Tuesday, July 12, 2005

National vs Chinese School (II)

Where should I send my daughter to school?

Part I of my blog post on the above topic dealt with the four key criteria used to decide which type of school (primary level) I will send Xin Ying, my daughter (now only 6.5 months old) to. They are:

  • Academic standards
  • Mother tongue education
  • English language competence, and
  • National integration

How would the national and Chinese schools fare against the above criteria? Note that the evaluation assumption is on a “generalised” basis. That means that it’s never going to be every Chinese school better than every national school (or vice versa) for any of the relevant criteria.


1. Academic standards

From the various feedbacks I’ve received, the Chinese schools appear to have an edge in the academic standards. They have always been stronger in Mathematics and Science, and this is recognised even by our government leaders. You will find more winners in Mathematics and Science competitions from the Chinese schools. Hence, strictly from an academic standards perspective, it will be best to send Xin Ying to a top Chinese school. Everyone in KL talks about sending their child to SRJK (C) Kuan Cheng along Jalan Syed Putra in Kuala Lumpur.


2. Mother tongue education

The best mother tongue education will obviously be achieved by enrolling Xin Ying into a Chinese school, whereby all subjects are taught in Chinese, with the exception of Mathematics and Science in English, and of course, Bahasa Malaysia. In the national schools, there is currently little or no teaching of mother tongue languages although there are now plans to introduce them as second languages for the next academic year.


3. English language competence

I have seen first hand, the quality of English language competence by some of the top graduates whose origins were Chinese primary schools. It is really a sad state of affairs. And this is an opinion from someone who didn’t manage to obtain an ‘A’ in English for his ‘O’ Levels (sigh). Unless the students happen to be from a English speaking background, the quality of English competence is just deplorable. I have hired many of these candidates as computer application developers (and they are good) but almost none of them can write a short paragraph in English without committing very simple grammatical errors. Their lack of competence in oral English is such that their main language of communications among themselves is Cantonese and Mandarin. This is also one of the main reasons why I cannot understand some of the Chinese educationists object so vehemently to conducting Mathematics and Science classes in English.

The students from the better national secondary schools tend to fare a tad better in their command of English language. This could be limited to several schools whose tradition of teaching in English is stronger. It could also be due to the fact that many parents whose main language is English send their children to these schools, hence enabling a more English oriented environment. With the exception of the above schools however, the standards of English language education is largely indifferent between the Chinese and national schools.

Hence, strictly from an English language competence perspective, I should be seeking out top national primary schools who are likely to have teachers competent in the language as well as English speaking parents who are more likely to enrol their children in these schools.


4. National Integration

Finally, where can I send Xin Ying to ensure that she will be culturally integrated to the racial and ethnic diversity of Malaysia?

Certainly not Chinese schools, I would say. After all, Chinese schools are only populated with 7% non-Chinese. However, at the same time, it appears that national schools are also losing their multicultural identity with non-bumiputeras accounting for only some 10% of the student population, much lower than the 42% representation of the total population.

I do not think there’s a clear cut answer as to which is the better school for the purposes of national integration. There is not much point sending her to a national type school and she ends up being discriminated against, due to the lack of interaction with the other races. However, I do know that the end result from sending her to a Chinese school isn't going to be favourable as well.

I employ and interview many graduates from Chinese schools and I'm not particularly proud of my experience. Here are some of the general observations (barring exceptions):

  • They speak little or no Malay language beyond possibly ordering food items from mamak stalls. Language unfortunately is one of the key factors to enhance and ensure integration amongst the various races in Malaysia. I'd definitely want Xin Ying to be part of this integration.

  • Many display racially biaised tendencies without even realising that they are racially biaised. I do not want my daughter to grow up possessing a racial superiority complex.

  • It is an unfortunate fact that the Malay and Chinese employees do not mix socially in my office, and I assume the same may be said of many offices. This is not so much because they do not like each other, but more to do with the fact that they are unable to communicate fluently and find common interest with each other. Part of the reason is the racial cliques which arises out of primary schools through to universities in Malaysia, not helped by Chinese vs national school dichotomisation. The blame lies to a larger extent with the Chinese employees as the Malays, being the minority in my office need to feel wanted.

  • Finally, I find that the lack of interaction and integration in schools have resulted in culturally insensitive behaviours, something I definitely do not want Xin Ying to pick up. For example, we may be conducting a project meeting with a "multiracial" crowd but you will still find some of the Chinese graduates to carry out part discussions with each other in Mandarin or Cantonese, which to me, is absolutely rude.

Hence, from the above, I'm thankful that I do not yet have to commit Xin Ying to a Chinese or national type school as at this moment in time. It'll probably be another four to five years, before I seriously need to worry about her primary school education. From the thoughts above on the various pros and cons of the school types, you should be able to tell that neither system fulfil more than 1 or 2 of my key criteria.

