This article first appeared on Malaysiakini on 19 September 2019.
Most would agree that national primary schools, or SRKs (Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan), need to be improved. Last month, Malaysiakini’s special report on the education system showed that more and more parents, especially non-bumiputra, preferred vernacular or private education for their children.
Among their reasons for opting out of the SRK was poor teaching quality, bullying, racism and creeping Islamisation.
Not only has this led to fewer Malaysians growing up in a multi-racial environment, but experts are also concerned that the growing private school demand will widen the class divide.
The solution, according to UKM’s Professor Teo Kok Seong, is to combine the best practices of vernacular, Islamic and national schools into one unified stream, where students learn academic subjects, their mother tongue, culture and respective religions from 7am to 3pm every day.
His proposal calls for an end to vernacular education, which could prove incredibly challenging to implement.
Other experts believe there are alternative ways to make national schools the preferred choice.
Here is how they reimagine the SRKs:
- “Parental Input School” – Chong Kok Boon, Sunway University senior fellow in Education Reform & Energy Policy
Sixty percent of the curriculum would remain and be overseen by the District Education Department (PPD).
Chong also mooted that parents could be incentivised to teach at schools through tax breaks. Graduates with outstanding PTPTN loans could also volunteer to teach part-time to help repay what they owe.
Not only would this make education more responsive to local needs, but he believed this would also make the system more adaptable. For example, world events like a global financial crisis could be taught.
Chong forecasted that this would help draw students back to SRKs.