There has been much press recently about the poor results of Malay students, particularly in math. Indian students score below the national average as well. There is help available. Mendaki and SINDA both conduct extra classes for weak students. The problem it seems is that some parents do not send their kids to them. I have sisters who are teachers, and they tell me pretty much the same thing. They conduct home visits where a student is doing poorly, is absent or has discipline issues, only to be confronted by parents who do not know what to do or are simply not bothered.
The realities are these. Many of these kids come from poor or dysfunctional families. For them, a good education is the only way to escape the poverty trap. If they cannot keep up with their studies, they will likely drop-out and the vicious cycle repeated.
Are we doing our best for these children? Is it enough to say that Mendaki, SINDA or CDAC has this or that program, and then blame parents for not taking advantage of them? I know the Government does not want to play the role of a parent, but can we in good conscience leave such matter to parents who, for whatever reasons, are not looking out for their children’s futures? Should not the interests of the children be paramount? Whatever their family issues are, they are entitled to a good education, or at least a decent opportunity to get one.
Where education is concerned, a community based approach is difficult to understand. An academically weak child needs help, regardless of whether he is Chinese, Malay, Indian or Eurasian. The nature of that help is also the same, regardless of the child’s race. Now when Malay or Indian students do poorly, there is pressure on Mendaki and SINDA to account for it. But the truth of the matter is that the help they can give is limited. So why leave it to community based groups to administer educational assistance?
The most logical institution to do so is the school itself. Teachers will best know their own students, and what help they need. Students who are struggling should be made to attend extra classes after school. They will receive better attention as class sizes will be smaller. The same resources, including volunteer teachers, available to the community based groups can be directed to the schools.
In this way, there will only be one organization responsible (and accountable) for a child’s academic development. The help can be targeted and consistent. No one race will be better or worse off depending on how efficient and effective their respective community based groups are.
Some will still drop out. But at least we can say that we have done the best we can for our children.