I'm also thankful that I'm beginning to see some positive changes, at least from a policy perspective on our education system which may make the decision-making process a less strenous one. Moves are being made to make the national schools more attractive again by improving standards and introducing mother tongue language education. The results of the various new policies should be more apparent in a few years' time. The next part of this blog post (Part III) will discuss in greater detail some of these policies, as well as other policy changes which needs to be carried out to ensure a better primary education system for the future of our children.

22 comments:

rational thinker said...

Coming from a family in which my dad sent half of my siblings to chinese schools and another half to national schools, i think i have quite a good grasp of what are the major differences between the two system. Analysing using the criteria you have laid out..

1) Academic Standards
Generally it can be said that chinese schools' students fare better in maths and science. However, this idea is not totally true as there are many outstanding national primary/secondary schools out there. For primary schools..i think academic standards shouldn't be the main yardstick as young kids should be exposed to other facets of being a student. My personal experience tells me that primary chinese school teachers tend to overly emphasized on academic performance. Such action could drastically affect a child's behaviour later on in life. Some examples of good national schools around klang valley: Victoria Institution, SMK Damansara Jaya, SMK ammunidin baki, BBGS (Sri bintang), smk assuntha etc. there are certainly a lot of good schools out there.

2) Mother tongue.
Indeed this would be an important criteria. generally, it would be good to have 6 yrs of chinese primary education and 5 yrs of national school education. IN this way, the child would benefit from knowing her/his mother tongue, while gaining from both system. As i mentioned earlier however, 6 yrs in a chinese education system could negatively affect the child's behaviour towards other races and other cultures. An alternative would be "praying hard for a nation-wide' secondary language compulsory course for all national school students.

3) English language competency
I guess national school would win this outright. I would actually consider both English and Malay language competencies. Chinese school students tend to converse in Mandarin in all circumstances. I am not sure whether they are not comfortable using other languages or they are too proud to switch to accomodate other ethnics.

4) National integration.
Again, proper national schools would certainly win this criteria outright. Most klang valley schools have a healthy racial proportion. Xin Ying, being a chinese would benefit more if she is to live and study in a non-chinese dominated environment. This would allow her to see things from other perspective, and truly integrating and interacting with ppl from other race groups.

Cheers.

Old Man said...

Here are my thoughts on Education for my child (This will reveal where I am coming from -:)):

1. I would like my son to be a master of at least one language. That one language will be English first.

2. He will receive Chinese tuition + join a Chinese extra-curricular activity club (optional). I would be satisfied, if he master Chinese at the conversational level and to be able to read Chinese Newspaper. I do not require him to go beyond the necessary. However, if he does it on his own accord, I would not discourage him. What is more important for me is he understands the culture of the language. I will guide him to learn this language and how it is linked to the culture. In other words, the study of the language is not devoid of how meaning has been constructed by the culture of learning and the learning of the culture. I want him to question how meaning has been constructed in the culture and not just deadpan rote learning. (The word culture here I am referring to Chinese culture that has developed historically in china, and also overseas Chinese culture, how we see others and how others see us.)

3. Whether my son lives in Malaysia, or any other country in the world, I will encourage him to mixed around with children from different ethnic and class backgrounds. It will not be limited to just Malay Children.

4. Just like learning the Chinese language, I feel that it is not necessary for him to know the Malay language beyond conversational level and to have the ability to read and understand Malay newspaper. If he desires to deepen his knowledge with this language, it is really up to him, though I feel that the time and resources he spent in this area could be spent in improving in other knowledge areas.

5. I hope the government of Malaysia will introduce the International Baccalaureate programme across various National Schools, preferably starting from primary level and all the way through. At the moment it seems that it is only reserve to selected Mara Colleges:

MARA College Banting
Mara College Seremban


The other schools in Malaysia that offer this type of programme are international schools in KL & Penang. Also there is one private school in KL that claims to offer the Diploma programme. As far as I know, Penang one is the only one that start the programme from pre-school level up. However, most Malaysians are not allowed to enrolled in programs in these international schools unless they qualify by having have lived overseas and now their child can only adjust to school life in international schools. Moreover, even if your child were to qualify, it is very expensive --- more expensive than Oxford university tuition to go to one of these international schools in Malaysia.

I would like to send my son to be educated in the International baccalaureate programme. The standard of the programme will be certified by the International baccalaureate organization in Switzerland. The IB cert is recognized worldwide and I believe is one of the best educational curriculums in the world.

