The latest figures from the ministry of education indicate that the ratio of non-Chinese students enrolled in Chinese primary schools in the country increased during the last ten years while the ratio of Chinese students was down by 8%.
Such a trend can be attributed to the general decline in the fertility rate of the Chinese.
Based on the 2010 census, the fertility rate of Chinese fell the most, from 2.6% in 2000 to 1.5% in 2010. The number of Chinese students naturally drop with the decline in Chinese population.
The lifestyle of Chinese families in Malaysia has also changed over the years; so does the value of having a family.
Young Chinese Malaysians prefer to remain single or get married late. As their income is unable to catch up with the inflation, many are worried about the financial burden of setting up a family, or have opted to have a small family.
Some local Chinese organizations used to offer incentives to encourage the Chinese to have more children, but such incentives are met with cold response
The choice of having children is a personal matter and the trend now is having small families.
Private and international schools have mushroomed as the education sector opens up. Statistics show an increase in the number of Chinese parents financially able to send their children to private or international schools. This is one reason contributing to the drop in the enrollment of Chinese students at Chinese primary schools.
The reason for parents to opt for private schools or international schools could be blamed on frequent changes in the government’s education policy. Government schools invariably emphasize examinations, while in private schools, the emphasis is on small class learning, better English without neglecting Chinese and Malay languages, and a relatively freer learning environment.
Meanwhile, non-Chinese begin to be aware of the importance of mastering languages like Chinese. Many are also influenced by the emphasis of Chinese in education.
As Chinese schools are better run and teachers are more serious and dedicated in teaching which are important to shape the characters of the students, many non-Chinese parents have opted to sent their children to Chinese primary schools.
Non-Chinese, in particular Malay parents, opt for Chinese primary schools and such a move has helped mitigate the issue of racism and chauvinism in education. This also helps to curb the malicious sabotage and speculations stirred up by some irresponsible politicians.
Chinese primary schools are not an obstacle to national integration but is a bridge for communication and racial integration.
Like national primary schools, students in Chinese primary schools interact, respect, accommodate and love one another. All students are treated equally at schools and their cultures, religions and customs respected.
The presence of multiple streams is an advantage for this country, as schools of different streams compete with one another. The standard of education and quality can be improved in such healthy competition.
Parents can choose the types of schools for their children based on their respective needs and ideology in education. The government should keep multiple streams of schools in the country and be fair to all of them so that all Malaysians irrespective of race can enjoy the country’s education resources.
Under the national education framework, Chinese primary schools’ advantage lies with the autonomy of the parent-teacher associations and the school boards. As long as everyone shares the common objective and works together to upgrade the quality of education, Chinese primary schools will remain the choice for all Malaysians.
SIN CHEW DAILY