MBS A Private School? PDF Print E-mail







Dr. Eric Wong


Abstract: There’s some murmuring about MBS, now a public school, converting into a private institution. After 114 years of existence, former MBSians, teachers and educationists are looking at this education service provider for the next centenary. Converting MBS into a private school – is this a myth or reality? This article is exploratory. It takes a position that MBS could be converted into a private school but acknowledges that there are mammoth challenges in doing so. The idea was first discussed with Poon Ming Wong, a social investor, who studied in MBS from 1969 to 1981 and Peter Yap Hoy Hoong, the Vice-President of the MBS Alumni Association. This article hopes to generate some discussion from our readers.


MBS is an esteemed and tested education brand. It sells and will continue to be greatly marketable. It had been branded for more than 100 years. The demand for a top choice private secondary school in Kuala Lumpur is not a dream that cannot be realized. Over the last centenary, this school in Chinatown had produced well-known professional and business people. Parents continue to send their children to this school that had given them a sound and street-wise education. What makes the school tick? Yes, it’s the traditional ethos, the teachers and the students all rolled into one.


Perhaps there’s a strong need to examine the school in the next centenary, if it continues to be educationally relevant. In order to exist in educational competitiveness, the curriculum must be addressed. The curriculum has to attract students and provide them with an education well beyond an ordinary secondary school in Kuala Lumpur in the next centenary. What is proposed is a holistic education – an education that offers a much more all-round training in the arts and the sciences. Unfortunately, the present system falls short of the freedom for students to enjoy a truly holistic education. The students are too ‘specialized’ and are also obsessed with the number of As. Society and parents the recalcitrant attitude – they strongly support and advocate that As maketh a student. They may be right for at the end of the day, what make it count are a scholarship and a degree in the Malaysian context. Is this what education is all about? Hardly so. Parents, particularly need to re-think.


Education prepares students for life or what is sometimes labelled ‘education for life.’ This is the education that can provide the learners a balanced perspective of the world. As Poon Ming has rightly hit the nail on the head:


“A true education needs to consist of more than just getting As. It must prepare us for the vagaries of life. It must teach us not to see the world as black or white but to distinguish between the various shades of grey. It must teach us not only the ability to separate fact from opinion but also to acknowledge that viewpoints that are different from ours can also be valid. It must teach us that learning extends well beyond the four walls of a classroom.”


Well remarked, these are the products that we urgently require as students journey to the next 100 years. A holistic education has the vitality and purpose and may I add ‘meaningfulness in education’ in the preparation of students for life.


Yes, an education that provides them with the opportunity and freedom to dwell into the many aspects of humanity. HE is primarily the training of the overall character and their sensitivity towards human values. Students can major in their core ‘subjects’ but this should not prevent them from doing other ‘electives’ such as music, history, literature, languages and other disciplines related to people. There may certainly be differences in opinion in what constitutes a HE. Let us hear from you. Should the arts and the sciences be balanced in terms of content and scope? What would happen to ‘specialization.’? Again, let us here from you.


Of course, there are other activities students have to participate in. Sports and games should not at all be compromised. A sportsman develops determination and he also has the perseverance and motivation to prove himself. He must have the mental ability to think quickly. All these human qualities cannot be found in textbooks but are really found on the field. History teaches us the strengths and weaknesses of humankind. It also teaches us humility, not arrogance. And literature has a role in knowing and understanding the culture of race. It leads students to be appreciative of the differences and the respect for others who are different.


Students need to be serious about the extra-curricular activities in schools. The scouting movement for the boys and the girl guides must be promoted. Let us not forget the Interact Club, the Chess Club, the Drama and Debating Society, the Boys’ Brigade, etc that enhance character training and leadership development. From my observation as an educationist over the years, the students who had taken an active part in sports and extra-curricular activities had become socially and professionally more successful in life.


The proposal to set up a T. Mori Foundation is a brilliant idea. Perhaps some of the funds could be channelled into scholarships for students who excel in studies, sports and extra-curricular activities. This would be an encouragement for meritocracy.


Some of us may argue about the feasibility or practicality in converting MBS into a private school. They may mention the Primary School that acts as a feeder school. Should it be amalgamated into one single entity? Or do the secondary school first as the demand for enrolment has always been there? What are you views on this?


What about transport and accommodation? Do we have adequate facilities to meet with the requests, perhaps from some students who may like to live within the premises of the school?