Singapore has already embarked on “IB-fying” many of their schools. Now, you see my problem: – I would really like him to go through the IB programme from young, but I will miss him very much if he were to start IB programme at 3.5 years of age in another country where I am not) And do you know there is more IB programmes in Thailand (unfortunately mostly private schools) than Malaysia.

Due to time constrains here, I may come back another time to discuss the merit of this programme and reiterate my rationale. Whether or not I do, I think some can already guess why I am thinking along this path for my child.

6. Finally, I will quickly touch upon the issue of nation & integration. My son will learn from me just like I had learned from Benerdict Anderson, that:

"in an anthropological spirit, then, …the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community - - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.

"It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion. Renan referred to this imagining in his suavely back-handed way when he wrote that 'Or l’essence d'une nation est que tons les individus aient beaucoup de choses en commun, et aussi que tous aient oublié bien des choses.” With a certain ferocity Gellner makes a comparable point when he rules that 'Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist.' The drawback to this formulation, however, is that Gellner is so anxious to show that nationalism masquerades under false pretences that he assimilates 'invention' to 'fabrication' and 'falsity', rather than to 'imagining' and 'creation'. In this way he implies that 'true' communities exist which can be advantageously juxtaposed to nations. In fact, all communities larger than primordial villages of face-to-face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined. Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined. Javanese villagers have always known that they are connected to people they have never seen, but these ties were once imagined particularistically-as indefinitely stretchable nets of kinship and clientship. Until quite recently, the Javanese language had no word meaning the abstraction 'society.' We may today think of the French aristocracy of the ancien régime as a class; but surely it was imagined this way only very late. To the question 'Who is the ‘Comte de X?’ the normal answer would have been, not 'a member of the aristocracy,' but 'the lord of X, 'the uncle of the Baronne de Y,'or 'a client of the Duc de Z.'

"The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic boundaries, beyond which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind. The most messianic nationalists do not dream of a day when all the members of the human race will join their nation in the way that it was possible, in certain epochs, for, say, Christians to dream of a wholly Christian planet.

"It is imagined as sovereign because the concept was born in an age in which Enlightenment and Revolution were destorying the legitamcy of the divinely-ordained, hierarchical dynastic realm. Coming to maturity at a stage of human history when even the most devout adherents of any universal religion were inescapably confronted with the living pluralism of such religions, and the allomorphism between each faith's ontological claims and territorial stretch, nations dream of being free, and, if under God, directly so. The gage and emblem of this freedom is the sovereign state.

"Finally, it is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.

"These deaths bring us abruptly face to face with the central problem posed by nationalism: what makes the shrunken imaginings of recent history (scarcely more than two centuries) generate such colossal sacrifices? I believe that the beginnings of an answer lie in the cultural roots of nationalism." (Imagine Communities, B. Anderson)

Now, I will tell my son this story: During May 13, …it is said that if the Malays were to come and attack our area we will hide in our Malay neighbor’s house; and if the Chinese were to come, our Malay Neighbor will hide in our house. We had an unspoken understanding of what we will do for each other.


-- Old Man

Cypher said...

First off, I am national school-educated, from Standard 1 right through to Form 6. And damn proud of it.

Might I suggest that if you want your dauugther to be fluent in English and be better imbued with the Bangsa Malaysia spirit, you should send her to a good national primary school with a big English-speaking/professional parents base.

This schools, in my experience, tend to gravitate towards old Christian missionary schools such as Convent, Penang Free School, St Xavier's Institutions, Methodist Boys, English College, etc.

For instance, when I was in Penang, I was sent to SRK Stowell, in Bukit Mertajam. There are, of course, exceptions to this. When I was in Standard 5, I was then transferred to SK Sri Tebrau, in Taman Sentosa, Johor Bahru. I was very fortunate in that both of these schools have a very good mix of students from different races and religions. I felt that its these now rare schools that's on the right path towards true racial integration and national identity-building in Malaysia.

When I then attended secondary school in a very working-class Chinese suburb near my new home in JB, I personally saw the side-effects of being educated in a Chinese-school. These new classmates of mine generally have trouble conversing in any other language besides Mandarin. They also tend to be quite xenophobic, and hold appallingly bigoted views on people of different race or religion to them. Racial integration was almost non-existant in that school, contrasting greatly with my previous primary schools.

I also feel that those good nationaly type schools tend to be concentrated in urban areas, and in states such as Penang and KL, as evident from my secondary schooling experience in JB.

Anonymous said...

Have the best of both worlds. Do what Pak Lah's private secretary did. He went to a Chinese school in the mornings and a national school in the afternoon, for 6 years.

suyin said...

The pros and cons of both type of schools will be very clear to you by the time Xin Ying is ready for school. But don't forget one very important ingredient of your decision-making process: your active role as her parent :).

