IN MEMORIAM: Iron lady who boosted choral competitions
ELENA M. Cooke, a much-loved former headmistress of Bukit Bintang Girls School, died on May 2.
Hundreds of old girls and teachers, with choking voices, sang her much-loved school song:
BBGS we pledge to thee
Our love and toil in the years to be
When we are grown and take our place
As loyal women of our race.
The hearse wound its way past Jalan Imbi and past Jalan Bukit Bintang. Alas, the school is no more there, having been relocated to Cheras.
Cooke was an iron woman, ruling the school with a steely fist. If you followed her motto "Nothing but the very best", you were fine.
A lasting legacy left by this doyen of education was choral speaking, aimed at improving the spoken English of pupils and encouraging a love for the language. She drove her teachers with such passion that preparing their classes for the annual choral speaking competition was the bane of every English teacher's life. At every Speech Day, choral speaking was the highlight.
So impressed were key people in the Education Ministry that BBGS students were asked to present a choral-speaking item at the retirement of then Education director-general Tan Sri Dr Wan Zahid Nordin.
Today, choral speaking is one of the key methods of improving spoken English and keen competitions are held where teachers and pupils have become experts at writing their own scripts, organising the voice choir and conducting their teams.
It is timely that we remember the woman who is behind the choral speaking in schools today: Elena M. Cooke.