PETALING JAYA: The rising number of non-Chinese pupils in Chinese primary schools shows that SJK(C)s have become a place for pupils of all races and ethnic groups to learn, live and communicate together in harmony, says Malaysian Chinese Language Council (MCLC) president Datuk Eddie Heng Hong Chai.
“18.8% of pupils currently enrolled in SJK(C)s are non-native speakers and the number has been climbing year-on-year. This shows that Chinese primary schools aren’t just specifically catered towards the Chinese community.
“Pupils in SJK(C)s are made up of multiple races and ethnic groups which fully reflects the diverse society in Malaysia and the ability of these schools to accommodate education for a variety of communities, ” he said.
An increasing number of parents - some who can’t even converse in Mandarin - from other races have become more willing to send their children to SJK(C)s, said Heng, adding that the awareness of mastering the Chinese language and the benefits that follow have also spiked among Malay and Indian communities.
“Simultaneously, SJK (C)s still put a lot of emphasis on improving pupils’ proficiency in the national language - Bahasa Malaysia.
“With endorsement from the Education Ministry, MCLC along with several educational organisations jointly established the ‘Chinese Primary Schools’ Malay Language Proficiency Enhancement Committee’ in 2018 to boost pupils’ grasp of our national language.
“This effort was greeted warmly by the ministry as well as Malay scholars from over 20 institutions of higher learning across the country, who actively participated in the initiative to boost Malay proficiency, ” he said.
He added that Chinese primary schools’ board of directors, principals, teachers and parents have spared great effort over the last two decades to improve pupils’ grasp on Bahasa Malaysia to the level it is today.
Heng was commenting in response to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) lecturer Teo Kok Seong’s recent accusations that Chinese primary school students were not able to master Bahasa Malaysia and can only communicate in Chinese, hindering national unity.
Accusations that Chinese primary school pupils are only fluent in their mother tongue are false, said Heng, adding that enrolling children into vernacular schools do not disrupt harmony among races.
“The 2019 UPSR results released by the ministry showed that the passing rate of Malay language in Chinese primary schools has reached 90%. About 40% of those pupils scored A.
“The passing rate for Malay comprehension was 89.69%, with 38.79% out of that figure scoring A. Passing rate for Malay composition was 87.74%, with 41.43% scoring A, ” said Heng.
Teo had also proposed unifying schools and education in a lecture earlier this week, where he described the use of the Malay language by all ethnic groups in Kelantan as a successful example of unifying schools and education.
Claiming that Teo’s remarks were baseless, Heng said that Kelantan’s population of 1.85 million consisted of 96% (1,776,000) Malays, 3% (55,500) Chinese, and only about 1% (18,500) Indians and other ethnic groups.
He added that although Kelantan has a small population of Chinese, there are 15 Chinese primary schools and one independent middle school in Kelantan.
“Among the 5,432 students in Chinese primary schools, 40% (2,173) are non-Chinese, and most of them are Malay students, ” he said.
Heng said he welcomed Teo’s solutions on improving the proficiency of Malay language among Chinese school pupils if he had any.
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