Penang convent schools may return with ‘richer syllabus’, say sisters

Convent Light Street (above) and Convent Pulau Tikus will close in 2024, say their owners. (Facebook pic)

GEORGE TOWN: A French-Catholic mission, which had sought the return of its convent schools from the government, today said it is doing so due to a drop in enrolment and high building repair costs in one of its near two-century-old schools.

This was revealed in an emailed statement to FMT by Sisters of the Holy Infant Jesus (SIJ) Lady Superior Mary Theresa Chua.

The SIJ owns the primary and secondary national-type schools at Convent Light Street (CLS) and the secondary national-type school at Convent Pulau Tikus (CPT).

The CLS is the first convent school in Malaysia established in 1852 and the oldest in Southeast Asia.

Convent Pulau Tikus 1.

The schools were recently in the news over their impending closure and fuelled talk over a likely sale of the land, located in a prime location.

Chua again repeated that the schools were not up for sale or there were plans to redevelop the sites.

However, she indicated a return of the schools with a “richer syllabus” and going back to their original cause.

“In the last decade, the continuous drop in enrolment of students has been a matter of concern and has been monitored closely.

“The escalating cost to maintain the over one-and-a-half-century school buildings of CLS is another major worry.

“The SIJ had asked for their school premises at CLS and CPT, which were taken over by the education ministry in 1972 and used as government-aided schools, to be returned to us,” she said.

Chua said the ministry had since approved their request. She said the schools will be returned to the SIJ after the last batch of students completes the academic year at CPT in 2023 and CLS primary in 2024.

The schools follow the national syllabus and are managed by the education ministry, which only supplies the teaching and administrative staff.

“The SIJ intends to embark on a transformation effort to continue and preserve the tradition of learning that is dynamic, progressive and relevant, through the creation of a richer syllabus content.

“And yet, at the same time, we want to maintain the character and ethos of convent schools.

“We are firm believers in education and will continue to advocate wholesome education in mission schools.”

Convent Light Street Convent was founded 167 years ago by the SIJ. The Pulau Tikus Convent opened in 1922.