Tuesday, January 17, 2006

All Schools Are Not Created Equal

According to the Director-General of Ministry of Education, Datuk Ahmad Sipon, there is absolutely no difference between attending a neighbourhood school as opposed to schools in urban centres. Hence, parents should not attempt to register "children only in schools with a good reputation results in overcrowding at these schools and could adversely affect the learning environment".

It is in fact better for the parents, as the key consideration should be that "you will not have to waste time sending your children to school." Other considerations are secondary.

What's more, "all schools had the same facilities and the ministry had worked to ensure they all had good teachers. Therefore, every school was a good school..."

Who is the Director-General trying to kid? Aizuddin Danian, unsurprisingly, described the above statements as "bullsh*t".
Have you seen the quality of some schools in elite areas such as Sri Hartamas, Bukit Damansara and Taman Tun Dr Ismail? They are freakin' amazing. My alma mater in Bukit Damansara has a state of the art running track, a meticulously cared for lawn, and an air-conditioned hall... Schools are not all the same. Datuk Ahmad is lying or terribly misinformed.
Let me give you a little bit of my personal experience. My kampung in Batu Pahat, along the Tanjong Labuh-Koris Road is some 15 kilometres from the town centre. There are at least 2 neighbourhood schools which are probably within a 5 kilometre radius from my home. My dad, who only completed 2-3 years of formal education, decided that the school that I should attend is the top national-type primary school in Batu Pahat right in the middle of town, Montfort Boys Primary School.

However, entry was not straightforward as the officials tend to allocate students to schools closer to home, especially when Montfort is extremely popular amongst parents. The only assured way of enrolling into Standard One, and be assigned to the top class at Montfort is if you are a graduate from the privately run kindergarten at Montfort which takes in only some 30+ students.

Hence, my dad tried to register me at the kindergarten before the registration period and got turned away. He tried to register me when the registration opened and got asked to return another day. And when he returned on the specified day, he was informed that registration was closed as all the seats were taken up. Knowing that the headmaster of the school has a tendency to register only children from well-to-do families or those whose parents are teachers, my dad got extremely upset with him. I can only assume that my dad, being twice Mr Malaysia and once Mr Asia in bodybuilding, managed to convince the headmaster that I should be given a place in the kindergarten :-)

And here I am today. To cut a long story short, if not for the fact that my dad managed to enrol me into the premier school in town, I definitely would not have received the Asean scholarship to study in the top school in Singapore, which then led to the opportunity to pursue my education at Oxford.

I was not the only one. My best friend in primary school was the son of a retired locksmith who lived in a squatter zone. He took exactly the same route (except he went to Singapore at a later stage) and ended up in the same college as me in the United Kingdom. He is now the Country Managing Director for Singapore's premier shipping company in Vietnam.

Unlike many who were born to educated parents, we had only our teachers in school to rely on in education as our parents were not able to assist us with my homework (etc. etc.) besides providing us with moral support. I"m not sure about this friend of mine, as he's definitely the smarter one, but had I been enrolled into my neighbourhood schools, I am dead certain that I'll not have achieved as much today. All schools are definitely not created equal.


Anonymous said...

It is true that all schools are not created equal. The irony is that some of the better schools do get over crowded, leaving their poorer cousins rather empty. Which has its plus points because pupils in these less equipped schools end up in sparsely populated classrooms and get better attention. teachers are more relaxed and are able to give more care to students. Even in little things like making sure the standard one kiddies are OK during recess. Which is why we chose to send our little oik to the poorer neighbourhood school rather than the overcrowded richer more glamorous one a little bit further away.

Anonymous said...

Its obvious the DG is severely disillusioned. My cousin in Kuala Selangor says that her teachers there dont even bother teaching in class, and spend everyday in the canteen. Good teachers? hahahahah right

If all schools have the same facilities, how is it that a report a while ago stated that about 300+ schools lacked basic facilities like running water, electricity.. etc..

My primary school currently has 2 computer labs and a 29' tv and projector in every classroom. How many schools in, say, the ulu places in Sabah / Sarawak have these?

If all schools are good schools, how come no Ministers, Sultans, nor senior officials in the government sends their children to these schools?

