Challenges of non-Chinese students in Chinese schools

The trend of non-Chinese students attending Chinese primary schools was on the rise, despite the challenges they faced.

The headmaster of SJK (C) Cheng Ming Keningau Sabah, Chee Sui Fung, said that while non-Chinese students often struggled with reading and writing and showed slow learning progress, many parents chose not to transfer their children to other schools immediately.

“This was because they had already adapted to the learning environment at SJKC, and the students did not want to transfer so easily.

“Some students chose to transfer after a year of study, while others did so after four to five years,” she said, reported Sinar Harian.

She added that the school did not ask parents to transfer their children to other schools. Instead, teachers communicated with the parents to find solutions related to the students learning progress.

“Only when there were no other options did parents decide to transfer their children,” she said.

Headmaster of SJK (C) Kampung Baru Paroi in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Yee Chon Moi, had introduced the “I Learn Mandarin” program for non-Chinese students from Grades One to Three, with the help of a colleague who led a kindergarten and researched how non-Chinese students learned the language.

She said that non-Chinese students enjoyed studying at Chinese primary schools, reported Astro Awani.

With commitment and dedication, the teachers organized teaching materials and dialogues, providing three months of free training for students before exams, she said.

She added that after a few months, 80% of non-Chinese students had mastered basic Chinese in the first phase.

She also said that due to budget constraints, the school then adjusted the program module by incorporating students into WhatsApp groups, to encourage non-Chinese parents and children to learn together.

Non-Chinese student population in Chinese primary schools

Non-Chinese students today make up about 20 per cent of the total student population in Chinese primary schools nationwide, including Malays, Indians, Orang Asli, and foreigners, Astro Awani added.

For non-Chinese students, entering Chinese primary schools was like being in a foreign environment, said the daily.

Despite efforts to improve their skills, non-Chinese students faced various challenges, including adapting to language and cultural differences, added the daily.

One of the biggest constraints they faced was learning the language and communication issues with classmates since Mandarin was not their mother tongue, the daily said.

According to the United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong), the United Chinese School Teachers’ Association of Malaysia (Jiao Zong), and the Ministry of Education (KPM), the number of non-Chinese students in Chinese primary schools nationwide had increased from 17,309 in 1989 (3.05 per cent) to 52,043 in 1998 (8.66 per cent), 72,443 in 2010 (11.84 per cent), and 101,011 in 2020 (19.75 per cent).

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