by The Malaysian Insider 24 October 2015

Concerns about declining standards in public schools not only extend to academic performance but to religious identity, and more Muslim parents opt to send their children to private Islamic schools hoping their children develop an Islamic identity from a young age, a forum on education was told.

Iman Research director Altaf Deviyati (pic, left) made this finding based on her interviews with parents from two such schools in the Klang Valley, Seri Abim Sungai Ramal and Al-Amin in Gombak.

Seri Abim is run by the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim), while Al-Amin is run by Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia.

“They feared that public schools lacked any kind of identity building and this was their greatest concern.
“They really want their kids to have religious introduction early, they felt the religious syllabus in public schools was extremely limited to do’s and don’ts.

“They wanted more, they wanted their children to be able to explore concepts and context of religious thoughts to build their identity as Muslims,” Altaf told the forum “A Peek Into Private Schools in Malaysia – are they really better than government schools?” organised by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

She said parents were also attracted to the fact that these schools were built on specific Islamic movements, and the leaders of Abim and Akram projected a side of Islam that they wanted.

“People tend to assume that quality education means the same thing to everyone.

“Quality education is more than getting straight As.

“For these schools at least, it was a holistic view of what kind of human beings their children should become and this was one of their main reasons for choosing these schools,” she said.

Monash University Malaysia associate professor Dr Grace Lee says Chinese Malaysians prefer sending their children to vernacular schools as they viewed mother tongue education as part of their culture. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Ahmad Muslim, October 25, 2015.Monash University Malaysia associate professor Dr Grace Lee who did a study on Chinese independent schools, said parents lacked confidence in public schools, and this was seen by the government’s decision to reverse the policy of teaching of Mathematics and Science in English.

She said Chinese Malaysians viewed mother tongue education as a way to preserve their cultural roots.

“Academic achievement was not the only thing they looked at, they also wanted character-building and felt that Confucius values were still preserved in these schools, so it is a good place for their children to build character,” she said.

She added that since these schools were not given any funding by the government, students were actively involved in fundraising, and this helped build their character as well.

“They know how hard it is to get their own money, to fund their education, and this helps strengthen their understanding of social responsibility and develop skills to become ethical leaders with integrity and be able to contribute to society,” Lee said.

She said parents were least concerned that the United Examination Certificate exam their children sat for was not recognised for entry into local universities, as more than 400 universities from around the world, including in France, Germany and UK, recognised it.

Lee also recounted her experience as a relief teacher for two months in a Chinese independent school teaching Form Five students, saying she was shocked at their high performance in additional mathematics.

“I did well in the subject for SPM and also took algebra in university, but the standard in the school shocked me.

“I had to use what I learnt in university to teach them,” she said.

She added that as a lecturer, it was usually the students from independent schools who were able to score the highest, compared to those from the other types of schools. – October 25, 2015.

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