A Visit to the National Education Museum (18 September 2017)

by Mona Tan Gin Bee

It was a pleasant day to look forward to as fellow Museum Volunteers (MV) had come together for this trip to the National Education Museum, located within the Sultan Idris Education University or UPSI in Tanjong Malim. We arrived an hour before schedule with the JMM bus from Muzium Negara. There were 25 eager participants in this MV Focus visit including 2 teachers who trained at Kirby College in the 1950-1960s – MV Cze Yan’s mother, Choo Thye, and MV Lily Lim. I could feel how happy Madam Choo Thye was when she was at the gallery on Kirby and Brinsford teachers. Truly brought back fond memories of her younger days as a pioneer in the teaching profession!

Kirby Teachers Training College was established in January 1952

Since all of us are history buffs, let me narrate a little bit about this historical town.

History of Tanjong Malim

Tanjong Malim is an interesting gateway town located at the south of Perak Darul Ridzuan, bordering Selangor Darul Ehsan as well by having the Titiwangsa Range as its background and the Bernam River to its side. Fellow MVs were punctual as usual and our journey of 84 km up north from the National Museum was an hour-plus smooth drive on the JMM bus.

Tanjong Malim town started from a large cape or a high land formed by river erosion and sticking out into the sea; an early settler was an ‘ulamak’ (a religious man), Tuan Haji Mustafa bin Raja Kemala. Sir List, the representative of the Straits Government, and Raja Itam named the town ‘Tanjong’ in conjunction with the location of its large cape, whereas the word ‘Malim’ (mu’alim) was used to indicate the religious commitment of the people in the area at the time.

Initially, the District and Land Office was in Tanjong Malim. However, the Municipal Office was moved to Slim River after the incident on 25 March 1952 in which communist guerrillas killed Sir Michael Codner (the District Officer) and eleven other men in an ambush while they were repairing a sabotaged water pipeline.

Today, Tanjong Malim is known as ‘Education Town’ as it is the location of Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (Sultan Idris Education University) or just UPSI. In fact, this town is also known as Proton City with the construction of Proton’s assembly plant.

Education Museum

Education Museum in its early days

The Suluh Budiman Building, which houses the current Education Museum, was built in August 1919 and its construction was completed in June 1922. This majestic building was designed by Kesteven, a famous architect in the Federated Malay States. It functioned as the famous Sultan Idris Teaching College (SITC) in its early days and had since generated renowned nationalist and intellectuals such as Za’aba, Aminuddin Baki, Ungku Omar, Ungku Abdul Aziz and Tok Kemali; all of them have rendered numerous contributions towards independence and the national education pedagogy.

Renowned nationalists and intellectuals. From left to right: Za’aba, Aminuddin Baki, Ungku Omar, Ungku Abdul Aziz and Tok Kemali

The design of the building has elements of medieval Dutch-Gothic architecture style and it is obvious that the design of the building resembled the Notre-Dame Church in France and Salisbury in England. As we walked into this magnificent building, we observed that the main hall looks like a church. The knowledgeable in-house guide, Mr. Devan, confirmed this as a chapel that it did not materialise. He said the craftsmen who constructed the building were brought in from Java by the British. Skilled Chinese labourers were also used for its construction.

Our guide, Devan, next to the original King Edward VII School emblem established July 1883. ‘Magni Nominis Unbra’ in Latin means ‘Under the shadow of a Great Name’

The upper floor of this building was SITC’s main administration centre, which includes the principal’s office, staff room, meeting room, general office, composing office and library. The ground floor consists of classrooms and a main hall used for the monthly assembly or for official college functions.

The Suluh Budiman Building was gazetted under the National Heritage Act 2005 as a National Heritage Building on February 14, 2009. On August 24 2009, the work of building conservation, gallery construction, and infrastructure installation meeting the requirements of museum practices were performed.

Finally, this floor area of 3,239 square meters was converted into a museum in March 2011. The opening ceremony was held on July 19, 2011, inaugurated by His Majesty the Raja Permaisuri Perak Tuanku Bainun.

