Home  >  Features

SMJK losing Chinese school characteristics

  • Among the 78 national Chinese conforming schools, some are retaining Chinese school characteristics well while some are gradually declining. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • Some Chinese conforming schools play a role in passing down traditional Chinese culture by setting up 24-season drum groups. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • The SMJK Chan Wa in Seremban has been approved to be a school branch with independent administration. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • The SMJK Keat Hwa in Alor Setar uses Chinese and Bahasa Malaysia to tell its mission and vision. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily

Chinese primary school students have four options to continue their studies after completing their primary school education. They are national secondary schools Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK), national Chinese conforming schools Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan (SMJK), Chinese independent schools and international schools.

If Chinese primary school students wish to study in free government secondary schools, the SMJK are usually preferred. The SMJK were originally Chinese schools after all and therefore, they retain the characteristics of Chinese schools and can be easily adapted by Chinese primary school students.

However, according to the 2010 statistics, the ratio of Chinese students being enrolled into Chinese independent schools to the SMJK and the SMK was 1:2:7. It means that 60 Chinese independent schools and 78 SMJK had actually enrolled only 30% of Chinese students while the remaining 70% Chinese students were enrolled into the SMK.

Since the SMJK are after all not Chinese independent schools, they are unable to retain Chinese school's characteristics perfectly in reality. They rely on school operators, the Board and the Presiden Persatuan Ibu Bapa dan Guru (PIBG) to retain some of the characteristics.

However, the Chinese school characteristics of some SMJK are actually gradually fading due to some environmental factors.

The Sin Chew Daily had visited a few SMJK in the country and studied from various perspective on how these schools retained the Chinese school characteristics, based on an investigation report prepared by the Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM).

Strive to survive after restructuring

Chinese independent schools are the only Chinese secondary schools in the country after 1962 and restructured Chinese independent schools, known as national Chinese conforming schools or the SMJK, have been trapped in an awkward situation. They are neither Chinese independent schools, nor enjoying a wide range of government aid like the SMK.


According to a report prepared by the United Chinese School Teachers Association ( Jiao Zong) and the SMJK Headmaster Association, the SMJK were originally Chinese secondary schools using Chinese as the medium of instruction.

After the 1961 Education Act was implemented, dozens of Chinese secondary schools changed their medium of instruction to English and restructured to become the SMJK. Eventually, under the National Language Act in the 1980s, they changed their medium of instruction again to Bahasa Malaysia.

In fact, under the Education Act 1996, all national secondary schools have been generally known as "Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan" and the term "Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan" actually does not exist in the Education Act. However, the Chinese community refuses to use the term national schools for national Chinese conforming schools as the two types of schools carry different characteristics.

Therefore, the term "national Chinese conforming school" is still being used by the Chinese community.

There are currently 78 SMJK in the country and Perak is having the highest number of them, recording 17, followed by Sarawak and Penang, each with 10 SMJK.

In addition, there are three branch campuses, namely the SMJK Chan Wa II in Seremban, the still under construction SMJK Jit Sin II in Nibong Tebal and the SMJK Heng Ee II in Penang.


Although the SMJK uses Bahasa Malaysia as its medium of teaching like the SMK, the SMJK still carries its own characteristics.

The characteristics of SMJK include:

  • Students are mostly Chinese. Students are basically from Chinese primary schools and only a few SMJK have some students from Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan (SRK).
  • The SMJK have at least five Chinese language periods a week while the SMK have only three periods.
  • Most of the SMJK have made Chinese language a compulsory subject for the SPM.
  • Each SMJK has a Board of Directors and the school property is managed by the Board. In addition, the Boards works closely with the PIBG and school alumni association to develop the school.
  • SMJK school campuses carry heavy Chinese cultures, such as having Chinese society and Chinese Orchestra Society. In addition, they often hold Chinese culture-related activities like calligraphy, Chinese literature writing, Chinese martial arts and Chinese folk dancing competitions.
  • Most of the SMJK hold their weekly assemblies or extracurricular activities in two languages. School notices are also issued in two languages.

The usage of Chinese language

The Education Ministry issued and instruction on 16 November 2000 allowing the SMJK to have five Chinese language periods a week. Therefore, compared to the one-third teaching time requirement, five periods of Chinese language lesson should be considered the lowest requirement.

However, the report also showed that at least 30% of the SMJK are having less than five periods of Chinese language lesson.

As for the language being used in schools, 25 schools are using Mandarin, Bahasa Malaysia and English; 20 schools are using Mandarin and Bahasa Malaysia and only 19 schools are using only Mandarin.


Copyright © 2019 Sin Chew Media Corporation Berhad (98702-V).
All rights reserved. Contact us : [email protected]