School ties that bindBY SANDRA DAVIE
THE BONDING among many Malaysian and Singaporean students in the 50s and 60s has inspired both countries to start a programme to recapture those warm ties.
The exchange programme, announced on Monday will involve a dozen premier Singapore secondary schools being paired with well-known Malaysian schools such as Penang Free School, Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur and the Malay College in Kuala Kangsar, Perak.
The 12 Singapore schools and their Malaysian partners are:
Singapore's Raffles Girls' Secondary and Malaysia's premier girls' school, Tunku Kurshiah College, will start the ball rolling, said the education ministers of both countries during a visit to the Singapore school.
They will hold friendly sports matches and joint workshops in drama and debating before moving on to organise joint forums and activities for their student leaders.
Both Malaysia's Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Singapore's Tharman Shanmugaratnam hope the bonds that will be forged will help the two countries weather any storm in their relationship.
Said Hishammuddin “There have been ups and downs between Singapore and Malaysia. But in the past, what has helped us get through the downs are people-to-people relationships.”
Agreeing, Tharman added: “The generation of the 50s and 60s had the great advantage of studying together in some of the schools as well as in the university. That was a great advantage in politics and business, and socially.”
While this can't be recreated on the same scale, he is convinced today's youth can work wonders later. “When you get young kids – enthusiastic, bright and full of aspirations – they do wonderful things for future cooperation and relations,” said Tharman.
Beyond student exchange, forums will also be organised for teachers to exchange views and best practices. ’The more we talk to each other, the more we realise that our challenges are the same,” said Tharman.
Tunku Kurshiah College principal Rokiah Alias could not agree more.
'I was surprised at how much we have in common. Like Raffles, we take in the best students from primary schools. Drama and debating are part of our tradition as well. Even our colours are the same. The Raffles green is my green,' said Rokiah.
RGS principal Deborah Tan wants her girls to develop, among other things, a good understanding of Malaysian culture and society. –The Straits Times/ Asia News Network