Three Penang convent schools going private

The Convent Light Street School in Penang. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
The Convent Light Street School in Penang. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

PETALING JAYA, Nov 5 — After much anxiety over the reported closure of three premier convent schools in Penang, former students and advocates can heave a sigh of relief when plans to privatise the institutions materialise.

Educationists with knowledge of the proposed plans said the move is inevitable to maintain the cultural, historical and heritage status of Convent Light Street and Convent Pulau Tikus in George Town.

On Friday, Malay Mail Online reported that two former missionary schools for girls on the island were destined to close following a move to reduce student intake from next year.

The secondary schools stopped taking in students for Form One and Year One for Convent Light Street primary school.

This came about after the state education department issued a letter to both schools directing them to start reducing student intake.

“Similar moves have been undertaken in other mission schools and it has proven to be a success,” one educationist told Malay Mail.

“There will be discussions with the boards of governors before the plans are forwarded to authorities.”

Rest assured, the educationist added, the Malaysian education curriculum would be in the forefront at the convent schools.

Asked whether plans were afoot to turn the institutions into international schools, the educationist said it would be premature to speculate at this juncture.

“Allow them to turn private first and we will see what lies ahead.

“Many may not realise the Methodist Boys School in Sentul (both primary and secondary) have already had their student intake reduced.”

He added that the Wesley Methodist School (International) in Penang is scheduled to commence in two years.

Another educationist said it was no surprise such a poser would be raised taking into consideration the establishment of St John’s International School, Stella Maris Schools and the Methodist Schools (private).

St John’s International School is a private-funded education centre in collaboration with the La Salle Brothers Malaysia.

It has links with the Lasallian organisation which has had a footing in Malaysia since 1904, with premier St John’s Institution as a mission school, and also in more than

70 countries.

At present the international school building is linked with the SJI building which was built in 1930, and offers lower primary to Cambridge International programmes.

Besides SJIS, Stella Maris has facilities off Jalan Pudu, Medan Damansara and off Jalan Ulu Kelang, Ampang.

“All are private education that offer the Malaysian curriculum and are proven success stories,” the educationist who wished to remain anonymous said.

Chairman of Stella Maris primary school in Jalan Ulu Kelang, Dr Christine Chow, who was a former student of the Convent Light Street, declined to comment on the move to privatise the schools in Penang.

Other mission school educationists declined to speculate on the move to set up another international school in George Town, but agreed that for the convent to turn private with a local curriculum would be apt.

News of the impending closure drew much concern as to the future of the prized parcel on lands where the heritage school structures remain standing.

The Sisters of the Infant Jesus, landowners where the convents are located, have assured there was no grounds for concern over purported speculated redevelopment.

Of the three convent schools, Convent Light Street remains the country’s and region’s oldest and is deemed a heritage site.

IJ Sisters’ Sr Celina Wong said the Roman Catholic religious institute had no plans to dispose of the land for redevelopment.

“We hold a very long history in Malaysia and preserving our history − be it the thrust of educating young people and/or the conservation of the heritage buildings − is dear to us. The IJ Sisters will never forget our mission in education.

“We have no intention to sell the land and buildings for redevelopment,” she said in a statement.

Coincidentally, when CLS was established in April 1852, it was a private mission school.

“In the spirit of trust, dedication, love and sacrifice, and with the help of numerous generous benefactors, our Convent schools and orphanages multiplied throughout the country providing education to all children, irrespective of race and creed.”

Wong said the IJ Sisters want to return to their initial reason for their presence here — providing a “wholesome education” in their mission schools.

Related Articles