KUALA KANGSAR: Politicians often use vernacular schools as a lightning rod to win support from their ethnic community, even at the expense of sowing racial discord.
However, in a remote town in north Perak, many Malay parents thumb their noses at such sentiments by having their children educated at SJK (C) Khai Chee, about 12km from here.
The school, with an enrolment of 42 pupils from Year One to Six, could be an example of Malaysians opting for unity and quality education at the same time.
At least 27 of the pupils are Malay children from the surrounding villages, with three Indians and the rest Chinese. FMT could not get the exact figures as the headmaster declined to comment, saying the Education Department has directed them not to talk to the media.
According to the village folk, Malay students have outnumbered others at this school over the past decade.
Most parents met outside the gates cited two major factors in opting to send their children to a Chinese school although there was a national primary school only about 1km away.
One parent, who identified himself as Nurfitri, said he decided to send his second child to a Chinese school as he wanted her to learn how to mix freely with children of other races.
“I want my daughter to learn the culture of other races in Malaysia. Besides that, learning a third language in our country is important. I have been told by other parents who sent their children here that the quality of education is also good,” he said.
Another parent, Ruslan Sidin, said he had no issue at all in placing his daughter in a Chinese school. “All I want is for her to have quality education and pick up Mandarin which will be an asset in the future. You have an advantage when you learn more languages in Malaysia,” he said.
One parent, who preferred to remain anonymous, said politicians who are making this an issue should conduct a study on how Malays who went through Chinese primary education were faring in secondary schools to get the true picture.
“The government should also carry out a survey on how adults who went through Chinese primary schools are doing in their working life. The outcome will be interesting,” she said, when told that there could be an estimated 80,000 Malay children studying in Chinese schools nationwide.
According to figures from the education ministry, 27% of the students in Chinese schools were Malays with Indians making up 4% of the total enrolment.
The headmistress of the school declined to comment when approached, saying that they are not allowed to speak to the media without permission from the department officials. FMT