Sunday, December 02, 2007

Should Residential Schools be Opened?

Read about this in Education Malaysia blog . The original source of this article is at NST by Chok Suat Ling.

I would say that this article is definitely interesting. Kian Ming from EducationMalaysia was quoted quite a bit, as well as YB Wee Ka Siong from MCA.

Should residential schools be opened to everyone? Would this bring more benefit or harm to our socio-economy? Would this help to restructure our country? Would this mean that racial integration would be improved? Would this attract the students to attend?

In my opinion, this opening up of residential schools would need to take several steps. First thing is to really make the opening up of matriculation and MRSM being implemented properly, and be attractive to all students. As mentioned in the article in NST, the take-up by non-bumiputera students have dwindled. So, we should really do some analysis on what goes wrong and how to make it more attractive. When that happens and there is a much better representation of non-bumiputera in MRSM and matriculation, then there could be more efforts to open up for other residential schools.

I would say that this opening up would benefit our country elite students. The students would enjoy mingling with one another and learn from one another. This would break the problem of racial dis-integration. It might take years, before the main problem is solved, but the earlier we get down to such issues, the more chances we have to solve this problem.

We need to efforts of everyone to do so. It must not be half-hearted efforts from any party. Government needs to take the first step, but parents and students need to accept the policy with open arm. There should be more trust between one another. After all, this is on education and we are talking about all-round education.

The teachers at those various residential schools, MRSM and matriculation should be diverse as well. It would be great if the students could be taught by teachers from all races. That would by itself set an example for the students.

The efforts would be tough to do all this, but as our Education Minister said so, he would do whatever necessary, to bring our Education System to be top notch. So, if this method could work, why not?

Below is the full article from NST reproduced:-

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Opinion: Unity may reside in boarding schools
By : CHOK SUAT LING

Residential schools could play a valuable role in national integration if they were open to all Malaysians regardless of race, writes CHOK SUAT LING.
NURUL Nadia Mohd Izmir spent a large part of her growing years in Sekolah Seri Puteri, a prestigious all-girl residential school.

She recalls the close friendships forged with classmates with whom she not only studied but shared rooms, clothes, food, gossip and girl stuff. Nurul remains in touch with her classmates from SSP, as the school in Cyberjaya is popularly known, even though all have embarked on different pursuits. She herself is now pursuing her degree in Universiti Teknologi Mara.

Although her formative years were spent in a school with an all-Malay student population, Nurul's large network of friends is multiracial. "I have many good Chinese and Indian friends too and I am as close to them as my SSP-mates. To me, everyone is the same irrespective of racial, cultural or religious background."

Nurul gives the lie to the perception that those not exposed to other races at a young age are likely to negatively stereotype people they have never known as individuals. And while some government and private boarding schools are open to all ethnic groups, most are not.
Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah recently observed that the country would benefit from residential schools reflecting a more "complete" composition of Malaysian society. He noted that it was untenable for multicultural Malaysia to segregate schoolchildren according to ethnicity or religion. "The education policy and the implementation of its agendas must make the fostering of religious and racial ties a priority," he said.

Professor Dr Rosnani Hash-im of International Islamic University Malaysia's Institute of Education agrees that schools comprising one ethnic group are not conducive to national integration in the long run.

"For these schools, civics and citizenship education, even if offered in the curriculum, are just academic subjects for examination rather than a practical exercise in deliberation and seeking consensus as a community of Malaysians. There is no opportunity to hear the views of the 'other'."

Rosnani stresses, however, that even if there is going to be open admission for non-Malays, the raison d'etre of residential schools - to help those from the lower socio-economic strata - should continue to be applied.

She points out that private independent Chinese secondary schools would also benefit from having a more ethnically diverse student population, sensitising them to the cultures, traditions and concerns of all Malaysians. National-type Chinese primary schools, however, already have a relatively high non-Chinese enrolment. Of the more than 640,000 students enrolled, almost one-tenth are non-Chinese.

Ong Kian Ming, who runs the education weblog educationmalaysia.blogspot.com, notes that it is not only important that children in residential schools interact with those of other races, but also how they are educated there.

He thinks it unfair to group all residential schools under one general banner. "The Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK), for instance, although exclusively Malay, is also a place where students are taught to think critically and challenge themselves," he says.

"I have not met many MCKK students who are narrow-minded and cannot or do not want to interact with the other races. But then MCKK students come from middle- to upper-class Malay families in urban areas and go to top universities abroad, which provides them the opportunity to interact with other races."

Some argue that opening up residential schools to non-Malays would not work if the parents and students themselves are not interested. Mara junior science colleges (MRSM) set aside 10 per cent of places for non-Bumiputera students, but fewer than 100 non-Bumiputera students are enrolled in the more than 30 MRSM around the country.

"When the policy was introduced in 2002, the response was quite good but the numbers slowly dwindled," reports MCA education bureau chief Dr Wee Ka Siong. At first, non-Bumiputera students were placed in five colleges, but now they are spread among all 30, keeping their numbers in each college negligibly low.

"They are greatly outnumbered in these colleges," says Wee.

"Non-Bumiputera parents are not comfortable sending their children where they can feel like outsiders. For instance, during prayer times or when there are religious programmes, the non-Malay students will be left to their own devices."

Wee is sure that if the 10 per cent quota is removed, more non-Bumiputera students would enrol. "All residential schools should open their doors to non-Malays. We need to force students to mingle for the sake of unity. When they study and play together, meaningful friendships can be forged."

He admits it won't be easy. "There will inevitably be unhappiness. Even if it were made policy, the schools may not be receptive."

Ong suggests establishing new residential schools enrolling students of all races, along the lines of Kolej Yayasan UEM or KYUEM, but at secondary school level. KYUEM, owned by Yayasan UEM and part of the UEM Group, is a fully residential college modelled on top British boarding schools.

However, Jasmine Adaickalam, a service consultant with the MIC's Yayasan Strategik Sosial, cautions that it won't be enough to "just put everyone together and say 'this is it'".

"We should learn about diversity in a mutually appreciative environment. In India, where I am from, all students learn about Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. Only when we really know and understand each other's beliefs and value systems would we be able to appreciate one another."

Rosnani sees a single national school system as the best way to unity. "We need to develop a single system that caters for the needs of all ethnic groups - mother-tongue languages, traditions and cultures, and Arabic for Muslims," she says.

"I believe having a single school session which involves prolonging school hours and providing school lunch for needy students would help achieve this."

For Nurul, it is simpler. "Family upbringing is the most important thing," she says. "My parents lead by example. They have close friends of all races, and from childhood encouraged me to do the same."
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1 comment:

akagi14 said...

It is not really true that MCK students come from middle class and/or urban families. half of my batch for instance came from rural areas even sons of fishermen.

As said in the NST article, it is not the race composition of students that mould the students but the way that they were educated both academic and soft skills.

Note that MCKK has a strong heritage and history. Its connection to nation building is as close as it can get. And we from the alma mater were taught to uphold that positive traditions in our lives, in the present and future.

Should MCKK be opened beyond its current entry requirement? In my opinion, no. Why mend it when it is not broken?