Epitome -
A certain deputy minister who lives in Kenny Hills sends his children to a school, albiet an international one, at Kiara.

A senior minister living in Damansara Heights sends his children to an all boys boarding school at Perth, Australia.

et al.

Why not send them to one near their house?

Anonymous said...

You know what, all schools can never be the same coz they are run by people. And right, everyone is different, how can every schools be the same?

To discourage people from over crowding a particular schools, why don't the government give more fun to the less popular schools, build better facilities, that will balance out the numbers, just by talking will have no use.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, spelling mistakes... I mean...

..give more fund to less popular schools..

Ching said...

Hmm..Maybe the Director-General was taking about basic facilities..

But then again, my secondary school in Sarawak was full of broken chairs and tables due to the prevalence of 'monkeys'. Sometimes you can big holes on the walls too..

Anonymous said...

The DG said... "Therefore, every school was a good school..."

Meaning, every school "was" a good school and now every school is not good school. My goodness.

Why not we ask the DG to enrol his children to any school instead of being selective?

NickTay said...

Though is true not all schools are created equal, I am sure your success in getting a scholarship and the events thereafer though helped along by the school, were not totally the direct concequence of it. I am sure you were a good student, smart and hardworking at least, in order to get through oxford. I know many people who are just as sucessfull as your two friends you mentioned but only went to a normal high school. Why did they make it? A combination of many things, including upbringing from parents. I know I want to see all schools to at least have the same basic standards, and I think we have reached some form of standard nation wide. I doubt any school will ever be equal to each other tough.

Ching said...

But then, we shouldn't just find flaws. Not all schools are equal but we can do out bits to help them.

People can 'adopt' a school.

Not just by donating money, furnitures but also contributing time and energy.

There is this school, Sekolah Rendah Pengkalan Jawa, which is situtated literally in the jungle. Teachers who got tranferred there would be excused to think their worst nightmare just come true and contemplate suicide (or at least change their job).

But back then (around 5-10 years ago, now I am out of touch), the school won 'Sekolah Contoh' year after year. Not sure whether state level or national level. I didn't care much that time. But who would have guess 'Sekolah Contoh' can be in the middle of a jungle? At that time, you need to use 4 xWheel drive and sampan to go there.

Their formula was simple. Pride in the school.

Every kampungs in that area contributed to the school.

The kampung people was by no means rich people. Some of their wealthiest possession was the kerbau behind their house (that's why if you accidentally kill one, they chase you with parang for kilometers).

Though poor, they contribute their time and energy to the school. So often that the school allocated sections to each kampung. Being enthusiastic villagers, they built replicas of their traditional houses there but that's another story. Gotong-royongs were very common and the school was very clean though basic. Flowers and facilities were well maintained.

When I visited the school, not a single rubbish could be spotted. I was not an important person that they secretly cleaned up the school beforehand, was only form 4 at that time.

The school was not super high tech. They used generators and had very limited clean water supply. But stepping into the school, it was a conducive place to study thanks to the villagers.

People can make a difference!

Always think what you can give, no what you can get.

Anonymous said...

I'm from Sabah and there is a certain secondary school situated near a small town...considered as a remote area where they are not even equiped with facilities such as science labs for Form 4 and form 5 classes...Top students from this school who wish to study science stream after form 3 would have to go other schools thats at least 30 minutes away from their residence and thats excluding traffic jams...Yes we do have traffic jams especially early school and office hours...more over...This school was heavily flooded last year due to heavy rainings continuosly for a few days..It was closed...And yet..this school..won the Sekolah Harapan Negara...The Most Promising School...I once visited this school and yes...They deserved it..You never see such disciplined students and the environment is so beautiful and neat that you would have thought they hired special gardeners for it...(that was before the flood)....So what if this school isn't top in academic...?? Unlike certain state's top schools who has a habit of asking for "Donation" from discipline problem students when they plead to not being expelled...Undeniable students are wrong but its not a small donation these parents are asked....A few hundred ringgit each time they're called...and assuming a problem student would have at least a few times a year....How much would parents need to chipped in order to keep[ they're biased child the so called top school?? and the root of it?? Guess beside the excellent job in maintaining the school's top reputation, the leader clearly has its other side as well..