Sunday 2 September 2012

Independent Chinese schools: can they grow?

Massive coverage of disputes between Chinese associations and politicians overshadowed other pertinent issues behind the recent Kuantan Chinese school fiasco.

What was missed out was the real focus - whether the population of students in independent Chinese secondary schools will be allowed to grow at a faster pace.

lim lian geok book launching 310710 booksUpon examination of the development of this matter the author maintains that the existence of these schools is a blessing to Malaysia.

Is this a political issue? Definitely, YES. It went way back to a meeting on November 8, 1952 between late Lim Lian Geok and late Donald McGillivary, the then Deputy High Commissioner to Malaya, where the earlier was told that then Chinese schools could not be accepted into the national education system.

1961 was the year when Chinese schools had to make the painful decision whether to be converted to Sekolah Menengah to receive government aid or to remain as independent Chinese schools to survive on their own.

January 1962 was the creation of the first class of Kuala Lumpur Chong Hwa independent Chinese secondary school of students in the afternoon.

NONEClasses of the converted Sekolah Menengah remained in the morning session. (NanYang 27/08/2012). Because these classes were "generously" allowed to squat on national school premises, their efforts to stay alive included having to look for new premises.

This onslaught caused Nan Hwa High School at Manjung, and others, too, to experience trials and difficulties left to one's imagination.

Rebuilding student populations from less than 20 and public trust, soliciting donations of private land as well as cash for the construction of classrooms and hostels, was not every headmaster's nor board of governors' dream.

Today, these schools equipped with air-conditioned classrooms, computer labs, well stocked reference libraries, swimming pools, hostels ... etc...turn away applicants by the thousands every year.

Sin Chew Daily (4/01/2010) reported that 2,635 applicants were turned away for 2010 admission into Junior One classes as a result of shortage of classrooms.

50 years of rejection 

After 50 years of rejection, what would be your recommendation to the government?

These are special private schools. They provided an alternative path for special students of good conduct from primary schools who passed the entrance examination, and can afford the fees.

They do not need to be supermen nor superwomen, but must be able to take strict discipline and heavy workloads.

segamat chinese independent school rally 090712 06The United Examination Certificate (UEC) examinations at both Junior and Senior levels determine whether they move on or would be retained to repeat a year of poor performance.

In line with government education policy, many of these schools coach their students to sit for SPM, not forgetting special English lessons, too.

This type of high demands of the students caused a Chinese columnist to ask the MCA president if he had any knowledge at all of students in these schools.

Therefore, a school which does not prepare the students for UEC examinations is not an independent Chinese secondary school (China Press 25/08/2012).

All the 60 schools, including 23 in East Malaysia, subscribe to the UEC examinations introduced in 1975.
Based on the excellent work done by Dong Zong, UEC-SML was awarded an "A" Level equivalent for direct entry to three bachelor degree courses by the University of Southern Queensland, Australia, and the University of Sheffield, UK, for Business, Commerce and Information Technology.

The process of evaluation was in no way easier than getting approval from MQA through submission of LAN-TC-docs, not forgetting the approvals by respective university senates.

In 2009, 10,396 students sat for junior level while 6,305 sat for the senior level (Dong Zong 2009 Annual Report).

Between 1975 and 2009 these private schools had produced 175,032 UEC holders. Dong Zong has records of them entering universities in over 100 countries.

Unfortunately, there is no record of how many of them returned to Malaysia upon graduation. If the government considers this a kind of talent flight, then certain policies need to be re-examined.

Applying David Thomson's theory where four percent of US companies creating 63 percent of the country's jobs in America, final year UEC students became targets for human capital recruitment of a neighboring country. Top students in these schools were approached with potential university scholarships and other lucrative offers.

Gift of nothingness 

Another analogous situation for applying the four percent theory is the development of Zhejiang in China.

The Chinese government's best gift to this mountainous district for development was nothingness.

When the government provided nothing in aid, the first entrepreneurial development in Zhejiang was recycling used matter and refreshing them into new items. One example was extracting tattered cotton from worn clothing for re-fabrication.

NONEToday, Zhejiang is the world's showcase of over a million entrepreneurs (The Economist March 11, 2011).

Independent Chinese secondary schools in Malaysia share a similar history. From attap huts, they went through abysmal darkness without government aid or guidance.
Through pure perseverance, these schools have proven its past values and developed future ones.

There is no doubt of their sustainability and adaptability to globalisation. Next year, 2013, two of these schools will be celebrating their 100 years anniversary to showcase their majestic campuses.

These schools have walked side-by-side with the nation's development. Since the pre-independence days McGillivary days, one report after another, new education policies were instituted and have come and gone.

From one generation of politicians to the next. After 50 years of procrastination and mega changes around the world our politicians still do not know what to do with them?

May I recommend Pemandu to change a new set of the consultants for the Educaton Ministry to revamp the entire ministry from top to bottom.

Dr Daphne Loke, author of ‘Political Sojourn', was the former Director of Graduate School of Business, SEGi Univeriti College.

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