What are ‘squatting schools’ and why is it a problem for Malaysia’s students and teachers?

This story is brought to you by the Ministry of Education Malaysia.

Ask any Malaysian on the street about the country’s education system, there’s bound to be many areas that they feel can be improved.

For many educators, parents, and even students, the core issue when it comes to revamping the nation’s education system centres around a common theme: It’s outdated.

Specifically, the current system in place focuses on meeting the needs and requirements of industries. Instead of cultivating a children’s area of interest and love for learning, students are taught to compete.

However, baby steps have to be taken by improving the smaller issues first. These small issues, if left unresolved, can hamper the nation’s progress in overhauling its education system which many feel can be efficient.

Among the problems that the Malaysian education system faces are ‘squatting schools’.

Squatting schools pose a logistic and organizational nightmare for teachers. IMAGE: Malaysia Education Hub.

But first, what are ‘squatting schools’? In laymen term, these are shared schools.

In short, two separate schools share the same building. For example in the Malaysian state of Sabah, a primary school sometimes shares a building with a secondary school and vice versa. At times two separate primary schools share the same building.

“There are many schools that require attention, but we will look into coordinating those allocations based on priority for shared schools with high capacity,” Malaysia’s Senior Education Minister Dr Radzi Jidin said recently.

Jidin has been visiting schools around the Southeast Asian country and has been speaking to teachers, communities, and even students to understand the issue better. For instance, he said there are currently 23 shared schools in Sabah alone.

Why are ‘squatting schools’ a problem?

Malaysia’s Deputy Education Minister Dr Radzi Jidin. IMAGE: Ministry of Education Malaysia.

At the surface, sharing the same building might not seem like a huge deal. In fact, when one thinks about it, it’s also a cost effective strategy for both schools.

But when one peers in deeper, there can be lots of organizational and possibly even work culture related issues that can lead to inefficiencies.

For instance, having to share the same science lab, classes, and even field can pose a huge organization and logistic nightmare for the teachers of both schools who would need to obtain approvals firsthand.

These can take time and in turn slows things down, ultimately impacting the students negatively. Thankfully, the ministry is aware of these issues.

During his visit, Dr Radzi noted that SMK Langkon in Kota Marudu, Sabah is one of the schools that requires urgent attention.

SMK Langkon is currently sharing premises with SK Langkon, however, the school is in dire condition. Due to capacity issues, the secondary school has had to conduct makeshift classes below the stilted primary school to accommodate students.

Dr Radzi noted that SMK Langkon’s building was supposed to be completed a long time ago, but construction was delayed due to several reasons.

The ministry has now opened tender to rebuild the secondary school, and is hopeful that it will be completed in the near future.

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Cover image sourced from New Straits Times.