A private school means dollars and cents. So now we need to examine some pertinent figures with regard to income and expenditure. The expenditure is mainly associated with teaching salaries and the salaries of the support staff. There are currently 100 teachers in the secondary school. Their salaries, based on an average of RM4,000 per month, will run up to RM4.8 million a year. And there are 20 members of the support staff. With an average salary of RM2,000 per month, the total will amount to RM480,000. So the total expenditure registers at about RM5.3 million per year. Let us not forget that these teachers and support staff are civil servants and they draw a pension after retirement and gratuity as well. We’ve not taken these into account. If we’re going to attract ‘good’ teachers, there must be a more superior scale, quite different from the government one.


For income, the school receives RM200 from each of the 1,000 students every year. The school gets a subsidy from the government for operational costs.


When MBS goes private, each student has to pay RM6,000 per year and this will break even between income and expenditure. But if the fee were RM8,000 per year, there would be a profit of 2 million. Could we say RM8,000 per year is affordable education at the secondary level?


These figures are rather simplistic that require more in-depth study. But it provides a general overview of the financial implications in going private. Let us have your views on all these matters.


Over to you, MBSians.



(The writer was a former teacher of MBS in the mid-sixties and seventies. He can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).

A Tribute To A Student & Teacher Of MBS PDF Print E-mail







It’s not very often that an old boy could one day come back to his school and served as a teacher. This was the case of our late Dr. John Gurusamy. He was a teacher of MBS in the late 50s until the mid-60s. If some of you were his classmates, he was in Std 8A in 1953. I had the grateful opportunity to be his colleague and friend. I still remember that he played good hockey. He was in the forward line when the staff team played with the school’s 1st X1. John also played badminton and table-tennis. Yes, he was a great sportsman. Friendly and approachable, he was indeed well liked by the students. I still remember I had to take down phone messages for him when calls came in the staff room (there was no mobile then). This was during the heyday of NUT when he was a busy trade union leader, more precisely, the Secretary General of the National Union of Teachers.


John always had MBS at heart. When he left the school, he came back to serve the Alumni. He was a one-time Vice-President of the MBS Alumni Association.


Teachers must not forget the sacrifices of John and his union colleagues when they organized and led 10,000 teachers in an industrial action – the first ever in the history of the teaching profession. According to the words of Mr. Yong Chee Seng, a former principal of MBS:


That was when, among other things, he fought for the rights of Mission School Teachers to receive parity treatment in obtaining study-leave on half-pay for 18 months followed by no-pay leave until our further studies were completed. Because of the success of this strike, the teachers as a whole received better treatment and later obtained parity with the Civil Service. I am one of the beneficiaries of this struggle for parity for Mission School Teachers.


Furthermore, the teachers of today and yesteryears owe this to John. He had brought dignity to the teaching profession. Teachers today are government servants who are entitled to medical benefits and pension, among other things. A Royal Commission was established and the Unified Teaching Service was removed and brought all teachers under one scheme: the Aziz Scheme.


John also taught in St. Gabriel Secondary School. As a friend, I found John to be gentle and soft-spoken and he had a lot of compassion for students. Whether it was his strength or weakness, John did not know how to say no to people.


A Memorial Service was held on 18th October 2011 at St. Paul’s Church and it was well attended by relatives and friends.


John is survived by his wife Datuk Ramani, three children and two grandchildren.


Indeed, we thank you John for the great things you had done for students, teachers and friends.


Dr. Eric Wong

Editorial PDF Print E-mail


The passing on of Dr. John Gurusamy was a big blow to the MBS community. He was active in the MBS Alumni and was a one-time Vice-President of the Association. In fact, he attended the last AGM and I had the opportunity to meet up with him. I have lost a friend and colleague.


In this issue of the Bridge, the feature article focuses on MBS: an idea that our institution could become a private school. Please read and comment. We may follow up with other types of write-up about the school; perhaps the current school curriculum in the next issue.


The Bridge also highlights a few old boys who have contributed much to our community. Roshan’s article on the status of our primary school requires some thought. Please give us your views.


Have a good read and please don’t forget your contributions.

Primary : End of the Road or A New Beginning? PDF Print E-mail


Primary: End of the Road or A New Beginning?

