Chok Suat Ling wrote on the likely impact of the measures highlighted in the most recent Budget which provided for Mandarin and Tamil to be made compulsory subjects in selected national schools. The ministry also announced plans to establish 300 elite schools which will be given more autonomy to boost their standards.
Here's what we stated:
When asked if the Chinese will 'return' to the national schools if the standards improve:
For education commentator Tony Pua, many [note: 'many, not necessarily 'most'] parents who opt for Chinese schools are not swayed by the language factor but because the quality of education in national schools is perceived — rightly or wrongly — to have declined over the years.And Kian Ming says:
"Returning the schools to previous standards will naturally bring back the non-Malays," says Pua, an Oxford graduate who writes a popular blog on Malaysian education issues called educationmalaysia.blogspot.com.
Ong Kian Ming, a Fulbright scholar at Duke University in the United States, says the latest measures will work to attract parents at the "margins". "Those parents who are already set on their children learning Mandarin will definitely send their children to Chinese schools and these measures, at least in the short term, will not change their minds.On having more non-bumiputera teachers and administrators:
"But for parents at the margins — those more concerned about the quality of teachers, facilities, and proximity of the school to their home — minimal incentives such as a more attractive and flexible curriculum, better facilities and teachers, and a more elite status, can work to attract them."
Ong says when parents see administrators and teachers being predominantly of one race, it increases their insecurity.
"Having more non-Malay school heads, who are able to reach out and reassure non-Malay parents, would also help tremendously," he says. He reckons that it would be difficult to find more than 10 per cent of schools having non-Malay headmasters or deputy heads in a random check.Did the non-bumiputera parents 'abandon' the national schools, resulting in the increased Islamisation?
Ong disagrees. Non-Malay parents, he contends, did not "abandon" national schools.
"Parents are rational creatures and will not abandon national schools for no rhyme or reason. Why would they abandon national schools if they provide a good education environment?"And as Suat Ling rightly concludes:
The onus is on the government to change the perception that national schools are of inferior quality compared to Chinese schools, he says. Ong also notes that many measures or policies proposed by the government are not backed up by action or sustained for long.
"Parents know this. They will not send their children to national schools until they see the results or changes with their own eyes."
...one thing experts agree on is that the measures proposed will not bear fruit overnight. It took several decades for national schools to reach where they are now, and it could take just as long to turn the tide.And hence it is important for the Government to persist with its quality and unity policies and not send mixed signals to the community over an extended period of time. I've written quite extensively on this issue, and it has certainly stirred a great deal of debate, as well as raising many additional pertinent issues. I've written more than a year ago two posts with regards to where I would like to send my own daughter for her education.
The first outlined the criteria that should be used in order to decide whether I should send her to a national or Chinese school. And the second, I attempted to evaluate which type of school will be able to best deliver the criteria outlined in the first part. And then, there's a much overdue third, which I've yet to write, on where I'd send my little girl, largely due to the fact that I'm as yet, undecided. :)
Of course, there's plenty of post on the importance of national schools in harnessing national unity, some of the recent ones being on the role of the 2007 Budget as well as my own Merdeka wish. Happy reading! :)