Tuesday, April 28, 2009

National School versus National Type School

Over the years, the government has called on the rakyat that the school of choice for our children should be the national school. This has not been very successful. We have more and more Chinese parents sending their children to national type schools or Chinese primary schools. Various figures have been quoted ranging from 90 – 95 percent of Chinese parents sending their children to Chinese schools. The Indians continue to send their children to the Tamil schools.

Why do Chinese parents send their children to Chinese schools and not to national schools? To begin with, most non-Malay parents feel that their children should have at least 6 years of grounding in their people’s own language or mother tongue education. Of course studies have shown that young children learn better in their own mother tongue. Generally, it is accepted that Chinese schools enforces better discipline and are more conscious of their student’s academic achievement. Hence, they have more homework, more monthly assessment and there is more peer pressure to do well. They normally excel also in Maths. Of course, the standards of English and BM leave much to be desired. Children from these Chinese schools have very limited exposure with other races until they reach secondary schools when they enroll into the national schools.

It cannot be denied that with the implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP), most national schools become very Malay with great emphasis on Islam. A lot of non-Malay parents do not take kindly to the obvert or subtle emphasis on Islamic religion and value. Some schools even have daily assemblies that start off with prayer and some even begins the lesson with the citation of the prayer. To aggravate matter, the teachers and the administrative staffs are also Malay. Of course there have always been allegation of racial discrimination within the school setting.

I have attended a lot of functions hosted by national schools and national-type schools. The distinct difference between them is:

1)   Invariably all Chinese schools have a hall.

2)   The PIBG and the board of directors of the Chinese schools are usually more active and more dedicated. They are more proud of their achievement and display a greater sense of independence rather than depending on handouts from the government. Some PIBG and board of the schools tend to over-emphasize on improving the school’s basic infrastructure – hall, canteen and library rather than the software of education.

3)   In Chinese schools, the function usually runs according to the schedule and there are often cultural presentations.

4)   The school teachers appear to be more dedicated and disciplined.

If the government wants to attract more non-Malays into national schools, it has to be make our national schools more appealing to the different community. To begin with, the schools teachers and administrative staffs should be more racially balanced. School teachers and the administrators should be more sensitive and pragmatic that they are dealing with a racially mixed group of school children. The Muslims can continue with their prayers, their Muslim celebration and their practice of the Malay culture and Islamic value. However, they should not alienate or make the non-Muslims feel unwanted. They should be allowed to pursue some meaningful activities while their Muslim friends have their celebrations and prayers so as to keep the non-Muslim students occupied.

People’s own language (POL) should be introduced in every class. When the standards of Mandarin and Tamil are good or even comparable to that of the national-type schools, it will be a plus point and surely attract non-Malay parents. After all, all parents want their children to be educated in the best schools and in an environment which they are comfortable with. Make the national schools as appealing and competitive as the national-type schools in term of standards, discipline and having facilities to study mother tongue education. Make the national schools less in its Islamic influence, then I am sure we will attract a lot of non-Malay parents. All these points have been discussed extensively in the previous cabinet. However, there don’t seems to be any follow-through action and it remains only good on paper.

A lot of Malay politicians from both political divide have the wrong perception that the non-Malay parents do not want their children to be educated in national schools because they are against racial integration. This is often cited as one of the main reason for polarization within our country. I cannot deny that children of different races should have more opportunities to study, to learn and play in their formative years and hence, promote racial integration. However, to think that only through the Malay medium of education that is national schools, then only can we achieve integration is to over simplify a complex issue of racial integration. One system of education obviously is not the only cause of racial polarization in a multiracial country. There are more issues at play. Government policies and its implementation that ensure fairness and equality so that no one race is felt left out is important if we want to achieve racial integration. Hence, closing Chinese schools and Tamil schools will not ensure racial integration. If fact, it will become a more divisive issue that we should avoid at all cost. 


Keith said...

Dr. Chua,

"I cannot deny that children of different races should have more opportunities to study, to learn and play in their formative years and hence, promote racial integration"

What do you think about Maktab Sains or the Asrama Penuh, where 90% of the students are Malay? Would you agree to opening up a bigger percentage of enrollment in these schools to non-malay students?

呉 和豪 said...