By Roshan Thiran

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



More than 30 years ago, I entered into MBS Primary school and was thrust into a class where I sat next to a kid by the name of Edmund Bon who I thought was a lunatic. Within minutes after meeting me, he tried to pick a fight with me.  My parents taught me not to get into fights, so I tried to pretend I didn’t hear him.  He challenged me again. This time he used words I don’t recall ever understanding. I looked away. Then, he started shoving me, and my ‘survival’ instincts triggered and soon I was beating the crap out of this kid.  He started crying and after school ran to his mother complaining about me.  As I tried to run away after school, his mother grabbed me and waited to complain about me to my mother.


As luck would have it, my mother and his mother met up and they forgot about us.  Apparently, they were the best of friends from their teaching days.  And as time went on, Edmund and I became best friends, doing practically everything together.  Together with a gang of students, we went through primary school at MBS, inspired to ‘change the world’. We were cub scouts at MBS. We stayed and slept overnight at the Primary School. We dreamt about how we would ‘change the world’.


Every year, at the end of the school term, we looked forward to the end of the holidays and the time we could get back to MBS and be together.  MBS was a special place for us.  It was at MBS Primary where the foundation was laid and we learnt what it meant to ‘change the world’.

A few weeks ago, part of our gang got together and we took a stroll down memory lane.  As we walked past the primary school, we couldn’t help but wonder why the ‘spirit of MBS’ which we felt so strongly in our past years in MBS didn’t seem so evident today.  Where we the hundreds of kids chatting and dreaming about ‘changing the world’?  The school seemed so empty.  In fact, we later found out that there were only 52 students for Standard 1 this year.  What happened to the 6-7 classes of almost 50 students each when we were studying? We were alarmed.


And as we walked over to the canteen, our conversations started to drift towards our kids.  Except for me, not a single other parent wanted to send their kids to MBS Primary.  They didn’t mind sending them to MBS Secondary--but not to the primary school.  


I started to get worked up and question the reluctance to send ‘our’ kids to our primary school after the wonderful experience we all went through.  There were the myriad of excuses from the primary school location being too far, to Chinese schools being better to the unquantifiable ‘it is just not the same now.’


But almost all of us agreed that Chinese schools were also not good for their kids.  Most of the kids at the Chinese schools became highly academic-oriented and spent hours on school work with little time for play.  We all laughed as we knew the secret to success had almost nothing to do with academics, as we saw evident in our lives, yet these kids were stuck in academics.  And the most admired CEO currently, Steve Jobs of Apple, was a dropout.  And so was Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group. Obviously, academic success played little part in future success.


Worst still, many of ‘these’ schools had no football field, which meant no football and outdoor sports for many of them.  More alarming, in most Chinese schools, 90% of the school is Chinese.  In MBS Primary, they have in total 374 kids with 136 Malays, 120 Chinese and 104 Indian.  There could never be a more equally balanced, diverse school in the country. Yet, the majority of MBS alumni said they preferred to send the kids to such schools.


Which then brought us to the real reason why we cringe sending our kids to the Primary School – the fear of the ‘rotten’ quality of education at a ‘kebangsaan’ school. (MBS Primary is a ‘kebangsaan’ school!)


Many of my friends expressed fear that their kids would be ‘islamised’ with only 3 out of the 28 teachers non-Malays (currently, principal Mrs Susie Khor Siew Lee, Senior Assistant Thamotharan Govindasamy and teacher Ms. Loy See Min).  And they were worried that the kids would grow up not speaking proper English (although they did agree that the quality of English at Chinese schools were debatable too!)


But the biggest grouse was that of the quality of the teachers at the ‘kebangsaan’ school.  They believed that the teachers at most ‘kebangsaan’ schools, MBS Primary included, were not good enough to educate their kids.  And they quickly point to the results of the UPSR (Standard 6 exams) in Chinese schools which far exceed that of the ‘kebangsaan’ school as proof of the quality of teachers. Yet, surprisingly in most years, according to the new school principal, Ms Susie Khoo, more than 20% of its students score the full 5As for UPSR, in spite of its ‘kebangsaan’ teachers.


Interestingly, as I look back at my primary days and start to pin-point the ‘great’ teachers that I had back then, I can possibly pick out maybe one or two really inspiring ones.  The majority of primary teachers we had were either ‘trainees’ or rather ordinary teachers.  Yet, we all somehow managed to end up OK. So, what’s the difference? Where does the fault lie?


