Episode 6: Schooling in Ipoh

By |2011-04-19T09:17:55+08:00April 19th, 2011|Categories: About Us|

Here it is, the long awaited Episode 6 by UV. He describes the photo thus:


The photo of the Methodist Youth Felllowship of Ipoh Wesley Church is made up of members from my class and those my senior and junior with Dr. Lee Poh Ping (Former teacher in ACS Ipoh and later Lecturer of History in University Malaya) who was then the counsellor.  The girls were from MGS and Convent Ipoh.



In Episode 5, I stirred the emotions of many who had experienced some form of abuse by their teachers or had someone close to them  abused by teachers.  If one is not seriously affected, one may take it as part of the learning process but should abuse change the lives of those affected, it could be rather traumatic!  That is why, today, teachers are challenged when they become abusive.


Let us hope that this episode will not bring back such a lot of unpleasant memories of schooling in Ipoh in the late fifties and early sixties.  In the late fifties when we crossed the hurdle of the Lower Certificate of Education (LCE) we would either be sent to the Science or Arts Stream.  If one has taken Mathematics 2 and passes Mathematics 1 and Science, one can be assured of a place in the Science Stream.  People tend to look upon those in the Science Stream as the cleverer students.  This is not absolutely so.  Many Arts Stream students are also very intelligent but they just do not have an inclination to the scientific field.


I was selected to do Science and sent to 4 Science A, among my old friends form the A class again.  Somehow, I tend to do better during examination years!  Maybe it was my approach to examinations that brought about such results.  Many students drop all non-academic activities during examination time and just concentrated on the academic aspects.  I did not do that.  I continued my extra-curricular activities as before but I do spend extra time in ensuring that I master all that was taught and spent time preparing summaries of important facts for each subject so that I could do a quick revision near examination time.  Nobody taught me how to do this.  I just did it as a matter of fact.  I would use little sheets of rough paper and put down in point form all the important facts I need to remember whenever I read a text book or go over the notes my teachers gave me.  I continued this all my life, even now!


Science subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Additional Mathematics were really tough.  I enjoyed Biology but couldn’t get the hang of Physics.  Mr. Tan Chin Huat taught me Physics for a while and then Mr. Boler took over.  I remembered the first lesson was about specific gravity and we had to do experiments using a special glass bottle and a weighing machine encased in glass placed in a special room beside the Physics Laboratory.  Then we had to record each experiment in a particular way!  Here my new friend who came from Teluk Anson (now Teluk Intant) Lee Cheow Pheng was my savior.  He joined us a couple of year earlier and was also a member of the Boys’ Brigade and the Intermediate MYF and continues to be in both all our school lives together.  I would telephone him each day to ask for help, usually in Additional Mathematics and I could not make out head or tail what my Additional Mathematics teacher was teaching.


Once in class, I had to peep at the answers to solve a problem and Mr. Loh Swee Kee caught me doing it and immediately demanded that I cut out all the answer pages!  Guess what?  I did it!  It did not help me turn into a Additional Mathematics genius but really made me hate that subject!  I struggled on for a year and continued being in 5 Science A the following year.   However, I was about to make the decision of my life pretty soon.  After a few weeks in Form 5 Science A and as we approach the day we had to dissect a frog, I decided to leave for the Arts Stream.


I walked in to see the Senior Assistant, Mr. Balraj and told him I wanted to switch to the Arts Stream.  He looked at me with unbelieving eyes.  He asked me whether I had consulted my parents.  I told him I had not but added that my parents knew I was struggling along in the Science Stream and that they had never interfered with my studies before.  He then decided that I could go and gave me a note to my current class teacher and another to the 5 Arts A teacher.  I hurriedly went to class, said goodbye to my classmates, took my bag and walked to 5 Arts A and presented my note to the class teacher.  My life changed from that moment.

I was seated next to a tall skinny Indian Boy at the very last seat of the class.  He was none other than Mano Maniam (as he is popularly known today) but we called him Manogaran then.  Our favourite pastime was to punch each other on the upper arm!  I still could not think of the rationale for this, but it sort of bound us and we remained close friends even till now.  In front was another Indian boy, Mani.  He came from a poor family and had to work as a petrol station pump boy after school to support his mother and sister.  He passed his SC  (Senior Cambridge) and MCE (Malayan Certificate of Education) and worked as a clerk for some time but unfortunately was killed in a road accident at a very young age.


In my class too there were famous sports figures like Cheah Tong Kim (Olympic Swimmer), Chong Fah Chong (goalkeeper for State and Nation), Looi Loon Teik (Footballer – Qualified for Olympics but we did not go because we boycotted the Olympics that year).


Our English teacher was Miss Tye Soh Sim (later became Mrs. Eddie Chin) who just graduated from Singapore University of Malaya.  In addition, she taught us Religious Knowledge (Christian).  She was the one that ensured our grammar was perfect.  However, in addition to that, she ensured that we were creative in our writing.  Fierce as she was, her lesson was enjoyable and most of us looked forward to her classes.


During Religious Knowledge class, I pity the student who could not repeat St. Paul’s speeches for her.   She would walk into class start two line from one of St. Paul’s famous speeches and then point to one of us to continue!  Many would fail, but some do succeed.  To those who succeeded, a distinction was the end reward when the SC results come out!  Such was her method of teaching Christian Religious Knowledge that many did score an A.


I always pride myself in being good at Elementary Mathematics and General Science as I was from the Science Class.  I was good at drawing maps, so I thought I would easily score in Geography.  Health Science would also be another subject I would scare in.  Well, Religious Knowledge was already a foregone conclusion; I would definitely get an A.  Of the subjects I obtained A in that I was confident of was Religious Knowledge.  All the others I merely score a C3 (the strongest credit).  I was able to score As in History and English Literature, too, to my surprise!


Being in the Arts Stream took out a lot of pressure.  I could do all the other activities young boys my age then would like to do.  Play games, join societies, meet up with girls.  When I was in Form 4 Sc. A. a girl already joined out class.  Remember up to Form 5 then, ACS Ipoh was a boy’s school.  However, that year, an exception was made by Mr. Ram for this girl to join the Form 4 class.  In Form 5 Arts A, 2 more girls joined us!  So I starred co-education rather early in life!


During my time, to get to Form Six we had to sit for the Form Six Entrance Examination.  This was an external examination conducted by the Ministry of Education as there were limited places for students.  We sat for three papers and the result would come out soon after we finished our SC examinations.  I came out second best after Manogran and was placed 12th in the State of Perak.  Only a few of us got through from the Arts Stream.


When we joined the Lower Six Arts Class the following year, there were hardly a dozen of us from ACS Ipoh.  There were girls from MGS Ipoh, Convent Ipoh, a few from smaller towns near Ipoh like Batu Gajah, Tronoh, Kampar and even as far as Sitiawan.  Boys came from other schools that had no Sixth Form and outstation too.  We were joined a bit latter by a boy from Royal Military College and today he is the famous lawyer Datuk Cecil Abraham!


(Next Episode: Life in Form Six)