If you send her to a National school, be prepared to instill in her the love for the Chinese language and culture. Sending her for extra Chinese classes without cultivating a love for the language will only make it a chore to learn and a futile effort in the long run. The friends, families, and neighbours that form her local community/playground will teach her social integration should that be lacking in a Chinese school. You will need to actively ensure and encourage that.

Whatever notion a person has of racism, society and politics is mostly nurtured when they are young, and much of it is influenced by their parents' views and actions. Good schools have a vision of the students they want to produce. Good parents have a vision of the humans they want to bring up.

All the best, Tony!

Anonymous said...

I attended a chinese primary school for six years. After that, I switched to the national secondary schools.

On academic standards, generally most people says chinese schools are better, mainly because of mathematics and science. It is true that chinese schools teachers teaches mathematics and science well. The advantage of the chinese language in mathematics is the "Times Table", that is so easy to remember, and some short cut techniques used to manipulate numbers. Yes, the teachers taught that during my primary years eventhough it is not in the syllabus. And there is tremendously lots of homework!

On the other hand, the english language in the chinese primary had lower standards compared to the national schools. All my six years in my primary schools I did not fair well in my mandarin because I do not have the interest and find it so difficult to learn and remember. In fact, I did my english quite well, as my elder brothers are english speacking. Also, I went to english masses in my church. My bahasa malaysia was worse because chinese schools does not emphasize on bahasa malaysia. Seeing an "F" and the report card was very normal to me and my parents. And, I have a very caring brother, who used to give me valuable encouragement and advice.

I was lucky I grew up in a healthy environment. Although my studies in my primary flopped (except my english, mathematics and science), I did not live in a racist environment. I think healthy family and friends environment is the key to avoid racist thinking in our children. Eventhough I went to chinese schools, I played with my Indian neighbours. My best friends during my secondary years were a malay, an indian and a chinese. I used to hear racist comments like "... is stupid" but my parents had taught me to respect other races and their religion. You can even hear this in national schools, less though, these most probably a reflection of their parents or family members.

In my secondary, there is a better mix of races, I was arranged to sit with a malay, he became one of my best friend. My studies improved tremendously during my secondary years. It was my eldest brother, who had been so caring, that affect my views on education. In addition I have a lot of very competitive friends. Chinese educated person (mostly) will have difficulty learning up english and BM. The main reasons are they do not have an english speaking environment at home. I did not have this problem because I had the environment where I can pick up english daily.

Bahasa malaysia is very important to enter local universities. However, if your objective is Oxford or Cambridge, then this does not matter I believe.

If your child is intelligent, it will be a waste to send her to national schools. There are facts to this, scientific studies had showed that challenges stimulates the brain cells (neurons) to branch out that enables the neurons to communicate and integrate with each others well. And this is best done when the brain is young. The more branches the neuron has, the smarter the person is. However, if the neuron is not excited for a long time, the branch will ceased to operate, but new branches are born if he is still young. That's why singapore government encourages children to go to school even at the age of two.

There is one more thing you need to consider, which I think is very important. Your daughter's opinion. You should access her feelings and her interests. The thing is, if she is already good in english (if you converse in english with her daily), and you send her to chinese schools, she will have a hard time learn the language and will lag behind others, that will indirectly kill her confidence. I have a nephew whom his parents communicate with him in english daily, but sent him to chinese school. Now, he blames his parents for not sending him to national schools where he thinks he will have more interest to study.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Anoymous,

The Neuron bit make sense, but that should not be equated to why the Singapore Government sent children to school at 2 years of age.

-- Old Man

skye said...

My education went something like this:

age 4-7: England Primary school
Primary 2-6: Chinese school (chinese medium)
Secondary 1-3: SMJK (different from SMK as chinese is incorparated in the timetable, e.g. SMJK Katholik, PJ, but medium is Malay)
Secondary 4-5, College: Singapore

So my medium of instruction went from English-Chinese-Malay-English.

Do I want this for my kids? Well, my ideal plan is this:

Language at home: Chinese/English, with dialect instruction from parents
Kindergarten: preferably English
Primary: Chinese school
Secondary: National School, chinese lessons on side
College: IB (UWC?)/Overseas e.g. Australia UK or US/ASEAN, preference in order from highest-lowest.

I chose a Chinese Primary School because I feel that the Chinese language is a more difficult language to learn, since it has a tonal language and pictoral script. The best (and easiest way) for a child to be fluent in this language is to be immersed in it. Extra Chinese classes cannot provide this. Even if you speak Chinese at home, you won't pick up the script (unless someone teaches you), and even so, the Chinese language is such that you need to write and read constantly so you don't forget. Constant practice is vital.

English on the other hand is relatively less complex, employing a romanic script, with only 24 letters to remember. The pronunciation is easier to pick up too, albeit having some quirky ones like the -gh (enough vs high).