Most would fault our education system.  True, the ‘kebangsaan’ system has its apparent flaws but it is a direct result of the efforts of our government, which the Malaysian public has voted in at every general election.  Something we can’t change till the next election.


Others fault the administrators of the primary school.  After speaking with Ms Susie Khoo, the principal, you will realise that the team she has at MBS is working around the clock to ensure MBS keeps growing and developing.  According to her, “There is much upgrading of the school that we are working on.  Renovation works are on-going right now funded under the Pakej Rangsangan Ekonomi Ke-2.” Ms Susie, who took over the role from Mrs. Lo Kwai Sim in Feb 2009, has spent the past 2 years re-organising and re-building MBS’s infrastructure. 


She adds “This year we are embarking on another up-grading project. We would like to change our wooden canteen tables and benches to more colorful fiberglass ones. We are also looking into up-grading our audio system in the Dewan and fixing water coolers for the boys. We would love to have the MBS Alumni help through Karnival 2011 scheduled for 08 Oct 2011.”


The school is now introducing special needs classes for ‘special’ students with the hiring of a retired special education teacher. In sports, the school excels in chess but Ms Susie and her team are working tirelessly to get volleyball and hockey excellence in place.  They are also looking to get the MBS Alumni support to upgrade the library as they want to continue to have a world-class school with world-class infrastructure in place.


Apparently, the PIKJ is also doing their part at MBS Primary. The PIBG, under the former YDP, Mrs. Ee Guan Soon, has done much in up-grading the infra-structure of the primary school together with the MBS Alumni who helped make possible the construction of the Dewan Puan Sri Datin Seri Lee Kim Hua. The present YDP (Mr. James Poh - 2nd term) with his AJK and the MBS Alumni collected enough funds to air-condition the ‘Dewan’ and renovated a classroom to be a meeting room called Anjung Bestari.


So, if the school principal and the teachers are working tirelessly, the PIKJ is working hard to upgrade the school with the MBS Alumni, why is there a lack of students queuing up to sign up for education at MBS Primary?


I can come to a simple conclusion. The sad state of MBS Primary is primarily the fault of the alumni.  It’s all our fault.  The entire school has less than 400 students, averaging 62 students per standard. And the reason this has happened is that WE have stopped the flow of kids into MBS Primary.  WE, in our great wisdom, ignore the fact that MBS Primary has achieved well academically, has a great headmistress in place trying to re-build the school, and ignore the great MBS heritage we were all part of, and pack off our kids to these supposedly better private and Chinese schools.


Yes, teachers can make a difference but the big reason why our MBS experience was great was because we were surrounded by other students who pushed each other to greatness. There were poor students who benefited from the rich.  There were smart students who pushed the less-academically gifted.  There were talented ones, whose talent rubbed off.  And then there were the bullies, like Edmund Bon, who learnt about love, care and justice and evolved to become a human rights advocate.  These boys fulfilled their potential to become the man they were meant to be not because the quality of the teachers were better but because of the rub-off effects from their ‘classmates’ and their parents who became their role-models at MBS.  


The bigger school population with kids of varying backgrounds enabled MBS students to learn from each other. Today there are only 374 kids in the whole school. We need to return to the days where MBS Primary had at least 1200 students.  This means we need at least 200 kids per standard, an increase of 140 kids per standard. And we need to have your kids – the middle income and upper families who will push their kids and the school forward, taking along the poor and under-privileged kids along the journey.  Today, the majority of the school’s composition is not equally balanced as before.


Students, from good families, will automatically enhance our Primary school as their parents will care enough to push the teachers, the principal and the infrastructure to greater heights, and this will inspire the less privileged kids as they role model.  This pressure will result in a better school.


How do we fix this? Simple. Good students = good results = good school.  So, all we need to ‘fix’ MBS Primary is to get every single MBS Alumni to go on a massive campaign to convince their spouses and other parents to send their kids to MBS.  The better the quality of the students coming in, the better the school becomes.  So, if we can get 200 kids to register for Standard 1 next year, the higher the likelihood that the quality improves, especially if these kids come from good homes.


