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School CP - May 2006

Corpun file 17673

Sunday Star, Kuala Lumpur, 14 May 2006

From principal to pastor

To know that you have had a positive impact on thousands of lives no teacher could ask for more and Phua Seng Tiong has certainly achieved this, writes SIMRIT KAUR.

Photos by Glenn Guan


TEACHING is a calling and a way to serve God this has been Phua Seng Tiong's guiding principle in 30 years of service. And like all great educators, his legacy lives on not only in the students who now lead fulfilling lives, but also colleagues who have become better teachers and principals because of their association with him.

Phua's remarkable leadership skills have led to him being nominated for this year's Tokoh Guru Kebangsaan award.

He first showed his mettle as principal in SMK Sri Sentosa in 1986. In his 10 years there, Phua, together with a team of dedicated teachers, built up the school until it had the best athletics record in the country.

"We used sports as a means of raising the school's 'dignity level'. The students were proud of their school. When you are proud of your school, you will do your best to maintain its name and standard. Indiscipline occurs when students don't have a sense of ownership or loyalty to their school. You cannot insist on it but build this quality in them that the school belongs to them," he says.

Phua is still involved in educating young minds through the kindergarten classes organised by his church.

Before going to Sri Sentosa, Phua had spent 15 years at SMK St John, KL, the last six as an assistant principal.

Coming from a school which was full of tradition and where the students were loyal to their alma mater, Phua learnt the power of having pride and nurtured this spirit in Sri Sentosa. "I wanted to make them proud of their school. This was my rallying point."


Phua was posted to SMK Jinjang in Kuala Lumpur to be an agent of change after becoming one of eight principals to receive the pengetua cemerlang or super principal title.

The super principal post was the brainchild of former Education director-general Tan Sri Dr Wan Mohd Zahid Mohd Noordin. This group of super principals was upgraded to DG1 superscale level from DG2.

To prove the point that these principals were really "super" they were sent to "challenging" schools to work their "magic." So after having served SMK Sri Sentosa for 10 years, Phua was posted to SMK Jinjang.

"I needed to prove a point in Jinjang," he says, noting that it was a test of the promotion. He had to deal with similar problems in Jinjang as gangster and extortion activities were widespread, just as in Sri Sentosa. The student composition was about the same, too - over 80% are Chinese.

His task at Jinjang was to turn-around the "notorious" school, which had major indiscipline problems and a poor academic record.

"The Jinjang job was tougher because I had to start from scratch. Morale was low. Even I felt depressed about going to school!"


Phua is an advocate of corporal punishment, which he says should act as a deterrent.

"Before caning a student, you must explain to him why you are doing it and they must agree to it. Caning should act as a reminder that bad behaviour and breaking of rules will not be tolerated."

His view on suspension is also unique. "Students who are suspended must stay at home and do work assigned to them by their teacher. It should not be a holiday where they are free to do what they like. I get the parents' co-operation when doing this and used to check on the students by calling them at home."

As in Sri Sentosa, Phua started Form Six classes in Jinjang, too, as a way of ensuring that good students who would act as role models would stay in the school.

"I challenged the first batch to aim for university and to set their sights high." Numbers don't lie - 32 out of 36 students in the pioneer batch of Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia students (STPM) entered university in 1999.


Copyright 1995-2006 Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)

Corpun file 17669

New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, 16 May 2006


Cane the boy

By Y.K.M. Kuala Lumpur

I WAS disappointed at the light punishment for a student who assaulted his teacher. Someone should look at R. Martin's views on this incident. But who? Should it be the school principal, or the Parent-Teachers Association? If a teacher had assaulted the student, the consequences would have been harsher.

The boy should be caned in public and made to apologise to his teacher to serve as a deterrent to others.

Copyright 2006 The New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad. All rights reserved.

Corpun file 17695

New Straits Times, Kuala Lumpur, 19 May 2006


Bring it back


I CANNOT agree more with Y.K.M.'s views ("Cane the boy" NST, May 11) on this student who assaulted his teacher. During my school days in the 1970s, a classmate was caught red-handed by our science class teacher scribbling graffiti on his desk and was punished with a public caning three strokes of the rotan by the headmaster before an assembly of other students as a warning that the school did not tolerate vandalism of school property.

That was how harsh the punishment used to be during that era. It would be expulsion from school if a student assaulted a teacher.

These days, public caning in schools has been abolished or banned and there is not much a discipline teacher or master can do except to offer counselling to problematic students.

It would be good news if the Education Ministry could review and allow public caning in schools again.

Copyright 2006 The New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad. All rights reserved.

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