What I feel is that when you are a kid, you have an amazing ability to pick up languages very quickly. I only picked up Mandarin in Primary 2, having never encountered the language before. But I still managed to do fine. I believe that being in a Chinese primary school allows you to learn the basics of 3 languages + gives you a boost on the harder of the three. I'm not saying that English and Malay are easy languages and thus implying they're somehow inferior, but is it not a fact that learning a tonal language + pictoral script requires a lot more work than the other?

In national schools however, you are only exposed to 2 languages.

What I'm saying is that exposure is very important. Besides that, the basics of the Chinese language is best taught rigourously, and when young.

A minor point to support my choice of Chinese primary school is the TV programmes that are being shown. Do you see many good quality Mandarin (note: not Cantonese) shows on TV? Quality aside, think about quantity. Going back to my point about exposure, a child will be exposed to English (movies) and Malay (subtitles) on TV much more than Mandarin (be it movies/subtitles).

In short, I believe Chinese primary schools are a better choice for reasons of: 1) the difficulty of Chinese language and the best way to learn it 2) exposure (the more the merrier).

As for national integration, this can be remedied by being more active in the neighbourhood/extra classes etc. The friends you play with after school are usually those in your neighbourhood, no? True, the racial balance in Chinese primary schools isn't very encouraging, but the pros are more compelling than the cons, and the cons are remediable with a bit of effort.

On my point about exposure, I also think that the young mind should be challenged as much as possible, and what better challenge than that to be trilingual?

Anonymous said...

A bit about my background:
Elementary education : Chinese Medium
Secondary education : Malay medium
Tertiary education: English medium

Children studying in Chinese School (standard 6 and 3)
Children's command of English and ability to read in English: Satisfactory

Based on my experiences and observation, I like to share the following:

1. Academic Standard in Chinese School
(using only Chinese language as medium of instruction for non-language subjects (up to standard 6))
Chinese Language : very high
English Language : medium
Bahasa Malaysia : very high
Math : high
Science : very high

(using only English & Chinese language as medium of instruction for non-language subjects (up to standard 3))
Chinese Language : very high
English Language : medium
Bahasa Malaysia : very high
Math : low (lower due to implementation of English language for the subject)
Science : new - no comparison available

Some schools increase the syllabus 'illegally' for Math conducted in Chinese language

2. Mother tongue
At the mmoment the Chinese schools provide excellent environment(12 lessons in a week) for a person to learn Chinese Language. Note that learning Chinese language require a lot of reading and practising. Using Chinese for Math and Science giving the Children extra opportunity to learn Chinese and some technical terms in Chinese.
3. English compentency
The Education Ministry only allow 2 English lessons in a week. There is nothing much your child can learn if the school follow the government ruling strictly. Furthermore, the syllabus is poorly design. There are schools in Klang valley teaches English after the normal school hours.
Note that before 2003, English syllabus is only introduced from Standard 3 onwards.

If you sent your child to Chinese school, this should not be a concern, I believe she can easily pick up from communication and more reading.

4. National Integration
You should conduct interviews with those who went to Chinese School, how often the school teaches them about racist issues apart from the different culture and festivals?
From what I experienced, we are taught to be understanding, patient,and polite with another person.
At Primary school level. the disintegration contributed by Chinese school is probably less than 5 %(if any due to 'bad apples'). Racist comment are probably 65% influenced by parents and 30% by neighbourhood.

Overall comment:
5 years later
1. There is not much of standard to talk about if Math and Science for Chinese school is conducted in English 5 years from now. Not for Chinese language, not for Math and Science.
2. Your child probably can't learn good Chinese from Chinese school too!
3. English language - I do not think it is an issue at all whichever school your child is going to. (in my formal department - the one who writes and speaks better English are those from Chinese school not those from Malay medium school)
4. National Integration - for Chinese school children, this is not directly relevant. However, it may affect communication in Malay and English for those who are poor in studies.
If national school is an effective way to national integration, then you should already see a different Malaysia, where the majority would happily accept the minority not the minority tolerate the majority.

It is simply too early to talk about which school to go as we don't even know what is going to happen to Chinese school next year.

If there is no drastic change in Chinese School's subjects next year and year 2008, then my suggestion is that you enrol your child to Chinese School only for value and mother tongue.

Anonymous said...

Some hypotheses or subjective observations to consider:

1. This blog and its commentaries are written by people mostly from a SK/English background and bias. So whichever side you are on, you need to take the balance of arguments here with a big grain of salt.

2. Why do so many of the English-educated marry a Chinese-educated? There is surely a cost to the relationship, ie communication effectiveness must be discounted compared to the relationship where both spouses are from the same educational background? Is there a case of "the opposite attract" or a subconscious effort to make up for lost culture or language advantages? That is, the social advantage gained is greater than the communication disadvantage lost?

