Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) is the first fully residential school in Malaysia. Established on 2 January 1905, it was originally known as the Malay Residential School of Kuala Kangsar.
The school was the brainchild of R J Wilkinson, inspector of schools for the Federated Malay States. In a letter to the resident-general dated 24 February 1904 he wrote about:
“…establishing at a suitable locality in the F.M.S., a special residential school for the education of Malays of good family and for the training of Malay boys for admission to certain branches of Government service”.
Its formation was supported by the rulers of the Federated Malay States: Sultan Idris Murshidul ‘Adzam Shah I of Perak, Sultan Alaiddin Sulaiman Shah of Selangor, Yam Tuan Tuanku Muhammad Shah of Negeri Sembilan and Sultan Ahmad Mu’adzam Shah of Pahang.
W Hargreaves, headmaster of Penang Free School, was appointed as the first headmaster to lead the establishment of the school with 40 pioneering students. Since 1965, the Malay College has been led by Malay headmasters.
As it was founded to educate the Malay elite, being royal children and the sons of Malay nobility, few of its early students were from commoner families. However, during Tun Abdul Razak Hussein tenure as Minister of Education in 1947, as a result of rising Malay nationalism, he democratized the intake. This is mainly because of his experience as an alumnus there, where he found out the aristocrats that gained admittance to this college were mainly below par compared to their less-privileged peers in Victoria Institution and Raffles Institution. Their status as aristocrats had caused them to not be independent and to have no willingness to strive for a better future. Today, only selected Malay boys aged 12 to 17 from around Malaysia are educated there.
Some of the notable teachers there were Pendeta Za’Ba and Anthony Burgess.
The Straits Echo on 15 April 1905 reported that a few boys were placed in cozy dormitories in Hargreaves’ rented house, while the others were stabled in small houses formerly occupied by the Malayan Railway clerks. The second half of the school, conducted by Mr Vanrenen was held in a fowl house. There were 40 boys in the first intake.
The sanction for the building of a permanent school became official on 23 December 1905; by 1 May 1909, the Big School was first brought into use. On Saturday, 11 December 1909, the Big School was officially opened by the Sultan of Perak, and the auspicious date also marked the change in the name of the school from the Malay Residential School of Kuala Kangsar to the Malay College of Kuala Kangsar.
The change seems to have seen greater emphasis on the original aim of MCKK. A report from 1910 said:
“From this school the Government have great hopes that the sons of Malays of the Raja and higher class will be educated and trained on the lines of an English Public School and be fitted to take a share in the Government of their Country”.