If we keep doing this for a few years, MBS Primary will soon become a premier school, just like the secondary school.   Hundreds of kids ‘fight’ each year to get into MBS Secondary from the Chinese and private schools. Somehow in Form 1, MBS is ‘suddenly’ morphed into a better school even though the same issues faced by the primary school are faced by the secondary school.   We need to have a similar ‘waiting list’ for the primary school.  I am going to do my part.  In a few years, my son will be enrolling for Standard 1. I am going to make sure he is at MBS Primary. As Gandhi says, “be the change that you want to see in the world.”


Change cannot take place unless someone takes the first step.  It was great to see thousands of Malaysians on July 9th take a public step to acknowledge the need for fair and clean elections.  Each of us now needs to take a step of faith and populate MBS Primary with our kids.  Then we will have some skin in the game—and we will make sure that our primary school goes forward to greatness! Go Forward MBS.. yes, Go forward MBS Primary – go forward!  




Roshan Thiran is CEO of Leaderonomics, a social enterprise, whose mission is to ensure every single person fulfils his potential and becomes the leader he was meant to be.  He is confident that with the help of the Alumni, the Primary School will become a force to be reckoned with in the future—but knows that this can only happen if every single alumni works hard to build-up the population of the Primary School.  To register your kids for the primary school, please contact Principal, Susie Khor at 03-20789854.


Edmund Ser - Tailoring to Success PDF Print E-mail


He was a tailor by profession, having started out as a tailor in 1980 by establishing his West Point Fashion House Tailoring Shop together with his friend in Pertama Complex. However, they were forced to move out in 1983 due to the high rent increases. He parted way with his partner and opened his own shop catering men and ladies’ wear. He was unknown when he did his first fashion show, having been referred as “the tailor boy” by people in the fashion industry. However, he’s poised for a successful career later on with his labels, Edmundser and SPADE.


Edmund Ser was born in 1955 in Imbi Road. Youngest of 4 siblings in a middle income family, he went to the Methodist Boys’ Primary School in Kuala Lumpur and later on to Methodist Boys’ Secondary School, Kuala Lumpur (MBSKL). A fashion show held in 1968 in conjunction with the platinum jubilee of the school is one of the many inspirations that drove him to take up fashion for a living and as well as a television programme, the David Cassidy’s Show. This influenced him with the likes of bell bottom, costumes and all.


Edmund Ser (right) with other Malaysian designers such as Melinda Looi and Abang Tom Saufi during the Malaysian International Fashion Week at K.L Convention Centre in 2006.


After leaving school, he apprenticed at a local tailor shop from 1973 to 1975 before travelling to England and took up a course in clothing and craft from the Medway College of Design. During that course, he sat for City & Guilds external exam and obtained a certificate in men’s tailoring. Ser did not finish his course in Medway, as he felt he had already learnt all. He later continued his education in Canterbury College of Art in 1977 and graduated in 1979. He studied tailoring from a master cutter who made clothes for Queen Elizabeth II during that time. He obtained a 6-month job as a tailor at Thomas Pratt & Sons Limited in London before returning to Malaysia for good in 1980.


Ser was a representative of Malaysia at the Asean Designers' Scene show from 1987 until 1990 and again in 1992 and 1996. In 1992, he was designated Asian’s best five together with Sira Kulsethsiri of Thailand, Arthur Yen of Singapore, Frederick Perlata of Philippines and Samuel Wattimena of Indonesia.


He launched his first Edmundser shop in Merlin Hotel (now The Concorde) in 1990. His concepts are to prepare women with made-to-measure office clothes and transforming a home grown brand into an international brand. His business grew and he had 10 shops in the Klang Valley, Ipoh, Penang and Singapore. Some were closed later due to increasing rent, financial constraint, inconsistent sales and an apathetic Malaysian public. He ceased his operations in Penang and Singapore.


An example of Edmund's shop in Malaysia.


His label Edmundser later became a well-known brand among office ladies and a brand where celebrity newscasters from TV3 and NTV7 don during news programme in TV. He is also one of the founding members of Malaysian Official Designers Association (MODA) and he was the association’s treasurer in 1993.


In 1998, Edmund brought his name into the household of the lavish Suria KLCC shopping mall, joining the heavyweight luxury stables like Marc Jacobs, House of Dunhill, Paul Smiths, Gucci and others.


Ser married in 1989 and they are blessed with 4 daughters. His twin daughters are violinists at the Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra of Malaysia.


The talents of MBS boys and girls have spread far and wide. Edmund is only one of them.



The man behind the brand.



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