Role of the World Bank

Perak Academy hosted a dinner talk on the role of the World Bank in education on Wednesday, October 12 at Symphony Suites Hotel, Ipoh. The enlightening session was presented by 85-year-old Dr Chai Hon Chan, who came all the way from Kuala Lumpur for the talk.

The 60-odd audience observed a minute’s silence in memory of the late Tan Sri Datuk Abdullah Ahmad and Dato’ Azumu bin Tak. Both were members of Perak Academy, the former a fellow, the latter an executive committee member.

Dr Chai was a teacher at ACS Ipoh for eight years before joining University Malaya in 1963 as one of the founding members of the university’s faculty of education. He graduated from Harvard in 1968. In 1978 he was recruited by the World Bank and was based in Washington, DC. His responsibilities included appraising education investment projects in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and South Pacific countries. Later, as senior evaluation officer, his work covered Asia, the West Indies, East Africa, the Middle East and southern Europe.

Chai related the history of The World Bank, initially named The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It was formed in 1944 in Bretton Woods, USA with the objective of helping to rebuild war-torn Europe in the aftermath of World War II.

The development of tertiary education in Singapore, South Korea and China illustrated the catalytic role of the institution’s support for the development of human capital, as a necessary foundation for economic growth.

“Our education system is such that, it has many issues to address and one is rural poverty. The other thing is the language policy. To develop bilingualism, start young. Children learn languages very easily. According to one expert, the human brain is wired to learn any language. For example, a Chinese child can speak Malay perfectly. It’s therefore nonsensical to say, you can only learn one language at a time,” Dr Chai exclaimed.

Also present at the talk were Dr Chakr Sri Na Nagara, a former student of the speaker and Chan Kok Keong, Deputy Chairman of the Perak Academy.

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