3. Chinese-educated parents tend to have little hesitation sending daughters to SK or English-medium environment. But there is a greater hesitation to do the same, or a greater chance that they send their SONS to Chinese-medium schools. Is there a case of "the male carrying on the family culture?"

Many are going to jump at these perhaps not-so-polite and not so politically-correct "observations." So the humble question is: Are these observations even valid?

malayputra said...

I just want to point a few thing which may miss by some friend upstairs.

1) National Integration will not achieve through the education (whether in national school or not )if our society are full of discrimination on race and religion.

example when a non-malay buy a house have to pay 5% more than his malay neighbour, even his is not richer that his malay neighbour, what he will think and feel?

2) The racist problem is not because we have chinese primary school but it is because we have racial party like UMNO, MCA.
Chinese against Malay or Malay against Chinese is the tactic using by this racist political party to gain their support. Please be careful about it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing up this subject. After reading all the comments so far I think I know what to do now. I was having a tough time deciding what is right or wrong. Chinese school or not?

Previously, I was against chinese school because I feel that all malaysians should attend malaysian school. So, I sent my son a malaysian school in Selangor near my house to avoid KL traffic jams. But alas, after a year (STD 1) the only benefit was that we avoided traffic jams alright. Other than that, everything was bad. He was the only chinese in his class. He had no friends. He can't read or speak in BM. I thought that for the 1st year I shall leave to the school to teach him BM. I would teach him BI and Mandarin at home. When I went to see his class teacher about it. She told me honestly that she had tried but doesn't know how to teach my son BM. Imagine a teacher saying that she doesn't know how to teach. Also cannot speak english.

The Headmaster better still. Keep on saying that we chinese always spoil our sons. What has that got to do with this???


Avoid SELANGOR (rural area) 'Kebangsaan' schools. Now I know why my neighbours say, "You send your son to 'malay' school ah?"

khris said...

Here's just my few cents, from someone who is still schooling. That is, i'm now in junior college and will be taking my A-levels next year, having been on asean scholarship from sec 1 until now. Prior to that, I was sent to a kebangsaan[national] school by my parents, and I think it was a wise decision.

Having had friends from both kebangsaan and chinese schools, there is a marked difference, especially when it comes to languages and mathematics.

We from kebangsaan schools tend to receive a stronger foundation in Malay and English.
However, a Chinese school's student tends to have a stronger foundation in Maths. Both "effects" last throughout our numerous national/international examinations.

And yes, kebangsaan schools' non-bumis tend to be better able to blend in and mix around with those of other races. Why? Usually, if you're a non-bumi, you have to try hard to learn of other races' cultures in order to be accepted. That is to say, you learn from an early age how to compromise and walk with an open mind. The non-bumis that cannot do so are sometimes ostracised, unfortunately, and for a young kid, it may be tough initially.

About learning chinese mandarin, there's always tuition, or secondary school. But, I reckon it's hard to learn Chinese if you can't speak it daily, unless your family does so.

That said, the above's merely generalisations.
If it was true for every kid, then education in Malaysia needs an overhaul. I think it really needs one, but that's another topic altogether.

alexgirl said...

It really makes me sad seeing how people react towards Chinese schools. Tuition? Don't be silly, you can not learn it unless you're brought up with it. Maybe a few simple words, but not quite sufficient enough.Chinese is such a beautiful language; quite misunderstood, really.

I am very proud to announce that I'm from a Chinese School my English control is not that bad, is it? I may sound perasan but I got both A's in Bahasa and English 1119 in SPM. I'm now working as a translator in Germany and I earn a fairly good sum per month, enough to fund my own studies and living costs. All thanks to Chinese.

And who is the one that says students in Kebangsaan would be better in English as well as Bahasa? I have many friends (I don't have siblings, but lots and lots of friends) who were in Kebangsaan, and none of them proves to be any better in English than my "Chinese-School-Counterparts".

Perhaps my school, SJK Ave Maria Convent, Ipoh is different, but we've won many English-and-Bahasa-involved compettitions and excelled in them. I personally was in Choir and we were the National Champions of 2001. Well, this was when I was still in school, later years, I regret to say, we only got 2nd or 3rds, but always in the league. Our Debate team really impressed me, they were really fabulous, far beating any other convent schools or Kebangsaan. So that proves that I'm not the only one.

Studying a language is one thing, learning to appreciate and to treasure it is something else. I do not know how to let people know the importance of Chinese. Especially now when China is raising up, knowledge of Chinese is vital. Even in Germany, many people struggle just to learn a little of Chinese, taking years and years but to no avail just because Chinese is not something you can learn just like that; it takes a much longer time. It's really silly not to identify the importance of Chinese now.

