Why are national schools increasingly unpopular?

Dr-Teo-Kok-Seong-1PETALING JAYA: An academic has called for a study to find out why enrolment in government-sponsored vernacular schools has been dropping in recent years.

Teo Kok Seong, a professor at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said the situation was alarming. He told FMT it indicated that parents were not comfortable with the public school system.

“The government should do a study on this matter before more parents opt out of the system,” he said.

Teo was reacting to a report in Sin Chew Daily that said the number of students in Chinese schools had dropped by 41,172 in the last five years. The report also noted a drop in enrolment in Tamil schools as well as a reduction in the number of students taking SPM, STPM and matriculation courses.

Government-sponsored Chinese and Tamil schools are primary schools known as “national-type” schools.

Sin Chew Daily quoted Deputy Education Minister Chong Sin Woon as saying 525,170 students were currently enrolled in Chinese national-type schools, nearly 2,000 fewer than last year.

He said some parents preferred international schools and other private schools where English is the medium of instruction.

The number of international schools in the country has grown from 66 in 2010 to 126 this year.

Teo, who is the principal fellow at UKM’s Institute of Ethnic Studies, said he feared that if parents continued to shun national schools, the younger generation might be deprived of knowledge of local history and lessons on national integration, as provided for in the Malaysian Education Blueprint.

He noted that the blueprint was produced after a series of dialogues with stakeholders, including parents.

“It is in line with what was asked by the people,” he said. “The blueprint is good. But if parents are opting out of the system, it shows they are uncomfortable and don’t trust the system.”

He said the situation called for a re-look into the effectiveness of the blueprint’s implementation.

Parents interviewed by the press in the past gave various reasons for sending their children to public schools. Many complained of overcrowded classes in national schools and cited their discomfort with what they alleged was increasing Islamisation of public schools.

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