Two school events, both widely reported, took place last week. One was the Speech Day at Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), and the other, the graduation exercise at Kolej Yayasan UEM (KYUEM). The difference in the two events serves as a good metaphor distinguishing the old Malaysia from what I hope is the promise of a new one.

The ceremony at Kuala Kangsar was graced by no less than the King, the Raja Muda of Perak (the school's Governing Board Chair), and the Minister of Education. You could not get a more distinguished company of visitors than that. Meanwhile KYUEM had such nondescript corporate figures as UEM Chairman Ahmad Tajuddin Ali and its Foundation Trustee, Sheriff Kassim, in attendance.

At Malay College's Speech Day, there was no mention of the achievements of the graduating students, specifically which great universities they would be attending. There was a reason for this noticeable absence. None of the students qualified for university admission directly. They would first have to go to a "finishing school" elsewhere.

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