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We are all of one Race, the Human Race.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

1970 - the exam year (part 1)

1970 was VI's  first full year without Mr. V. Murugesu who had served it as its first Asian Head Master from 1964 -1969. Towards the end of 1969, 'Muru' was given an emotional and fond farewell by all the students, teachers and staff for turning VI into a school/institution par excellence that was the envy of everyone in the country. He was replaced by the chain-smoking Tan Cheng Or who was himself a disciplinarian, though not of the same mould as Muru; he was not quite a "terror!!" Cheng Or continued maintaining the fine traditions of our 77 year-old school and secured the usual 100% pass in examinaton results as well.

The line up of teachers in Form 5B2 for the most important school examination of our lives - the 'O' level equivalent Malaysian Certificate of Examination (MCE) then - was:

Biology - Mrs. Leow/ Anandakrishnan ('young' Andy)
Chemistry - Mrs. Koh Swee Pheng
Physics - K. Durairajah
Maths/Additional Maths - Kok Lee Fatt/Cheok Cheo Foh/YW Cheang
Geography - Dharam Prakash
English Language - Mrs. Balaraman
English Literature - Mrs. Balaraman / Mrs. Yiap Khin Hin
Bahasa Malaysia - Cikgu Hassanudin/Puan Rohaty

Many would move on to Lower 6 and then Upper 6 for the Higher Scool Certificate (HSC) examinations. But Form 5 was THE crucial year for either going overseas (for the rich) for A-levels, moving on to Form 6 or entering the government or private sector work force. Without a MCE or equivalent qualification, the majority would struggle with employment in either the private or government sector. Of course these were the last few years when the curriculum was all English!!

Among that roll call of class teachers, Mrs. Yiap Khin Yin and Cheok Cheo Foh belonged to the "genius / brilliant" category. Mrs. Yiap not only brought Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar' to life but opened up to us its relevance to contemporary life and death issues. If some 30 years later, I can still quote from Marc Antony's "Friends, Romans, countrymen..." funeral oration or Brutus' "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on to fortune, Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and miseries...." then you know how good she was!!

There was also the hilarious 'The Card' by Arnold Bennet, written in 1911 and made into a movie in 1952 starring Sir Alec Guinness and Petula Clark, which told the story of Henry (Denry) Machin, a washerwoman's son who rose through sheer chuptzah and opportunism to become Mayor of Bursely, an imaginary town England. Mrs. Yiap's priming us for the final exam is the stuff of legends!!

As for Cheok, rare is the day when you could hope to get a fully awake class of 45 paying attention while the maths teacher droned on about dy/dx and the integral of the differential,  the proof of why the angle on the diameter of a circle is always a right angle or the intial rules of probability theory  - in some 30 years of working life I have never once had to resort to these formulae!! Yet, Cheok not only had us looking forward to each of his classes, he also managed the imposible in securing full attendance and voluntary handing up of homework on time from the entire class!! If that's not pure genius, I don't know what is!!

Cheok replaced Kok Lee Fatt who left us after 1st term. Kok wrung a silent vow out of me that I would move heaven and earth to get a distinction in MCE Maths. I had been missing classes due to hockey centralised training when one fine day Kok lectured to the whole class that those involved in centralised sports training - Indran, Balraj and myself - were destined to fail MCE Maths. Glad to report none of us did!!

After Cheok, there were brief stints from Yap Yew, R.Selvanathan and Cheang none of whom I recall as being in the same 'class' as Cheok.

Mrs. Koh at Chemistry and 'young' Andy were good but not inspiring. Of the stern-faced Biology teacher Mrs.Leow, I have already written earlier. Chemistry lab sessions were always fun, especially when you mixed hydrchloric acid with anything, performed titration tests or 'salts' identifying tests. The 'brown ring test' for nitrates in particular drew much pointed jokes while for no good reason one remembers the silver nitrate test for chlorides, the barium chloride test for sulphates and the famous 'cloudy solution' and litmus paper tests for carbon dioxide

In Anatomy, the study, identification and drawing of bones and vertebrae proved to be fascinating. My free hand drawings were shit, but I could easily tell the ulna from the radius and the thoracic vertebra from the lumbar and cervical types. All these were tested in the final lab exams which contributed some 30% of the overall MCE marks for Chemistry and Biology.

K.Durairajah or KD as we referred to him, stank all the way to the end of Form 6 in Physics and prevented many an Einstein from blossoming later in copyright offices!! KD who lectured in a low frequency squeaky voice was oblivious to whether the students understood the subject or passed, let alone, aced it. How we managed to get through without failing Physics is a major miracle of our times!!!

Saree clad and fair Mrs. Balaraman who also lectured the Form 6 seniors was a past mistress at droning on even if there were no students in front of her, such was the mechanical approach she brought to english language and literature. But nevertheless classmates like Tan Seng Tee found her sexy enough to pay attention and score 'A's!!

Dharam Prakash and Hassanudin (whenever he turned up) were adequate. Though BM was a compulsory subject most studied just enough to make sure we passed and got our full MCE cert. Puan Rohaty, like Mrs. Balaraman, had fine pectorals, dressed sexily and boasted many admirers in all the Forms. So we stampeded to clases and managed to get through subjects where otherwise we might have played truant. Where Dharam was meticulous and conscientious but boring, Hassanudin was sloppy and boring and just muddled through the syllabus.

Despite which most (98%) never bothered with private tuition lessons which seems di rigeur nowadays even in $15,000 - $50,000 per year private and international schools!!! The VI system of monthly and term tests and intense revision programmes towards the end of the year kept us well oiled and performance oriented!!

And of course, whether the teachers were brilliant or sucked at their subjects, they still worked a fine sweat out of everyone under their charge. What more could parents or studends demand of them?

As for sports and extra-curricular activities, 1970 was another high performance/achieving year for VI. In particular, the carmaraderie among the hockey and football players was oustanding about which I shall write in more detail later.

- to be continued.