Dr. Ahmad Mahdzan Ayob's Web site: Mahdzan.com/Mahdzan

© 1999-2003

Primary School Education

My first school was the Malay School Jejawi, a walking distance from our extended family house. (I lived in this house with my parents, maternal grandparents, a sister and younger brother--seven people). Schooling was free then (under British rule); books were on loan from the school. In the first year we used 'papan batu' (tablet) to write on.

This school had been in existence since my father's time. The site is now occupied by the Sekolah Menengah Syed Sirajuddin, a secondary school, named after the DYMM (High Highness) the Raja of Perlis.

Derma English School was established in Kangar, capital of Perlis, in February 1949 from money donated by the people of Perlis--farmers, artisans, teachers, government servants, and others. The school celebrated its golden jubilee in 1999. It was first the school in Perlis to provid education in the English medium. In those days, as now, one could not go far without an English-medium education. He/she could only become a Malay Primary School teacher. My late sister was one of them, and she went on to study at the Malay Women Training College (MWTC) in Melaka (Malacca).

In the beginning, Derma had provided both primary and secondary education. Many years later, it became strictly a secondary school. During my time, students entering Derma came from all Malay Schools in the State after passing Standard Four (Fourth Grade, to use American parlance). Some were luckier because they were selected at the end of Standard 3. All of us were specially selected, and were placed in the 'Special Malay Class.' Somehow I got into SMC IA, where I started learning English.

Most non-Malay pupils joined Derma directly in Standard One at age 6+. They were thus able to finish their schooling one year earlier than most Malay pupils. For us Malays, we had to pass through SMC II before going on to Standard Six (6th grade), and remember, we had already spent four years in the Malay school. So, what to do? Seven years of primary school for us! But, still, better seven than none!

See also:
Ahmad Mahdzan's Primary School Days
Ahmad Mahdzan's Secondary School Days
Ahmad Mahdzan's Higher Education in New Zealand

Last updated: 10 February 2001 by Fairy Mahdzan