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School CP - May 2001

masthead Straits Times, Singapore, 15 May 2001


Strict school attracts top students

Sam Tet Secondary is a national school but run like a Chinese one

By Leslie Lau

KUALA LUMPUR - For the last ten years Sam Tet Secondary School in Ipoh, Perak, has produced some of the best students in Malaysia.

Between 1997 and 1999, the school had the most number of students scoring five straight As for their STPM examinations, which are the equivalent of the 'A' levels in Malaysia.

For many Chinese educationists, the school stands out as an example of the benefits of a Chinese school background.

'The academic performance of the students is a reflection of the Chinese community's attitude towards education,' the school's assistant principal Hee Park Chee told The Straits Times.

Most of the students from Sam Tet Secondary come from Sam Tet Primary, a Chinese primary school with the medium of instruction in Mandarin.

But Sam Tet Secondary is not a Chinese school.

It is a national school with the medium of instruction in Malay and it has the same syllabus as any other government institution in the country.

However, the school is an example of how Chinese school pupils can get the best of both worlds.

Under the Malaysian education system, parents have a choice of sending their children to vernacular Chinese or Tamil primary schools or to national schools with the medium of instruction in Malay.

Again, after their primary education, students can opt to attend one of the sixty private Chinese secondary schools or former Chinese schools like Sam Tet Secondary.

While the medium of instruction in Sam Tet Secondary is in Malay, it is still very much administered like a Chinese school, with strict discipline and an emphasis on homework.

Parents are expected to actively participate in their children's education and are often called in for meetings if the students do not do well in school.

Corporal punishment continues to be meted out to the students, with the consent of the parents, some of whom are actually asked to witness their children being caned.

Its students are also encouraged to converse in Mandarin and the use of Chinese dialects is frowned upon.

There is also tremendous competition among the Chinese community to get their children enrolled in Sam Tet, resulting in the school having some of the top students in the city.

Mr Hee says Chinese school students are willing to go the extra mile and that includes an emphasis on private tuition to stay one step ahead of other students.

'I frequently discovered that my students' understanding of mathematical principles were often better than mine,' said one retired mathematics teacher in a Chinese school.

Many Chinese school students take private tuitions - not so much to keep up with current schoolwork, but more to prepare for the next year's syllabus.

Mr Hee says Chinese school students' willingness to go that extra mile also encourages teachers to be more dedicated.'

Copyright @ 2000 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.

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Colin Farrell
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