Being good in English is something simple, just train your child to watch English movies and read English books, while sending them to Chinese schools. That's what my parents did and I'm thankful that they did. Your child can read the spelling in English when the grasp the basics, but they can never learn Chinese that way.

I'm angered as well is saddened to know that noone really appreciates the chance to study Chinese. It's a previledge only available to Malaysian students. Many a student would rather choose not to study Chinese because it's hard, most of them think it's practically useless. Mark my words, when you go overseas, you'll find out that you'll be looked down when you don't speak your own tongue. Don't take me as racist, I'm not. Let me ask you something, would you call yourself bumi if you're not born one? If you do, you're naive, because others don't. You'll always be "Chinese" or "Indian" or from other ethnic groups. It's written in our papers, and we also get no "special rights". We do actually, and that's being what we are, and we should always remember that.

As a Chinese, I'm proud to be able to read and write Chinese, have lots of friends of many different ethnicity and countries, sharing our cultures, loving who we are, and learning to accept those who are different than us.

Only in being who you are, can you accept others as who they are.

Anonymous said...

I read the above topic with great interest as I am currently in the same quandary as the original poster. My daughter is currently five and in another year's time, I will have to make the dreaded decision on which school she should attend.

I myself attended a missionary SK school in Kuala Lumpur from the age of 7 until I was 17. I then took A-levels and thereafter took up law at the International Islamic University of Malaysia. By the way, I am chinese. I have practised law for the last 6 years and am planning to start my own firm in a year's time.

In my practice, I deal with all races including people of foreign descent. In my humble opinion and as a professional, English is the most important language. Although chinese is important in terms of negotiating business deals, conversational mandarin is sufficient. In fact, I use the Cantonese dialect more than Mandarin. I can safely say that unless one intends to be in an area of employment where your sole business is dealing with chinese who can speak mandarin (maybe a coffee shop in the heart of Kepong, for example), there is not much use of Mandarin in the professional business world. A high degree of proficiency in written mandarin is not practiced much, if at all. In fact all chinese professionals in the China are making English a priority. Why should day, if mandarin is the best language to learn, they should stick to it and let other people learn it if they want to do business with the chinese.


My point is? Although learning one's cultural identity is important, the deletrious effect of racial segregation caused by SRJK schools should be discouraged. I see more and more youths forming cliques based purely on racial lines. Just look in your office. How many malays and chinese go for lunch together? Look around when you are sitting at the mamak stall. How many tables do you see consist of differing races? Back in my school days I would say about 70%. Now? Almost 90% per cent of mamak tables consist of patrons of the same race. Yes, preserve your cultural identity but at the cost of national unity?

Yeah, yeah, quota system. So what? Is that something new? Is this quota system something that was just adopted yesterday? Do away with the quota system then we have national unity, you say. Is that really true. Case in point, Indonesia! Why are the Indonesian chinese arriving here in droves? Why not stay in Indonesia where there is no quota system?
At the rate we are going, 13 May will be just a stroll in the park compared with what will happen in the future.

As for my daughter? She is learning mandarin and cantonese from the babysitter, English and Korean from me and Bahasa from her father. As for school, I chose the best school that will help her integrate into our society; i.e.; a plural society fast becoming a globalised society...a SRK school in a neighbourhood where many professionals live.

alexgirl said...

I can't believe it! Does it now come to an "extinction" of the chinese language?
Yes! You would fare better in the "world" in general with English. Yes, learning english is vital; and Yes! intercultural intergration is important.
Is it true that chinese school students only mix with chinese? That's not true!
I would say who you hang out with and who your friends are depends on what your parent instill in you. So if you want your children to mix around with kids of other cultures, encourage them, set them an example, have some intercultural experiences WITH them. There're a lot of parent that blame the school for making all these intercultural clashes and "racism". What they do not see is their own actions. Let me ask you, how many close friends of different ethnic groups do you have? Do you yourself speak english, chinese and malay fluently? Practice what you preach and your children would follow in your footsteps.
Chinese is a beautiful language, as I said earlier, the literature can compare to Goethe, Schiller, Shakespear... Most people loose that out because they do not have a sufficient level of chinese. Chinese literature is not that well celebrated worldwide because NOT EVERYONE HAS THE CHANCE TO LEARN IT. Speaking itself is not enough! Learning to love and to appreciate it is what makes it beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Speaking from personal experience, I attended a Chinese ed school since std 1 not without any background of the Chinese language. In the end, it all comes down to your parents and the environment you live in. My parents coninuted to speak English to me at home, therefore I was able to converse in both mandarin(in school) and English(at home) daily. Speaking in English has never been a problem for me.

