To Madam, with love

Chong Lian How with the bronze bust of
Sultan Ibrahim in front of the school hall

FROM young Chong Lian How wanted to be a teacher. 

She observed how teachers taught her to read, write and count, and trained her to be a leader by giving her responsibilities as a class monitor, prefect, librarian and various positions in clubs and societies.  Chong had such a high regard for her teachers that she aspired to be like them.

Chong not only achieved her ambition but in the last 30 years, she has had the satisfaction of being a teacher and principal as well as serving her last term of service in her alma mater, SMK Sultan Ibrahim (SMKSI), Kulai.

In September 2008, when Chong was appointed the principal of SMKSI, she regarded her job with both joy and trepidation because it was a big school with three streams (secondary, Form Six and Special Education), and at the time, the secondary stream's academic performance was deteriorating.  In addition, the school buildings were in need of repair and maintenance.

Chong [Centre] with colleagues at Ponggal celebration 2009
With the help of her senior assistants, teachers and other staff, Chong determined to change all that.  She carried out programmes that improved student discipline, academic achievement and co-curricular performance.  School facilities were also upgraded and the spirit of 1Malaysia inculcated.

Chong also encouraged cross-cultural activities by celebrating the different festivals throughout the year that promoted the spirit of 1Malaysia in the school.

On March 11, Chong and her husband, Tan Ah Aia, were feted as the Raja Sehari couple, as part of her retirement celebration.

Chong with members of the Unity Drum band
It was a fitting farewell to a much-loved teacher, principal and colleague who started her career in SMK Sultan Alauddin, Bukit Besar, Kulai, before going on to teach in schools in Beranang, Kajang and Semenyih.

Her first posting in Johor was with SMK Permas Jaya in 1995 and then to three other secondary schools before ending her career in SMKSI.

In his speech, Johor Education director Markom Giran commended Chong as a dedicated teacher and principal who had taken the school to new heights not only academically, but also in co-curriculum activities.

To foster closer ties among students, Chong initiated the formation of the school's Unity Drum team that consists of students playing 24 festive drums, kompang and Indian drums.

Every morning, Chong, administrative staff, teachers and prefects would receive students at the school gate between 7am and 7.20am.

Chong [Waving] and her family leaving the event
on a 4-WD vehicle
"I'm impressed to see the principal at the front gate, welcoming students to school," said Chen Yoon Meng, chairman of the Parent- Teacher Association.

Chong's "Zero-Late Programme" to encourage students to be punctual has reaped positive results and is still on-going.  At the same time, courtesy was encouraged with students trained to be good-mannered. They were also taught to be neat and tidy.

In 2009, Chong registered the school alumni with the support of some former students and former principal, Michael Parry

With their help and community support, projects were carried out to upgrade the school's hall, fence, canteen and carpark, replace roofs and curtains, rewire cables, renovate toilets, repaint the school, and put up a new signboard, giving an overall facelift to the schools.  The morale of the students soared when some Form Five and Form Six students achieved perfect scores in their exams.

Chong paying tribute to first Principal of SMKSI,
Michael Parry - the Father of SMKSI
Speaking on behalf of the students, Taranvir Singh, 18, the head boy, thanked Chong for her contributions to the school. 

Taranvir, who joined the Form Six class recently, said he was impressed how Chong solved problems with problematic students in a motherly way.   He also valued the tips he received from her on alternative but more effective ways to deal with recalcitrant students.

In a simple ceremony, Chong, the 10th principal of SMKSI, honoured Michael Parry, the first principal of SMKSI, by giving him the moniker, "Father of SMKSI."

She also recognised Tan Song Chua, former art teacher in SMKSI and sculptor of the bronze bust of Sultan Ibrahim for his contributions to the school. The sculpture was made in 1970, and now stands proudly as a monument in front of the school hall.

Accompanied by her husband and family members, Chong was given a grand send-off in an open-top four-wheel-drive that was driven along a path lined by students from uniformed groups giving her a smart salute.

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 16 March 2011
After her retirement, Chong received two pleasant surprises when she was recognised for her service in the form of these prestigious awards:
The first being the Bintang KMN or Kesatria Mangku Negara at the King's 2011 birthday celebration and the other, an Excellence Service Award 2010 [Anugerah Perkhidmatan Cemerlang or APC] from the Ministry of Education.  Congratulations Madam!


  1. Anonymous10/09/2016

    Belated thanks & appreciation to Peggy Loh in this comment section. (Chong LH)

  2. Well done Aunty👍