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Rise Up, Foon Yew! Move On, Independent Schools!

Beginning from the ground-breaking ceremony in 2002 to the enrolment of the first batch students in 2004, the construction of Foon Yew High School Kulai Branch was completed within a period of 5 years andat the cost of roughly RM40 million. It is said that Foon Yew had created another miracle that led Malaysian Chinese education to a breakthrough.

The huge campus of Foon Yew High School Kulai Branch that covers 30 acres of land is located in an oil palm estate in Kulai. The school's 94th anniversary is going to take place here on August 12th together with the topping out ceremony. However, the history behind the brilliance building carries a lot of miseries and great efforts of Chinese community in developing Chinese education.

Just like other Chinese schools, the development history of Foon Yew is full of sorrow and it is the pride of Chinese community.

The most distinguishing characteristic of Chinese community in Johor Bahru is the three century-old traditions : "a temple, a mountain and a school". The temple refers to Johor Old Chinese Temple, while the mountain refers to Tiong-Hua Chinese Cemetery and the school refers to Foon Yew School. The spirit that emphasises on tolerance and unity is called "the republic of five clans". The existence of the spirit started a century ago and it has become a unique cultural property of Chinese community in Johor Bahru.

Foon Yew School was founded in 1913 and Mandarin has been used as the medium of instructions since its foundation. The school manager of Foon Yew should be commended to have this foresight that overpassed the obstacles of dialects and clans during that feudal era in 1990s. This has a great impact on Chinese community in Johor Bahru. Infact, "the spirit of Foon Yew" and "the spirit of The Old Temple" have become the breath of life for the community.

Foon Yew has turned out to be one of the prestigious schools in the country soon after it was founded. In 1917, Foon Yew was praised as one of the four model schools in Nanyang by educationalist Huang Yanpei (name transliterated), during his inspection in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Huang was assigned by Northern Warlords Government of China.

The headquarters of Foon Yew High School is now located at Jalan Ibrahim Sultan, Johor Bahru. The construction of the school building was completed in 1950 and it was formally in used in 1951 and. However, although Foon Yew School is a century-old school with 94 years of history, Foon Yew High School was only founded 56 years ago.

In the past half of the century, Foon Yew High School had went through the pressure and challenges of the Barnes Report in 1951, the Educational Act in 1952 and the Razak Report in 1956. Besides, it had experienced shocks like campus commotions and student strikes during 1950s and 1960. Also, it had went through the low tide of independent schools in the late 1960s. However, it was not defeated, instead, it reached a few breakthroughs, included:

  • The school management played the leading role of saying no to the changes of system on December 18th, 1957, making Foon Yew the first independent Chinese school in the country.
  • Foon Yew initiated specialised classes that led the national Chinese community towards college education in 1975.
  • Foon Yew started to have entry examination for Form One students in 1979 and this system is still on today.
  • Southern College was founded from the base of Foon Yew High School specialised classes and it has become the pioneer community college in Malaysia in 1990.
  • Foon Yew High School Kulai Branch officially opened classes in 2004 and the first batch students temporarily attended classes at the main campus.
  • In 2005, the school building of Foon Yew High School Kulai Branch was officially in used and it was marked as a great breakthrough for independent Chinese schools.

Today, there are five Foon Yew primary schools with more than 10 thousands students. Besides, the main branch of Foon Yew High School has 5218 students while its Kulai branch has 2659 students, creating the legend of "Foon Yew Learning Village". It deserves the title of "the bastion of Chinese education in Southern Malaysia".

Even though the characteristics of "Foon Yew people" that are tolerate and soft seem contrary with the battle of Chinese education which is solemn and stirring, and even though the educational principle and policy of Foon Yew had caused disputes before, Foon Yew still managed to surmount obstacles and stand until today. Its success is worth to be studied and learned.

Rise up, Foon Yew! Move on, independent schools! (By Lim Mun Fah, Sin Chew Daily)

Sinchew-i 2007.08.10



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