Rural pupils as capable as urban kids, says ex-headmaster

V Chakaravathy says there is a false impression about rural students.

SUBANG JAYA: The retired headmaster who stole the limelight at a recent forum attended by Education Minister Maszlee Malik does not subscribe to a belief that rural Malay children are naturally weak in their studies.

V Chakaravathy, who was the principal of a school in Setapak before his retirement in 1995, said his own experience had shown otherwise.

Chakaravathy alleged that there had been a general decline in the quality of teaching since then and this had been detrimental to all students regardless of race and residence.

He speculated that the false impression regarding rural students could have come about because they, unlike many students in urban areas, generally did not have the advantage of tuition outside school hours.

Urban parents who could afford it would send their children for extra tuition because the lack of dedication among school teachers had forced them to do so, he added.

“I do not subscribe to the notion that rural Malay children cannot make it big. It’s up to the teachers. They must be dedicated and have the passion to teach.”

V Chakaravathy speaks his mind during a forum on education attended by minister Maszlee Malik on Feb 14.

He claimed that such dedication and passion were more evident among teachers of his generation.

It was 54 years ago when he first began teaching in a Malay-medium secondary school in a rural area. He taught mathematics and most of his students scored As in the subject in their examinations, he said.

He achieved a similar kind of success when he taught at the Royal Military College in Sungai Besi from 1970 to 1978, he added.

But Chakaravathy, now 79 years old, seemed proudest about his achievement at the school in Setapak, which he said was notorious for gangsterism at the time he began serving there. Besides carrying out his duties as principal of the school, including instilling discipline, he also taught mathematics.

During his tenure there, the school was once the best performing in Kuala Lumpur in the Form 6 examination.

He said he started noticing a decline in the quality of teaching in the 90s. He alleged that teachers began to lose their commitment to the job because the system did not reward excellence and instead gave recognition only to those teachers who had connections with the higher-ups.

He said the lack of passion for the job had persisted and today’s teachers would teach only from textbooks and ignore their role as “creators of a knowledgeable generation”.

The nation would eventually suffer if the trend continued, he added.