In the past, Tanjung Malim is said to have received its name from a nearby promontory known as Tanjung Mualim. This is where the oldest educational institution in the country was established. Until today, the institution continues to play important roles in the education field.
The institution in question is the Sultan Idris Teachers' Training College (MPSI), also known as `Suluh Budiman' (Beacon of Pure Character). The establishment of MPSI was the brainchild ang proposal of Sir Richard Winstedt, the Assistant Director of Education for Malay Schools at the time. The proposal was accepted by the Government while the Residents' Conference in 1917 approved the establishment of a Centralised Teachers' Training College and the proposed site chosen was Tanjung Malim. Tanjung Malim, due to its central location, proximity to railway lines, rivers and towns, and the fertile land in the area.
On 20 October 1917, Tanjung Malim was officially agreed upon to be the location for the new teachers' training college. A 63-acre land was purchased for this purpose and the construction work commenced in 1919. On its completion in 1922, the college initiated its operations on 23 November of the same year with a teaching staff comprising three Europeans, seven Malays and one master weaver from the Philippines.
The new college was officially opened by the Chief Secretary of the Federated Malay States, Sir George Maxwell, on 29 November 1922. Also present during the opening ceremony were Sultan Iskandar Shah, the state's dignitaries, O.T. Dussek (Principal of the college) and high-level government officials. The college was later named Sultan Idris Teachers' Training College in honour of the late Sultan Idris of Perak whose principal concerns included the education of Malay children .
With the opening of MPSI, earlier colleges such as the Matang College and Melaka College were closed down and their students absorbed into MPSI. Under Mr O.T. Dussek, who was the first Principal of MPSI, 120 of its pioneer students fared very well in their studies.
In addition to regular subjects such as Geography, History, Mathematics and others, the students were also taught other subjects such as weaving, farming, craftsmanship and others. Only students who had passed their Standard 6 in Malay Schools, a basic entry requirement, were qualified for a place in MPSI. The initial aim of the British Government was for the students to have a slightly better education than their parents. The British Government had also hoped for the students, upon completion of their studies, to be taken in as their work force. The outcome however, turned out to be beyond the realms of their expectations.
MPSI, the place where they gained their knowledge had raised the student's awareness towards the nation's fate. The exposure that they acquired from reading about events abroad had inspired the blossoming of the spirit of nationalism among the students. The setting up of the Pejabat Karang-Mengarang (Writers' Office) in 1925 further exposed the students to reading materials from abroad.
During World War II, MPSI had to be closed down as the building was converted into a Military Hospital by the British and the students had to be transferred to Kuala Kangsar. By the courtesy of Sultan Abdul Aziz Almustasim Billah Shah ibni Almarhum Raja Muda Musa, the students were placed in three of the palaces in Kuala Kangsar, namely Istana Hulu, Istana Kuning and Istana Hilir. However, when the war spread to Malaya, the students were instructed to return to their respective villages.
When studies resumed after the war in 1946, there was a renewed vigour in spirits among the students of MPSI The spirit of nationalism started to blossom in the campus with the students growing increasingly bold in demanding for their rights. This ultimately led to a student demonstration on 10 December 1949 following which the college was closed down for 3 months.
With the advent of independence in 1957, the role of MPSI remained as important as ever. This institution produced a number of Malay nationalist intellectuals to fill the void which had been left by the British after the conferment of independence The MPSI trained leaders were much in demand and they have demonstrated excellent leadership quality which became the pride of not only the institution, but also the Malay community as a whole. Among the notable leaders from MPSI were Senu Abdul Rahman, Embong Yahya, Syed Nasir Ismail, Ibrahim Yaacob, Abdul Rahman Talib and Abdul Ghafar Baba. In the fields of linguistics, literature and culture, some of the well-known scholars included Haji Buyung Adil, Harun Aminurrashid, Abdullah Sidek, Shahrom Hussein and Awang Had Salleh.