Taking P. Ramlee into the 21st Century
Putting Immersion Methodology into Practice at BERJAYA University College
KUALA LUMPUR: Outside the film and entertainment industry not many people may know that film star, director, entertainer, actor, comedian and master story-teller, Tan Sri P. Ramlee, was born on 22 March 1929. Students at BERJAYA University College (BERJAYA UC) must have thought “Why wait another ten years? Let’s celebrate his 90th anniversary right now” and take P. Ramlee into the 21st century.
On Tuesday 9 July students put on a two-hour show paying tribute to the ongoing significance of P. Ramlee. The theme was P. Ramlee’s role as an icon of unity in Malaysia, not only at the height of his career in the 50s and 60s but also now in 2019.
During the opening ceremony, Madam Mae Ho Seok Khen, Executive Director/CEO of BERJAYA UC, put this student-centred learning activity in the context of Malaysia’s multi-ethnicity and nation-building aspirations. As the CEO pointed out, intercultural interaction – as shown in P. Ramlee’s films and evidenced in his collaboration with people from all backgrounds — helps students “to effectively and effortlessly navigate the waters of diversity”.
The roller-coaster afternoon in BUC’s student lounge and lobby included dance performance, songs, a ratu kebaya fashion contest and re-enacted scenes from P. Ramlee films such as Labu dan Labi and Seniman Bujang Lapok. In the run-up to the big day there had been bazaars and film screenings. There were also various student competitions in designing posters on national unity and harmony and drawing P. Ramlee portraits. Many of these were on display during the event day.
The P. Ramlee Memorial Museum (Taman P. Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur) generously shared information and resources and set up a booth on the day of the event to answer questions about P. Ramlee and also to sell books.
Joining the event was none other than Fairuz Misran, Malaysia’s most famous P. Ramlee lookalike and impersonator. He won the RTM Bintang P. Ramlee 2012 competition and has been bringing P. Ramlee’s songs back to life both on stage and through the media. His special appearance was much appreciated by students, staff and guests. BUC’s dance group provided a lively backdrop for the 1964 hit Bunyi Gitar while for other songs, Fairuz called members of the audience on stage to sing a duet. One of them was the driving force behind the whole event, Normaizura Md Zain, lecturer from the Department of General Studies.
Ms Zura, as she is known, teaches Mata Pelajaran Umum (MPU) subjects like Hubungan Etnik and Tamadun Islam dan Tamadun Asia. The P. Ramlee tribute event is not only entertainment, it is also an integral part of students’ academic learning outcomes for both courses, and more generally, their personal development and team-working skills. BERJAYA UC is strongly committed to providing all its graduates with the soft skills necessary for employment, personal resilience and a productive and fulfilling life. This commitment was given a boost earlier this year with the establishment of the Department of General Studies in May 2019. The new department puts all self-improvement and development courses under one roof to ensure the quality of what students learn and how they learn it.
Head of Department is Dr Antoon Gewijde H. De Rycker, a Belgian national who has lived and worked in Malaysia’s higher education for the past ten years. In his welcome speech, he observed that soft skills are often hard to acquire and that as educators, we must provide students with a wide range of challenges and opportunities from which they can learn and improve. Dr De Rycker linked the theme of 90 Years’ Tribute P. Ramlee to that of unity within teams, both in college and the workplace. The key to successful team work is finding that unity within the diversity that defines most teams. This can be done, he said, by “building trust, the courage to address and solve team problems, accepting and expecting accountability and an active orientation to getting results”. He highlighted the fact that the P. Ramlee event involved BUC students from academic programmes as diverse as culinary arts, hospitality, hotel management, tourism, events, business, finance and communication.
Unity is not a fuzzy feeling or an abstract idea but an achievement when people from different ethnic, social, occupational and professional backgrounds come together to work towards a common purpose. In the same way, the P. Ramlee event is not an exercise in nostalgia. Event organiser, Normaizura Md Zain, emphasised the relevance of the theme to BERJAYA University College’s interest in, and respect for, heritage and tradition. “The past can be a source of inspiration for creativity and innovation across all the disciplines and programmes that BUC offers”, she said.
In this way, past, present and future become intertwined, which is fitting for an educational institution that is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.