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Live and Let Die the Lasallian Dream
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ImageThe La Salle Brothers’ work in Malaysia has come full circle after more than 159 years. It was not plain sailing throughout. They overcame the odds, the result of which was the setting up of more than 60 Brothers' schools which benefitted countless Malaysians.

Their legacy is well recognised, fully appreciated by all, the government included.  Ironically, along with success, Mother Time also briings with her new challenges that the Brothers and the alumni must overcome to ensure its continuous existence.

Will we witness a re-founding of LaSalle education in this country or will it just become a chapter in history? The answer very much depends on the will and commitment of the Brothers and the alumni.

What is LaSalle Education?
Missionaries, especially the La Salle Brothers played a key role in the development of English education in this country since the middle of the 19th century winning admiration and respect of all whose hearts they touched. Their schools were open to all irrespective of race, colour or creed. They offer a holistic approach developing character and imbuing universal values apart from delivering academic success.

Image“Students are imbued with moral and ethical values,” says Professor Dr Tarcisius Chin, a well known academician who is a product of LaSalle himself. In a Lasallian institution, the Brothers and teachers take upon themselves the role as holistic educators of the ‘full person’. They want to see their charges carry away something more than just academic success when they graduated; that they are imbibed with human qualities as men and women possessed of a strong sense of community and brotherhood, and committed to a deep sense of duty and responsibility, aimed at service for society and nation

Sadly, their significance and presence nowadays are hardly noticeable while the Lasallian heritage is in grave danger of being wiped off the local educative field. Why is this so? For a better understanding of the predicament, we need to take a look at history.

LaSalle Education in Malaysia

How it all began
ImageThe story of La Sallian education in Malaysia began with the daunting sea journey of six La Salle Brothers. They boarded the Le Julie in the River Scheldt on 8 December, 1851 to set sail to the Far-east at the persistent request of Father Jean-Marie Beurel, a Catholic priest who, for a long time was an admirer of the Christian Brothers’ Schools in France. Father Beurel began writing to the Superior General of the Christian Brothers as early as 1844. In his letter dated 3 November, 1845, he begged the Superior General to help the children of the East and concluded, “I hope that through the grace of God I shall have the ineffable consolation of seeing before my death the Brothers of the Christian Schools on the soil of Malaya.”

ImageThe Le Julie reached Singapore on 29 March, 1852. Three of the six Brothers stayed on in the island while the other three travelled to Penang reaching the British colony on a fair morning in April, 1852. They inherited the existing parish school which then had no more than 80 students. Their hard work resulted in the establishment of the first Lasallian school in the country - St. Xavier’s Institution, Penang.

The Boom Years
The early and mid 1900’s were boom years as the Brothers opened up schools in the key towns one after another. Soon, the Brothers’ schools proliferated throughout the country with no less than 60 schools established, among which are: St. Xavier’s Institution, Penang; St. George’s, Taiping; St. Michael’s, Ipoh, St. .John’s, Kuala Lumpur, St. Paul’s, Seremban, St. Francis, Melaka and La Salle Sacred Heart, Kota Kinabalu. Many of their pupils go on to become leaders in the government as cabinet ministers and administrative heads and as captains of industries in the private sector. The Brothers commanded great respect from the government, teachers, students and their parents.

As a testimony to their contributions, the Official Year Book of the Federation of Malaya 1967, when reporting the quality of education in schools run by the Christian bodies stated: “..... the Mission schools, particular those under the direction of the Roman Catholic Christian Brothers and the American Methodist Church were chiefly responsible for the rapid advancement in English education. And by 1914, some three fourths of the boys receiving education were in those schools ..... It is a striking  tribute to the selflessness of these men and women that they should have gained  the ready confidence and affection of both parents and teachers despite differences in religion and culture ......”

Available school records before World War II in fact showed that 74% of the boys and almost all the girls were in Mission schools.

The early and war-torn years

However, it was not plain sailing over the years. The building-up was a struggle and painful at times. Funding posed a great obstacle. This was overcome through hard work of the fore-fathers and the generosities of philanthropic well-wishers.

ImageThe war years of 1941-45 were particularly difficult as they caused massive disruptions. A number of schools were either destroyed, or used by the occupation force as imperial army head quarters or simply stopped operating. It was mainly due to true grit and determination of the Brothers that the Lasallian schools were “revived” and brought to greater heights after the war.

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