On a teaching sojourn
ON board the S.S Chusan, a steamer of the Peninsular & Oriental Shipping Company, was how the first batch of 148 men and women to be trained as teachers at the Malayan Teachers’ Training College (MTTC) Kirkby, reached England.
They embarked on their 21-day voyage on Dec 12, 1951 from Swettenham Pier, Penang.
Abdul Rahim Mohamed Yusoff, whose account of the journey is found in “Kirkby College-A Heritage”, wrote the ship was not only home to this group of young Malayans of all races and religion, but “became a floating unifying centre for cultivating a community comradeship which, unbeknown to us, would continue to be reinforced for two years in a foreign land, and would last for the rest of our lives.”
The first batch of teachers arrived in England on board the S.S Chusan.
Some, he wrote, forged more than life long friendships, as they found their future spouses while still on board the ship.
Although in Kirkby for only two years, he wrote, they were exposed to all-round life-long education and experience.
Besides the intensive training to become teachers, he said, they learnt the importance of cultivating a caring society, and the importance of living together in a tolerant and united-close-knit community.
The picture on the cover of StarEdcuate today shows the arrival of the first batch of students at Kirkby railway station, the picture of the campus during summer along with the college emblem.
The students also made their mark by performing various dances. According to “Kirkby College-A Heritage”, the name Kampung Kirkby soon spread and they received many invitations for various organisations in Liverpool to perform cultural dances.
Subsequent batches of students were sent to England on refurbished military cargo planes or commercial aircraft with the British Overseas Airways Corporation.
According to “Kirkby College-A Heritage”, a total of 1,900 students comprising 1,500 for the basic teachers course and another 405 trained teachers for the teacher-trainers programme, were sent to MTTC, Kirkby.
“Kirkby College-A Heritage” states that in 1962, the then Malayan Minister of Education Abdul Hamid Khan, during a dinner with the Lord Mayor of Liverpool to mark the closing of the college, expressed the gratitude of the government.
“The existence of Kirkby College is a symbol of bilateral cooperation between the Federation of Malaya and the United Kingdom. It is my sincere hope that the happy ties that have been forged between the students and the teachers of my country with the educators in the UK will be maintained.”
Unique college set up to train English teachers
THE move by the Malayan government to set up a teacher training college in a foreign country followed an urgent need for teachers in English medium schools after the Second World War.
According to “Kirkby College-A Heritage”, there was no training college for English teachers and the role, at the time, were filled by direct recruitment of probationary teachers by these schools under the “Normal Class System.”
Under the scheme, probationary teachers received training in education theory, practical training, English language and Literature from senior teachers over the weekends.
Upon completion of the three-year-training they would be recognised as qualified teachers.The Malayan Teachers Union in 1948 called for the setting up of teacher-training college.
A training college in Kota Baru, Kelantan was planned but only scheduled to be ready in 1954.
There was an urgency as enrolment of students had increased..
According to “Kirkby College-A Heritage”, what would become the Malayan Teachers’ Training College (MTTC), Kirkby was originally Kirkby Fields Hostel, which was intended to accommodate ordinance factory workers. Due to the shortage of teachers in Britain towards the end of the war, the Board of Education established 55 temporary colleges in different parts of England.
Offers were sent to all British colonies and the Government of the Federation of Malaya decided to use the facilities as a teachers’ training college.
According to “Kirkby College-A Heritage”, Robert Williams, the first principal of the College described the move as unique in the history of education. “For the first time, the Government of a country had established in a far-off land a teachers’ college for its own students. Never before had any Government in the world set up its own College in Britain. The Board of Governors was appointed in Autumn 1951 with the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool as the Chairman. The University of Liverpool Institute of Education undertook the examination of Kirkby students thus ensuring that the professional standards of the College should be equivalent to those of its member colleges. At the same time the Institute allowed freedom for the Malayan College to develop in the way best suited for training for teaching in Malaya.”