BY: Michelle Liew
Vernacular schools have often been the topic of discussion among Malaysians as the debate on its significance rages on.
Some are of the opinion that the difference in the curriculum may divide groups, whereas some believe that it is one of the mediums to assimilate cultures and that the knowledge of an extra language will be extremely helpful for job-seeking purposes in the future.
China’s continued growth and its emergence as a global economic superpower has catapulted Mandarin even further as a lingua franca.
Just recently, we wrote an article about how vernacular schools are starting to be more accepting of diverse groups, which is a step towards creating racial harmony.
A Chinese primary school in a rural town in north Perak shows us that ethnic identities is unimportant when in search of learning another language and to obtain a quality education.
SJK (C) Khai Chee, located 10km away from Kuala Kangsar is reported to have more Malay students compared to Chinese students.
With an enrolment of 42 pupils from Standard One to Six, the school reports that at least 27 of the pupils are Malay children from the surrounding villages, with three Indians and the rest Chinese.
According to a report by FMT, the number is a good estimate as the headmaster declined to comment on the exact figure. However, the village folks agree that Malay students have outnumbered students of other ethnicities at this school for the past 10 years.
Among the factors for parents sending their children to a Chinese primary school include the importance of learning cultures of other races and integration to create camaraderie between the various races in a multiracial, multireligious, multicultural and multilingual haven like Malaysia.
One parent expressed that the government should conduct a study on how Chinese primary education has benefitted the working lives of non-Chinese pupils.
“The government should also carry out a survey on how adults who went through Chinese primary schools are doing in their working life. The outcome will be interesting,” she said.
This is not the first Chinese school to report a majority of Malay students. It was previously reported that out of 55 students in Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina (SJKC) Sin Min, Lubok Cina, Melaka, only nine are Chinese while the majority are Malay.
For the 2019 school year, the school has 44 Malay and two Indian students. Of the 13 Year One students, 12 are Malay and one Chinese, a girl named Lee Mei Tze.
Parents who were asked to comment, pointed towards the children’s opportunity to master the Mandarin language as well as excel in mathematics.