April 18th, 2012

Chinese vernacular schools have open door policy

THERE has been a lot of talk lately about the Chinese community's efforts to address the problems faced by their vernacular schools.

This has created the assumption that the community is harping on this issue because they insist on preserving an insular way of life and promoting the superiority of Chinese language and culture.

This view could not be further from the truth.

First of all, consider the fact that national-type primary schools follow a common syllabus used by all national schools, the only difference being the medium of instruction.

Chinese primary schools, or SRJK(C)s, also teach Bahasa Malaysia as a compulsory subject.

In other words, there is no question about the integration of Chinese school students with the rest of society, as they are bound by the national language.

What is important for Chinese parents, however, is the standard of the schools that their children attend, as education is highly regarded by the community.

This is, therefore, the critical reason why the community wants to see the problems of their schools resolved.

Rita Sim

Chinese schools have long been perceived as providing quality education because they emphasise strict discipline and academic excellence.

These virtues are becoming increasingly important not just to the Chinese, but to parents of other races in Malaysia as well.

The statistics are telling: out of a total 300,000 students in SRJK(C)s, 20 per cent or 60,000 are non-Chinese.

This reflects an increasing acceptance of Chinese school education by all Malaysians, and a recognition that Chinese schools have outgrown their communal role and become leaders in education.

In fact, Chinese schools have never practised a closed-door policy and have always accepted students of all races -- another indication that education, rather than racial segregation, is prioritised in these schools.

One of the reasons that parents from all races increasingly prefer Chinese schooling for their children is the unique advantage of learning Mandarin, which is becoming a global commercial language.

Malaysia's economy already benefits from our close relationship with China.

Last month, China's ambassador to Malaysia, Chai Xi, said that the total trade volume between Malaysia and China was expected to reach US$100 billion (RM300 billion) this year.

This means that the opportunities are booming in China, and Malaysians who have a strong command of Mandarin and English will have an edge over the others.

Growing interest in Chinese schools also shines a light on the strengths of the Chinese education system and the values nurtured in the students.

With committed teachers and a strong focus on academic achievements, Chinese schools consistently produce many top students in the country.

Homework and revision are emphasised, teaching the students to work hard, be disciplined and manage their time well.

Many parents have also expressed satisfaction with the schools’ holistic approach towards education as a way of building character.

The teachers’ interaction with students, the way that they teach and the schools’ social environment instills values like respect for elders, filial piety and courtesy.

Despite the strengths of Chinese schools, however, the system is not without its challenges, which I have written about previously.

Some Chinese-educated primary students find it tremendously difficult to master Bahasa Malaysia when they move on to national secondary schools, resulting in one out of four students dropping out at the age of 16.

Recent events have also highlighted other problems faced by Chinese schools, such as the lack of trained teachers conversant in Mandarin, poor infrastructure and lack of funding.

Although these issues are largely being championed by Chinese educationist groups such as Dong Zong and Ziao Jong, as well as members of the Chinese community, there are also the silent voices of other races whose children will benefit when these problems are resolved.

These diverse voices are a reminder to the government that Chinese-type schools serve all Malaysians, and that addressing their issues will maintain the integrity of Chinese schools as a provider of quality education for all.

By Rita Sim | rita.sim@cense.my

Source: New Straits Times Columnist Wednesday April 4, 2012 

We should laud Chinese schools' achievements

I REFER to Rita Sim's comment piece "Chinese vernacular schools have open door policy" (NST, April 4).

It has cleared a lot of misunderstanding and doubt about the role and value of Chinese education in this country, especially to the non-Chinese community.

The Chinese education system has existed for more than 200 years in this country and it has played a tremendous role in nation-building, producing many talented leaders in many ields -- education, business, politics, sport, journalism, entertainment and more.

Today, many of these Chinese school "products" are doing well overseas.

Chinese education has always been underrated and misunderstood and it is time for the government to play a more proactive role in helping these schools, many of which are in a poor condition and lacking in Mandarin teachers.

Many non-Chinese parents send their children to Chinese schools as they realise the importance and value of Mandarin in a globalised world.

It is also encouraging to note that many English-educated Chinese Malaysians are also sending their children to Chinese schools, as they, too, want their children to master their mother tongue.

It is good that the Constitution guarantees all citizens the right to be educated in their mother tongue. This is our greatest blessing.

By David Tih, Malacca

Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors Wednesday, April 18, 2012 

What's missing from schools today

IT is interesting to read Rita Sim's comment "Chinese vernacular schools have open door policy" (NST, April 5).

She attempts to clarify the importance of Chinese vernacular schools in our education system by claiming that these schools have long been perceived as providing quality education because they emphasise discipline and academic excellence.

This perception of excellence in Chinese vernacular education is viewed against the national school education, which by inference does not meet the standard of education required by the Chinese community.


Chinese schools are popular even among the non-Chinese because of

their perceived emphasis on discipline and academic excellence.

Thus, they have no choice but to send their children to Chinese schools.

Sim's assumption that Malay-sians who have a strong command of Mandarin and English will have an edge over others negates the national policy of upholding the sanctity of the national language.

Her statement could be misconstrued that the national language is less viable as a language of commerce and academia.

She also admits that there are Chinese pupils, who after undergoing the primary vernacular education, have difficulty adapting to the national language in the secondary schools. This is the bane of vernacular education that provides minimal exposure to the national language, besides creating an insular attitude.

What needs to be done is to develop a cohesive educational system that promotes academic and creative excellence using a medium of instruction that promotes national unity and international recognition.

To this effect, the powers that be should not be in a perpetual state of denial with regards to the state of our education system.

A vibrant educational system is one that fosters an understanding of the facts and figures that correlate to the natural and man-made phenomena; provides an arena for exploration and experimentation that involves the factual and the abstract, as well as developing critical and creative faculties.

More importantly, it should create an inquisitive mind that does not take anything and everything for granted.

For such an education system to flourish, there must be freedom of thought, expression and psychological safety. In other words, there has to be a conducive environment for the exchange and challenge of ideas without fear or prejudice.

By Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang

Source: New Straits Times Letters to the Editors Wednesday, 18 April 2012