By John Isaac
THE latest primary school enrolment figures point to a slide in popularity in national schools (Sekolah Kebangsaan, or SK) among Chinese and Indian parents.
The numbers also show national-type vernacular Chinese schools (Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina, or SJKC) have become more popular among non-Chinese parents in the past decade, especially Malay parents.
In a Nov 10 parliamentary reply to Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, the Education Ministry’s data showed Malay student enrolment in SJKCs jumped a significant 6.18 percent from 2010 to 2020.
Malay students now comprise about 15 percent of students at SJKCs nationwide.
Indian student enrolment rose 1.08 percent, and students classified as “other races” increased by 0.65 percent compared to 10 years ago.
While Chinese students remain the majority at SJKCs, enrolment saw a marked 7.9 percent drop in the past decade. This suggests one of two things – either fewer Chinese parents were sending their children to these schools or SJKCs were becoming more diverse.
The ministry did not provide exact student numbers in its written parliamentary reply.
Trends at national-type vernacular Tamil schools (Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil, or SJKT) have remained unchanged over the past 10 years, said the ministry.
Such schools are almost exclusively (99 percent) attended by Indian students.
Reports in Malaysiakini said the ministry also said the percentage of Malay students enrolled at SKs have remained stable from 2010 to 2020.
At “around 93 to 94 percent”, they constitute an overwhelming majority.
No specific figures were provided for non-Malay bumiputera students.
The ministry said 0.84 percent more students classified as being of “other races” (lain-lain kaum) enrolled in SKs in the past decade.
Over the same period, enrolment figures of Chinese and Indian students dropped slightly, by 0.44 percent and 0.52 percent respectively.
SKs continued to see very few non-Malay students – Chinese students (0.73 percent) and Indian students (2.63 percent).
Last year, Malaysiakini published a special report featuring accounts from non-Malay parents on why they decided against sending their children to SKs.
For private schools, the ministry provided enrolment data for only 2019 and 2020.
This was despite Nik Nazmi’s request for a racial breakdown for all schools over the past 10 years.
Compared to last year, private schools saw a slight drop in enrolment from bumiputera, Chinese and Indian pupils. Students from “other races” saw a minuscule 0.01 percent increase.
As for the racial composition in all private schools nationwide in 2020, the bulk were Chinese students (65.88 percent) followed by Malay and non-Malay bumiputera students (26.96 percent).
At four percent, the composition of Indian students at private schools was higher than SKs and SJKCs but way much lower than SJKT.
Students classified as being of “other races”, some of whom are likely to be children of expatriate workers, made up about three percent of enrolments. This was by far the category’s largest composition across all school types.
It is unclear if the ministry’s numbers were for private primary schools, private secondary schools, or both. Malaysiakini has contacted the ministry for clarification.
There are five types of private secondary schools in Malaysia – academic schools, religious schools, Chinese independent schools, international schools and schools for students with special needs.