Commemorative porcelain set for Sultan Idris Teachers College graduates

Mission, Vision and Objectives

Their mission is to preserve the heritage of national education in the form of tangible and intangible assets through exhibitions, academic activities, research, publications and community service to achieve the country’s vision. This is achieved by maintaining and preserving its history and glory of global changes in the past, present and future through a central source of information, restoring effort through R & D, proliferation of education knowledge through events, seminars, workshops and lectures at home and abroad. Documenting the services of prominent educational figures are commendable and the ability to bring history to live in the form of  a time tunnel is poised to create its own unique form of tourist attraction that would ultimately contribute to the country’s tourism industry.

Teaching aids of the Language Institute
Teaching aids for the blind using Braille

Tour to the Galleries

We really had a good time learning and recalling how our national education had progressed until today. “The museum contains one thematic exhibition space just right at the entrance, now featuring on UPSI’s milestone and another 21 galleries or permanent exhibition spaces within this building,” said Devan. We could not believe our ears as we have only four galleries at the National Museum. Actually, classrooms and training rooms used in the early days were converted into well-curated galleries in both Malay and English language. A number of old artefacts were displayed, some dating to the early 1900s. We saw interesting dioramas of early classrooms, uniforms, teaching aids & materials used those days, science & technology, prominent local figures and many more. Below were the Galleries we visited and it took us more than two hours to complete the tour in this elegant building.

  1. Early education in Malaysia
  2. Fundamental and Curriculum
  3. More on Fundamental and Curriculum
  4. Early schools in Malaysia
  5. Teachers Training – Kirby and Brinsford Teachers
  6. Higher Education
  7. Renowned National Education Personalities
  8. Sultan Idris Training College (SITC)
  9. Zainal Abidin Ahmad (Zaaba)
  10. Education and Research
  11. Malaysia Education Ministers
  12. Development of Early Years Children Education
  13. Special Education Development
  14. Education for all
  15. Adult Education
  16. Development of Education Technology
  17. Education Technic and Vocational
  18. Neuron Science Cognitive
  19. E-Learning
  20. Virtual Learning
  21. Science and Technology Education
Musical instruments, used in Penang in the 1980s, and some trophies
Old vinyl records

Research, Conservation and Procurement

We were also told that the ‘Research division’ is one of the core areas of this Museum. Research conducted in the museum consists of history, culture, nature, exhibitions and collections research.

In fact, there are 3 types of research conducted here:
i   – Research conducted by the National Education Museum staff
ii  – Research carried out in collaboration with other parties
iii – Research conducted by outsiders

Furthermore, the Research division serves to strengthen and develop the field of research, documentation and publication to uphold the museum’s function as a disseminator of knowledge in the field of exhibitions, collections, history, culture and education.

Collection of trophies during the MPSI era
Eminent Teachers

The Conservation division performs work on analysis, research, treatment and preservation of museum collections for the purposes of exhibition, storage, education and documentation. This department also carries out damage prevention, restoration of artefacts, monitoring temperature control system, humidity, lighting and pests found in repository and museum galleries.

Finally, the main objective of the Procurement division is to retrieve the national education heritage in the form of artefacts, ecofacts, specimens, and related documents in order to ensure that the collections are saved and available for exhibition.

After a complete walkthrough of the numerous interesting and knowledge enhancing galleries, we had a group photo taken just at the entrance of this magnificent building before we bid farewell and proceeded to lunch, located just in the vicinity, outside this huge Campus.

Group photo of fellow MVs in front of the Education Museum


We had a hearty lunch in the ‘Yik Mun Pau Restaurant’, which has been in operations since 1926. The restaurant and some of the food served here retains a nostalgic feel of the Colonial era. Acclaimed as the most famous pau outlet in Tanjong Malim, it is ‘halal’. The restaurant serves soft pau, toast, Hainan noodles; the Hainanese chicken chop, especially, was worth trying. Food served was in large portions and many said to me that it was good. That is why this corner restaurant, painted in red, attracts many patrons from all over Malaysia.

After lunch, we went back to Kuala Lumpur by the JMM bus and reached Muzium Negara at about 2.30pm. It was indeed a memorable Education Museum tour as through its exhibits, we learned to appreciate the importance of education, and how it shapes the Nation!

Cannon was used by Raja Mahadi during the Selangor Civil War against Tengku Kudin in the 19th century

Author: Museum Volunteers, JMM

Museum Volunteers, JMM Taking the Mystery out of History

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