WIth Chinese primary schools being so popular nowadays compounded by the fact that the increase in demand is not matched by new schools, it is certainly not surprising that the above is a common practice. Apparently, some even forked out RM500 to "get a better chance of securing places for their children". As reported, despite the "condition", the number of students registered still exceeded the available places by some 25%. And I'm fairly certain that this practice isn't taking place only in this school, SRJK (C) Foon Yew 5 in Taman Mount Austin in Johor Bahru.
Hundreds of parents who turned up at today to register their children for the 2008 intake cried foul when they learnt of the condition.While I wouldn't call it "daylight robbery" as one "Madam Lee" put it, the practice is certainly unethical for it certainly makes a mockery out of universal availability of education to all irrespective of wealth and place in society.
"What kind of system is this? This is a school, not an auction house," said one parent... Registration should be on a first-come-first-served basis, not by means of a donation." They got more upset on learning the RM300 merely bought the right to register, not guaranteeing a place.
And what did the schol administrators say? In the same article, the school's headmaster, Ms Wong Wei Choon admitted that the "school had to resort to this method because of the overwhelming number of families seeking places for their children". Furthermore, apparently the scheme was approved by the school's parent-teacher association (PTA). These donations rae mean to be used to build some 32 classrooms to ensure sufficient classrooms from next year on.
Interestingly, in typical Malaysian fashion, the day after the report was raised, the school board called for a press conference denying the entire affair. Was the principal "misquoted"?
SRJK (C) Foon Yew 5 board chairman Cheng Chean Chiang said... the donations were entirely voluntary with no parent being compelled to fork out the money. "It is absolutely not true that we had sold places in the school to the highest bidder... We merely asked for donations to build extra classrooms. But this is not compulsory. Neither did we set a RM300 minimum limit for contributions."Mr Cheng argued that registration was strictly on a first-come-first-served basis. In which case, I'd like to ask, why allow registration of 750 students which was 150 in excess of the 600 available places? Was the school going to put the 150 "extra" students on a wait-list? Or was the school just interested to collect extra non-refundable RM45,000 for the school funds?
Principal Wong then attempted to reason that "If there was bidding, as claimed by some parents, do you think hundreds of parents would throng the school to get a place for their children? Some even camped overnight to register first. Many waited in the queue for well over 10 hours. If there was bidding, nobody would do this." Oh, Principal Wong, you are being really sly here - I am certain that there are many who will still queue for a place in the school despite knowing that there is going to be a "donation" required of a place in the school. RM300 while not a trivial amount, is certainly not a serious enough financial obstacle to registration. After all, these parents are likely to spend much much more for their children's education in the future years (not to mention exhorbitant amounts on tuition fees!).
If the school is that transparent that registration is done on a first-come-first-served basis, then it should come clean with the acceptance of students criteria and process. Since 750 students have been registered with the 600 places be alloted based on a draw of lots, irrespective of the donation quantum? Will students who do not live in the vicinity of the school be "disqualified" based on the relevant guidelines? Will the school provide details on the amount of donations collected during the registration exercise - whether it exceeded RM225,000 which will indicate that all generous registrants have paid the "donation" of RM300?
If the donation exercise was indeed voluntary - why can't it wait till the students have been accepted but was instead carried out during the registration exercise?
The Johor state education director Jailani Rusni said there was no provision in the law allowing any school to solicit donations as a condition for registration. He requested that parents facing this problem should lodge a complaint with the state education department. The question is, will the Ministry of Education take any actions against these schools? Given the stance taken by the Minister of Education in the more critical (and criminal) issue of corrupted headmasters - whereby the vested interest parties in Chinese education sort it out amongst themselves - we are definitely unlikely to see the end of this practice. After all, a large part of the reason for the above practices is due the lack of approval and support by the Ministry to build new and more Chinese primary schools.