Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Choice of School

He he, getting a bit of press time recently, all in the interest of the public good :). There's an article in the New Straits Times today with regards to the governments attempts to make the national schools more attractive for non-bumiputeras, in which both Kian Ming and myself were quoted extensively :).

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.

"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.
And Kian Ming says:
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.

"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."
On having more non-bumiputera teachers and administrators:
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?"

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."
And as Suat Ling rightly concludes:
...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! :)


Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with our National Schools, they were good...until those group of " monkeys" fine tuned and messed it up.

Anonymous said...

" It took several decades for national schools to reach where they are now, and it could take just as long to turn the tide..."

That is if there's political will to turn the tide. What we are seeing is further erosion of racial and religious integrity in the national schools.

I wouldn't be surprised, Tony, if you ultimately decide to send your little girl to a vernacular school and prime her for an Asean scholarship or a similar incentive program from Singapore to further her studies there.

Anonymous said...

1. Asinine quotes from the National PTA Council president, a Professor Mohd Ali Hassan: "The ministry should also launch a campaign to help rid of the misconception that national schools are being Islamised. ... For instance, while it is true that some textbooks are being Islamised, parents should be assured that it is not a move to convert non-Muslims."

I guess textbooks play such a minute role in education that Islamising them shouldn't alarm anyone.

2. From the same professor: "What should also be considered is transferring non-Malay students to schools which are predominantly Malay."

Schools in the US resorted to this tactic (called "busing", as in transport by bus) to bring white kids to schools in predominantly black neighborhoods, and vice versa, in order to comply with civil rights rulings from the US Supreme Court. Shows you the sorry state of the nation if Malaysian government has to do the same in the 21th century.

Anonymous said...

'National Parent-Teacher Association Council president Prof Mohd Ali Hassan says better wages and perks will encourage Chinese and Indians to join the teaching profession'

There, we, due on our race, are perceived as greedy pigs.

I second the first comment.

Anonymous said...

Political correctness has gone crazy on this issue where even the critics won't discuss the real issue.

Islamization, Chinese-language, bumiputra teaching/admin domination? All these are just skirting around the core issue of poor quality plain and simple and meritocracy the only way to begin.

Anonymous said...

Education of the public will be served best by private enterprises, with the government reallocating resource (via tax/voucher rebates) so that even less financially-endowed children can get a good education.

I am sure Tony, being an entrepreneur himself, would know the benefits and creative energies that private enterprises can provide -- something that government by their very nature cannot do.

A very good framework of "school choice" has been proposed by Nobel prize economist Milton Friedman, available at http://www.friedmanfoundation.org/

Anonymous said...

Is pope benedict going to join in the fray too?