YL said...

At the end of the day, it very much depends on the quality of the school you attend. There are good and not so good apples in both camps.

Another interesting point brought up. Why are we wasting time worrying about national integration via schools when your (hopefully) smarter kid will one day turn around and ask you, "Hey, why are Chinese being treated differently?" Am I expected to lie through my teeth and make up a fanciful story about why Mr. X can have this but Mr. Y can't just because he isn't bumi?

I think integration and appreciation of different cultures can only be taught at home, not at school.

As for why the different races segregate at the workplace, let's face it, our culture and religious beliefs make it extremely difficult for everyone to get along all the time. Sure, I enjoy halal food and I don't mind eating halal food everyday but please recognise the fact that sometimes, we eat non-halal food.

The original poster wants his daughter to be a true Malaysian but the bigger question is, do the very same people who he wants his daughter to get along with, want to get along with his daughter in the very first place?

Think about that.

Anonymous said...

i think some people forget that there is a great need for a national identity and culture. saying that, it is deeply saddening to know that there are people who think the mastery of Malay as national language or their mother tongues are unnecessary. i find it disturbing that some believe English should be given a top priority.

I beg to differ. i think everyone should have malay, english and chinese/tamil as their main languages. being only bilingual, i think the malays have to learn another vernacular language. this multilingual ability is what makes us malaysian. we should NEVER view language as merely tools for business opportunities and career prospects alone. this view is shallow and a step backward towards integration.

i dont think i want Malaysia to end up like singapore (they speak a creole of english, not real english and they are moving away from multilingualism) or indonesia (they speak indonesian n nothing else). im proud of the multilingual heritage that we have and retaining this heritage is what will solve a lot of our current problems.

Anonymous said...

I know this is on Chinese-medium vs Malay-medium schools, but I'd like to point out that the national school system as it currently stands has more options for Malay and Chinese parents than for Indian or indigenous people. What's the standards of the Tamil primary schools? And there certainly aren't schools which cater for Orang Asli and other indigenous languages, are there? How do they preserve their language?

Annabelle said...

My education background
Primary School- Chinese medium
Secondary School- Malay medium
College/Uni- English medium

My parents allowed me to pick the school that i wanted to attend and i naively picked "chinese" school because i think i am a chinese at the age of 6 :) And today, I feel that my english is not competent enough as it supposed to be. sometimes i would think that what will happen if i actually picked malay school instead? better english= better job opportunities?

I was studying in SMK Seafield located in Subang Jaya, which most of the kids converse in English among themselves due to their family background. And regret to say that the school actually grouped kids from chinese school into a same class (form 1 to form 3) to ease the teaching timetable because the school also offers chinese language twice a week. therefore we also mixed with chinese school kids, and converse in mandarin/cantonese. so i had no chance to converse in english even in a malay medium secondary school.I tend to be more comfortable to mix with chinese school kids even though majority of the kids in our school are bananas. there are lack of malay students over there.

moving on to my college and uni studies, my dad sent me to Taylor's and everything was in english. seriously i struggled quite a while because my english is far cry from satisfactory. gradually i did catch up a bit and my dad sent me to australia for 2 years. the nightmare began when i noticed the locals didnt understand me at all due to the fact that i speak manglish. that was the worst time of my life and i have a low self-esteem and wanted to come back to malaysia (my comfort zone). being in overseas, majority of the students are from china too, studying accounting in order to migrate there. again, i speak to them in mandarin T_T perhaps dad should send me to somewhere that has lesser international student :(

i found it quite hard to learn a language after the age of 13. i am stronger in maths instead of languages. i manage to get A1 in BM after continuos efforts to memorise the karangan etc...and only got A2 in english. my bf emphasizes that our kids should be located to chinese school because firstly china is picking up and mandarin would be important ( i doubted that how many years later will this happen?), secondly he supports our mother touge.

my frens who are from english speaking family but studied in chinese school are doing very good in both languages.

Anonymous said...

''I hope the government of Malaysia will introduce the International Baccalaureate programme across various National Schools, preferably starting from primary level and all the way through. At the moment it seems that it is only reserve to selected Mara Colleges:

MARA College Banting
Mara College Seremban

by Old Man''


I did my IB in MARA college banting back in 2002-2004. And I must say that the programme was catered for those going to pursue their degrees overseas, ie: for those who just finised with their SPM. And the students were about 300 of them including malays, chinese, indians etc. Most of us are sponsored studets (MARA, JPA, Petronas)and one self sponsored (a girl who was just transferred from Dubai). So just to get it clear, IB wasn't only for the malays in MARA college. It was for anyone who got the offer to be in the programme.

And IB syllabus was easier than A level..such as Mathematics and chemistry.