Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A rough start

Sunday March 30, 2008

KUALA Kubu Baharu state assemblyman Wong Koon Mun 47, used to do his homework under a kerosene lamp. But at school, he attracted female classmates like a moth to a candle flame.

Tell us about your alma mater.

I went to SRJK(C) Batang Kali and was a second-generation student – my mum and dad studied there as well. Currently, all my daughters are there and I’m the Parent-Teacher Association chairman!

I attended Tsun Jin High School, Kuala Lumpur, a Chinese independent school. After Form Three, I switched to a public school as I wanted to mix with students of other races and improve my English.

At SMK Seri Garing, Rawang, my best friends were Indians and Sikhs.

How were you as a student – naughty, quiet or goody-two-shoes?
I was quiet in secondary school, but many of the girls liked me, I think because I was handsome! At the end of Form Five, most of them asked me to sign their autograph books.
In primary school, I was very naughty and was always caned, publicly.
Four friends and I were extremely naughty. My father asked me to part from these boys because he felt they were a bad influence. Good thing he did that, because two of the guys have died: one was a drug addict and the other, a gangster.

Describe your co-curricular experiences in school.
In secondary school, I joined the photography and Chinese societies. I also represented the school in basketball.

Share your most cherished school memories.
When I was eight, the teacher appointed me class monitor.
There were many rambutan trees in my school and sometimes, people were contracted to pluck them so the school could sell them. One day, I got my class to pluck the rambutans. I was given 22 lashes of the cane by the headmaster. I resigned as monitor after that.
I can never forget my first day at SMK Seri Garing. I was not allocated a classroom, so I had to stand outside the principal’s room. For two months, I didn’t go to the canteen because I had no friends and could not speak English well.

Who were your favourite teachers, and why?
None of my teachers made an impact on me.

Was there something in your student life that sparked your interest in politics?
I only got involved in politics in 1986, after I’d finished my vocational studies in KL and gone back to my hometown. One of my primary schoolmates asked me to join politics, so I did, to get more friends. But I never dreamt I would be what I am today!

What is your view of the current education system?
Before, we were more concerned about gaining knowledge. But now, parents just want their children to score As. How about moral values like good manners? How about practical skills, and being able to think on your feet?
Those days, students played with each other. But these days, students don’t mix around very much.

What changes would you like to see in our education system?
Parents send their children to many tuition centres, but that only prepares them for exams. It does not equip them with the knowledge they need.
Some of these centres teach students to spot questions, but they are not really “learning”.

What is the one thing that you would have liked to do as a student but never did?
I regret I never had the chance to go to university – because I didn’t have the money.
My ambition was to be an engineer and because my grandfather had established a construction company in 1952, I learnt how to read construction plans.
I did a diploma in civil engineering in Institut Teknologi Jaya, and then applied to further my studies. But as my father’s business was not doing well, I had to start working.

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