I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint some of you—no, folks, this has nothing to do with sex.
My nephew went to Maktab Rendah Sains MARA, Kota Kinabalu when he was in Forms 1 and 2. But this year he has been relocated to KK High School. The former is a boarding school, of which parents are only allowed to come visit their children over the weekends or public holidays. The latter, on the other hand, is a typical school where children go for classes for about half a day only, except of course for extra-curricular activites after school hours.
The Maktab Rendah Sains MARA (MRSM) is found in almost all the states in Malaysia. According to this (Malay) Wikipedia, the philosophy of MRSM is:
"Berdasarkan kepada Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan, kami percaya bahawa pendidikan adalah suatu kewajipan dan komitmen yang berterusan, dinamik dan saintifik untuk mempertingkatkan kualiti dan kerbergunaan manusia kepada diri sendiri, masyarakat dan negara. Kami juga yakin bahawa sekolah yang berkualiti dan cemerlang, sentiasa peka dan komited kepada usaha-usaha meningkatkan kualiti, produktiviti, kecemerlangan, penyuburan, pengembangan potensi, kepimpinan dan kreativiti. Di samping itu, setiap pelajar adalah unik, istimewa dan berpotensi tinggi untuk terus maju dalam mencipta kecemerlangan."
For the benefit of the non-Malay-speaking readers, here is my own translation of the above:
In accordance with the National Education Philosophy, we believe that education is a continuous obligation and commitment, dynamic and scientific, to enhance the quality and usefulness in human resources for themselves, soceity and the nation. We are also confident that the school that has quality and excellence, is always sensitive and committed to endevours in improving quality, productivity, excellence, prosperity, potential growth, leadership and creativity. Apart from that, each student is unique, special and has high potential to continuously progress in inventing excellence.
Plenty of big catchy words in the above paragraph!
I recently had the opportunity to chit-chat with my brother about the MRSM (obviously this is referring to the one in Kinarut, which his son went to; and not the rest of the MRSMs in the other parts of Malaysia.)
Well, my brother had mostly good things to say about how the kids are made to obey a strict schedule of class attendance, revisions, extra-curricular activities etc. It sounds very much like these kids are being trained to enter the police force, except, of course, excluding that part about cowardly shooting and then blowing up innocent people with the C4 explosives.
Apparently, the MRSM is also far ahead of the typical school in terms of covering the syllabuses of our education system. An example quoted by my nephew was that what he's learning now in KK High School has been taught half a year ago when he was still in MRSM.
Just a bit about the eligibility for entrance into the MRSM. Firstly, of course, it's meant for the Bumiputera. Secondly, only the best of the best can enter. In other words that's like saying only the straight As Bumiputera kids can enter. Thirdly, priority is given to kids from poor background. It therefore should not come as a surprise that the MRSM very, very rarely doesn't achieve a 100% passing rate in the major exams; and those passes are also mostly very excellent passes—not merely mediocre marginal passes. On the surface of it, I must admit that I'm impressed with the MRSM. I think it has achieved most of those big catchy words in its philosophy above.
But most of my regular readers would know that I'm not overly concerned with excellent grades in exams. Most people would equate quality to excellence in examination results, but all too often those excellent results do not translate into quality human resources in the job market.
I asked my brother about his son's lifestyle in the campus. He gave quite a detailed outline of the time-tables for studies, revisions, group-discussion sessions, assignments upon assignments, extra-curricular activities. And the list goes on and on.
And yet my nephew was miserable staying at the campus. He had to share his room with a few others, and his stuff went missing all the time. Even lockers with locks were forced open. That is almost to be expected from living at the campus. Maybe one of these days the relevant school authorities would make an effort to look into this matter.
Now if by a stroke of miracle these kids grow up to be excellent employees because they've learned all that's required when they're in school—although I seriously doubt it—would they be of any use if they can't be trusted by their employers? Would they then just add to the quantity, but not the quality of the human resources?
Perhaps someone should amend the philosophy of MRSM a bit so that somewhere in between those big catchy words, an additional word, i.e. honesty, could find its rightful place.