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This time we publish an article on what is claimed to be “the influx to Chinese schools”. It is based on numbers obtained from an ex-Chairman of the Parent Teachers Association of one school and in a predominantly Chinese electorate. See if you agree or disagree with the views given.
Why the influx to Chinese schools?
By Lee Yew Meng
I WAS registered with St Xavier’s Institution for Year One in 1961. My father, who was Chinese-educated but speaks English, reasoned that only those who studied in English schools could get office jobs and four-figure salaries. A chief clerk was a very serious appointment in the 1950s and 1960s.
There were Malay schools, English schools, Chinese schools and Tamil schools. I can now vividly recall that we used to sneer at Chinese school students because of their pronunciation. They invariably allowed us to get away with these juvenile insults.
Those were the times when being educated meant being able to speak and write in English.
Now, some 50 years on, I live in a constituency with an 86.7 per cent (2008 Election Commission figures) Chinese electorate and we have one primary and two secondary schools in the taman.
My second child was enrolled in Year One in 1998. The racial mix of the pupils then was representative of the constituency, albeit with a few more non-Chinese.
By 2007, when my next child started school, I saw a stark difference. I scrutinised the student register and found that fewer than 30 per cent of the students were Chinese. Three years later when she was in Year Four, there were only nine Chinese students in a class of 44. In the entire Year Four class of 129, only 18 or 14 per cent were Chinese.
Early this year, my fourth child was enrolled, and this time it was like I had moved to another place. I could hardly spot a Chinese face. In a class of 42, there were only four Chinese students.
There are 89 students in Year One with eight Chinese, or nine per cent. The total school population is 550, with 11 per cent Chinese. These figures were provided by the parent-teacher association’s ex-chairman.
Many of us would have heard of the large influx of parents registering their children in Chinese schools in the past 10 years. I thought the percentages quoted were a gross exaggeration, but I have now experienced first-hand that it is true.
Schools are built in housing estates for the convenience of parents. Then, why is it that so many parents prefer to spend up to two or three hours each day sending and picking their children up from Chinese vernacular schools?
(It is more dramatic when we consider parents in south Johor sending their children to schools in Singapore.) All the bigger Chinese schools are oversubscribed and many parents have been turned away.
I have heard of those arming themselves with various letters of recommendation from an assortment of personalities as “insurance” against rejection. Can we assume that the Education Ministry has done sufficient studies followed by serious brainstorming on what’s the attraction of these Chinese schools?
Is the class environment, library, sports facilities, toilets and the canteen food so much better? Are the teachers better trained and more motivated? Don’t they all have the same salary scheme?
Or are parents concerned about or opposed to what they believe are misguided notions of nationalism in national schools? Perhaps a combination of all these?
There was a time in the 1980s when sekolah jenis kebangsaan (Cina) were just doing okay and the independent secondary Chinese schools were suffering from low intake. This year, even the independent schools had to turn away students.
As the Constitution allows it, there’s nothing wrong with parents preferring their children to be imbued with Confucian-inspired values. And perhaps to also have formal instruction with Chinese culture. But if enrolling at SJK (C) schools means being enrolled “in better schools with better education instruction”, then we have a situation, Putrajaya.
The predicament is getting serious. The plain fact is that it is wrong that national schools are increasingly being shunned by the Chinese and by more and more Malays and Indians, while SJK (C) schools are horrendously oversubscribed. Classroom populations of 50 to 52 at SJK (C) schools are the norm.
I hope our national schools have not given up. In any marketplace with more than one player, we have to be as good or better as the other to stay in business, and in this case — relevant.
If good Chinese language instruction is needed, provide it. Like we should for good English, Tamil, Science or Mathematics. Or how much has it got to do with this remark made by a Malay parent and endorsed by another that, “I would have sent my child to a sekolah agama rakyat if that was my intention”, at a focus group in reference to attitudes of some school authorities?
The mission is an uncomplicated and unadulterated quest to provide a strong foundation for our young minds through well thought-out and tested syllabi.
I am now reminded that although SXI was a true-blue Christian missionary school, non-Christians were never compelled to convert or made to feel different. The Brothers, bless their souls, just concentrated on their mission. We used to sing Malaysia, Kita Sudah Berjaya with gusto; but was that another Malaysia?
The writer, a social observer, has been a marketing practitioner for over three decades