Within three years of taking over the
reins at SM Teknik Tawau, super principal
Mary Yap has brought the schoolís SPM passing rate from 28 per cent to 100
per cent, and maintained it for eight years running.
Source : ©
Copyright 2006 The New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad. All rights
Mary Yap talks about the part
schools can play in fostering racial relations.
Q: Do you see racial integration as a
problem in your school?
A: The issue has never cropped up, even though Sabah has over 100 ethnic
groups. Racial integration has always been present.
We work together very well. In my school, itís beautiful. It has always
been like this, even before I came in. I think this is the keistimewaan
Q: How do you think this racial integration happened?
A: We have a lot of awareness-raising in school. During assembly, for
example, we always talk about tolerance and unity. Itís not only me who
does the talking but other teachers, and even the students.
During activities like appreciation dinners and sports, we make sure
teachers and students mix.
We recently had a dinner celebrating Hari Raya, and we did it "kampung"
style. You should have seen the Chinese teachers cooking dodol (cooked
durian paste)! After 15 minutes we had aching arms, but the dodol was so
Q: Do other principals feel the same way on how to build racial
A: I am not able to speak for other principals. But I run two courses, one
for "beginning" principals ó these are the new principals in
Tawau, and the other to groom principals
who have the potential to be super principals.
I concentrate on developing the personal dimension of being a principal.
The management side is dealt with in other forms of training provided by
the ministry and other courses.
They may have received training from all over, but never really the
personal grooming that I give.
I think that personal development is an area that needs to be addressed
(as teachers can help foster racial integration).
There can be all kinds of programmes for racial integration, but for a
positive change it is in the hands of the teacher.
Q: What would you do if you saw your student making fun of another student
because of his race?
A: I would speak to the student, and if he persisted, I would send him to
a counsellor. Itís important to let him know the rationale behind it. Iíll
also involve the parents.
But, many times, I find students donít behave themselves because they
donít have awareness about values like tolerance.
Q: Do you think we have reason to be worried, looking at trends?
A: We definitely need to be concerned. The concern should be there all the
time. But I donít think itís something too critical.
But the important thing is that we are addressing it. I would be worried
if nothing were done or if things were being swept under the carpet.
The thing is, we have to work together to address it, not push it aside,
saying "our teachers are to blame". Teachers can touch the future. But at
the same time we canít do it alone.
My stand is clear ó the ministry has done a lot. But itís our collective
responsibility to address the issue, together.
Q: How would you advise a fellow principal who has problems getting
students to integrate racially?
A: Principals have to be role models and lead by example.