voice during his seemingly measured speech, deep down, the often charismatic Saser principal must surely have realised that it would not be six comfortable months between now and the time the current Form Five students sit for this year's SPM.
In football, successful English Premier League team managers have all been saying it: taking a team to the top of the league is a tough job, but getting the team to defend the top spot once it gets get there is even tougher. What they have not told us is how hard it could be to claw to the top again once the team falters.