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Heritage: A peek into the past

  Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris National Education Museum in Tanjung Malim offers visitors a history lesson on the development of education in Malaysia from pre-independence to the present time. SHARIFAH ARFAH writes.

MANY students have come and gone from Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris in Tanjung Malim, Perak.

Academician Tan Sri Awang Had Salleh, former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Ghafar Baba and novelist Harun Aminurrashid are among former students of the institution, popularly known as UPSI.  

A selection of teaching aids from a Chinese school

The university is the oldest existing teachers’ training college in the country and was upgraded to university status in 1997.

It was established in 1922 by the then deputy director of Malay schools R. O. 

Winstedt and named Sultan Idris Training College (SITC) after Sultan Idris Mursyidul ‘Adzam Shah I, the 28th Sultan of Perak who ruled from 1887 till 1916.

Gas lamp and notes in Jawi script from a Malay school

The institution’s history and evolution is now available for all to view at UPSI National Education Museum which was launched recently by Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Bainun Mohd Ali, who is also UPSI chancellor. 

It is housed at Suluh Budiman Building — an understated structure inspired by the then popular Dutch-Gothic architecture — which is opposite a multi-purpose field for students who need a break from their studies.

When it first opened in 1922, Suluh Budiman Building was the institution’s administrative centre; lectures were also held here.

Models wearing primary school uniforms make up part of a diorama in one of the exhibition halls

It is fitting that the education museum should be in a building that is associated with the origins of UPSI which is part of Malaysia’s national heritage. 

To accommodate the objects of historical interest, Suluh Budiman Building was renovated at a cost of RM9.58 million and in accordance with the National Heritage Act 2005, right down to the colour of the paints on the walls.

The museum comprises 21 exhibition areas, a research room, the curator’s office and a large hall in the centre of the building.

The museum traces its history back to the early Fifties when it was only a “small room” displaying a few artefacts. It was actually a repository of SITC’s history and a valuable source of information for Malaysians.

When the Education Ministry agreed to establish a museum at SITC in 1986, the “small room” was upgraded to a museum which has since evolved into the UPSI National Education Museum. 
Its development is consistent with the evolution of UPSI from a teachers’ training college into a full university in 1997. 
The education museum moved to Suluh Budiman Building when renovations were completed early this year.

“Those with no inkling of the national education system will get an idea of it by the time they conclude the visit,” says Safna.

Posters, dioramas, miniatures and interactive touch-screen computers provide easily accessible information for all visitors.

Among the exhibits that will attract visitors are the various teaching aids used in the days before the advent of computers and other electronic devices. 

“The museum is also a resource centre for those interested in the history of and development of education in Malaysia,” says Safna.

Contributions of various education systems such as the Malay and English mediums, vernacular schools and sekolah pondok (Islamic religious schools) are also highlighted. 

The challenge for the museum is to secure artefacts especially from the Fifties and the years prior to that.

Ishak Saat

UPSI National Education Museum director Associate Professor Ishak Saat says that the museum aims to preserve Malaysia’s education heritage. 

“It hopes to educate people on the need to appreciate the contributions of teachers and educators,” says Ishak, adding that teacher training and education at SITC had contributed to the development of national consciousness in the run-up to independence.

“About 70 to 80 per cent of those who participated in politics during those days were teachers,” he says.

Among them was Malay language linguist Tan Sri Zainal Abidin Ahmad (also known as Za’ba), who has a gallery dedicated entirely to him. 

His stint in SITC as a translator and teacher led to a writing career and some of his thought-provoking articles goaded Malayans into action during the Colonial era. 

Each exhibition room at the education museum focuses on a specific theme from Early Education in Malaysia to Science and Technology in Education. 

The main hall, usually empty, is open to other exhibitors for a limited period.

Safna Asaruddin

UPSI National Education Museum curator Safna Asaruddin says visitors will learn about the development of education in Malaysia from pre-independence to the present time. 
A museum visitor can use touch-screen computers to view quick facts about the museum exhibits

The museum, which opens from 9am till 4pm daily, is closed on Sundays and public holidays. Admission is free. For details, call 05-450-6680/6332/6661. 

Sharifah Arfah 2011/09/17

Source: The NST Home Learning Curve 2011/09/17

Tags: education, heritage

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