Saudara Chua Soi Lek

In order to ensure that no child in Malaysia is deprived of their right to be educated , every effort must be done to preserve , conserve the education using mother tongues.Remember cultural diversity is our asset and not our burden.A garden with varieties of flora and fauna is much much more attractive than a garden with single species.Simphony Ochestra Performance is better than a solo performance. Biodiversity and cultural divervisity will enhance our country status as center of excellence in trade , scientific research ,education, tourist , cultural------------.

MYblog said...

We had excellent racial integration up to the mid seventies. And from your article and our experience, I can say that you are asking for an atmosphere and environment from the seventies, where we all studied, played, drank water from pipes together, it didn't matter if Tan, Martin or Halim or Krishnan drank from the tap before me. Those were the golden years of Malaysia where we didn't need to think about racial integration as it was already there and we didn't know otherwise.

But now it is an uphill battle, one that will not succeed without proactive actions. Why? is this so?

Becoz, it is the generation of the late seventies and eighties that are in control, the generation that grew up segregated and don't have a clue as to what you and me are talking about. And the mono-typical population of the government departments will be the biggest stumbling block.

I believe if with sincerity we are to proceed, it will take us several decades to undo what has happened in the last few decades. Seems improbable but I am an optimist so I will say possible but it will require the effort of moving a mountain to achieve this.

My two cents worth

Jonas Lee said...

Variety of educational mediums and exposure to different cultures is important for most parents. However, the most important crtieria for my child when I send him to primary school is that the teachers are (1) dedicated (2) skillful in bringing out the best in him academically (3) work wihtin a system that is fair and respectful to other races (4) teach students factual history of Msia which is not distorted by government propaganda or hidden racist ideologies.

Despite the above, I am still ready to send my son to a national school as there is one which seems to be good. This is because the benefit of mixing with other races (no, the word racial integration is subject to official manipulation).

Unknown said...

One Malaysia should be strenghten by one school concept, otherwise One Malaysia no bring us to anywhere.

One school means pupils from all races can meet,play and learn together. Only by this way the strong of relationship between races can be built.

Now up to politicians how this concept can be implimented.

Unknown said...

I think the solution to national integration is not as simple as having a school for all the races to be enrolled in.

When I was in primary and secondary school, I never look upon my Malay or Chinese classmates, as Malay or Chinese respectively. We grew up together, we had fun playing, studying etc. But the quota system in school created space for all races, and invariably we were taught our first lesson as Malaysians - hey, there is no meritocracy. In the name and spirit of racial integration, there is quota. It became more pronounced when I tried to enter university. I realised that getting 3 or 4 As are not enough. But other people with inferior grades were getting scholarships to England. Something must be wrong with this system where we are judged by not what we make ourselves to be, but what is our status the moment we were born.

To truly integrate, the government must dismantle all forms of racial discrimination or polarisation. Now I don't disagree with affirmative action, but it must be based on need and not on colour. So what if it happens to be (coincidentally) that a particular race keeps getting aid because of affirmative action? I am fine with that.

But, the Datuk or Tan Sri that has a couple of million in his bank account should not benefit from buying 10% discounted houses and his children should not be going to England on government scholarship if they are not smarter than the rest of the other sons' or daughters of taxi driver Malaysians (whatever their race may be). Just my 2 sen.

Not that no one knows the above issues, and not that no one has brought that up before; but this reality is what is stopping us from truly integrating.

3 said...

This is frying the cold is like rocking wooden horse - got motion no (action) result.

呉 和豪 said...

Saudara Dr.Chua Soi Lek

童容易吸收,不会停学。我要求首相确保每一个睦邻计划中心都有善用资源来推动国民团结既融合计划,睦邻计划中心可以通过体育, 文化及阅读活动 终生学习活动来推动国民团结既融合.

MYblog said...

Pan are not the only one, most of us have seen this happen i.e. in my case I wasnt too bright and had Grade two in Form Five but my Malay classmate had grade 3 and was offered both the local College and UK 'A" Levels and mind you he came from a rich family. And as for me it was time to look for a job but luckily I went to a third world country and got a unrecognised degree but that led to other degrees and now I even have a PhD, but this is besides the point

At that time we couldn't understand and were left in a daze and just took it in our strides; but now after more than 30 years, I understand that was the beginning of my end

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