The importance of building Chinese schools in Malaysia: Sin Chew Daily

Schoolchildren in Malaysia. PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

In its editorial on Jan 5, the paper calls for more government aid in building new Chinese primary schools to meet escalating demands

A new academic year has begun but the situation of Chinese primary schools in urban areas is very much the opposite of that in rural areas. Those schools in heavily populated urban areas are loud with pupils reading and frolicking, while the so-called micro schools in the rural areas may see only a couple of students face-to-face with a lone teacher. Worse still, some of the schools may even face the dilemma of having zero admission rate in 2017, and may have to close down or relocate as a result.

For so many years now, people who care about the survival of micro Chinese primary schools have been working so hard to keep the schools in operation for as long as possible. This is because they have come to the realisation that building a new Chinese primary school is almost next to impossible. While their determination and perseverance have served as a role model for the country's education, they also highlight the tragic destiny of Chinese education in this country.

From the Chinese community's standpoint, it is imperative that we keep any school in existence as much as we could, but from the perspectives of education policy, a school that has an acute problem of new admissions may just have to wind up eventually because if the school continues to operate, the education ministry will have to come out with the operating expenses which could be quite substantial.

Moreover, from the psychological point of view, a school that only has a lone student without any other schoolmates will not provide a healthy learning environment. Similarly, such a school will not provide a healthy working environment for the teacher as well. For the sake of Chinese education and the schools, we must not overlook the feelings of the students and teachers while doing our utmost to retain the existing infrastructure.

The education ministry will normally respect the will of the school board when it comes to the issue of a micro school. If the school board has decided to relocate the school, the ministry will normally offer the necessary assistance, and the relocated school will get a rebirth given the fact that some areas in the country indeed need additional school buildings to address the acute shortage problem.

It is generally easy to get approval for relocating a school, but even if the ministry provides the necessary assistance, it will still take time to acquire the land and construct the building, and the amount of money involved is significant. Deputy education minister Chong Sin Woon feels that Chinese primary schools must prepare themselves for any upcoming student availability problem, and should have the relocation plan beforehand while striving to get new students enrolled in their schools.

As a matter of fact, the school boards of these micro schools are well aware of this problem than anyone else.

The Chinese community has been hoping that the government will construct more Chinese primary schools at places where they are most needed, as the government is responsible for land acquisition and the construction cost.

Statistics show that at least 45 areas in the country need new Chinese schools to meet their escalating demands.

In addition, due to the government's off-balance economic planning, more and more rural residents are migrating to cities and towns for better job prospects. Unfortunately these high-demand urban areas do not see new schools due to the lack of planning to institutionalise the building of Chinese primary schools.

It is therefore hoped that the government will recognise the importance of Chinese education to the country through its actions.

Sin Chew Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 news media entities.

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