Monday, March 13, 2006

School Places... Going, Going, Gone!

"A Chinese primary school is offering places to the highest bidders, starting with a minimum donation of RM300." That was the first sentence of a report by New Straits Times last week.

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.

"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.
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.

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.


Anonymous said...

Such issues wouldnt really appear if Chinese schools were alloted more funds for developments frankly.

Anonymous said...

Ten years ago the approach was more subtle, Chinese Schools will ask for donation ( apparently for School projects )from parents of potential students before registration.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, this is really a sad case. I am certain the education ministry will take this opportunity to do something to Chinese schools. I wouldnt way what because no way i could have known. After all i am not one of those "not my business" people carrying "Datuk" title.

Anonymous said...

I may not agree with the methods of which the "donations" are requested in this case. It should have been done more professionally and I agree with writer in many of the points he has written.

But does anyone here really understand what the Chinese schools have to go through to get funding?

All vernicular primary schools in Malaysia are national type or what they call "jenis kebangsaan" in Malay. There essentially 2 types of vernucular schools namely:
"Bantuan Penuh" - Fully subsidized
"Separa Batuan" - Partial subsidzised.

Fully subsidized vernicular schools in Malaysia are rare and few. Most are "Separa Bantuan" meaning the school buildings and infras are privately owned and administered by a Board of Directors.

While fully subsidised schools enjoys yearly budgets and special "donations" from the authorities, the Chinese schools are left to their own devices to source for their own fundings when expenssions are inevitable.

There are reasons why schools sometimes go overboard when solicitating for donations and funds for these purpose Most of it are more situational then choice(personnally, I am not condoning it).

Reason is, there are certain "conditions" if they want to be a fully subsidzed school. Meaning a lot of controls has to be given-up and the MOE taking over the whole administration affairs of the school.

Many vernicular schools in Johor resisted this move after seeing what happened in the vercular schools in others states esspecially those in KL and Selangor. Most of the schools there lost most if not all control of school affairs and worst still their cultures, traditions and identity(Tony should know, he's from BP Johor. Just look at SJK (C)Chen Siu 10 years ago and compare it to SJK Pesta then).

Where I heading to with this?

I support what the vernicular schools in Johor are doing to preserve the cultures of the Chinese primary schools. And trust me, this is not just dollars and cents issue.

My only concern is that with so much bad publicity and issues on the Chinese schools, and if we are not carefull enough, we might just loose more then we could possiblely imagine.

Anonymous said...

SRJK(C) is the single biggest dissapointment of the Badawi administration. I was there in Ipoh when he announced his full-support for SRJK(C) and a promise to move underutilized rural SRJK(C) to urban areas. Two and half year and nothing has been done at all while there are plenty of underutilized national schools all over the place.

I knew Badawi was not going to able to meet his promises like corruption, more efficient public service etc. but this one is unforgivable because its such a simple matter. Its being held up simply because of hegemonistic ideology.

Anonymous said...

for the 750 students registered for 600 places, sometimes you can't denied that some parents might not admit their children later due to various reasons. the seat will then be given to those on the waiting list.

meanwhile, if the school authorities doesn't allow parents to register after the 600 places are full, i believe they will make more noises.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Singaporean, and from my knowledge the practice of giving 'donations' is widely used here, not just in Chinese schools, but also in top schools such as the Raffles schools. In fact, it is not uncommon to see some parents donating into the thousands to secure a place in a good primary school. I believe that this practice will not god away and its a matter of choice. If parents what their children to enter the school of their choice, they have to 'pay the price'. I mean there are obviously other less reowned schools avaliable for admission if parents want to.

Anonymous said...

Read today's STAR in the METRO section >From South & East, page M19. Subject - "Donating to S'pore schools"

"Kita Serupa, kita serupa"
- Song lyrics by Headwind