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April 19, 2017

Schools, Studies and Progress

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – My son Dzul is now about one quarter of the way through Primary One, first grade for the Americans. He’s still very short for his age group, but I am very proud of the extraordinary progress he has made in his studies.


He reads quite well and is doing excellent in math. My wife and I read to him most of the time. He has a library of books and does arithmetic worksheets every day. He is the only child that comes to school reading; okay, they are comics, but at least he has his nose in a book!


He is now at St. Thomas, a catholic school. How he got there, I am still not sure as I was in the States when all of that happened. From what I understand, and that isn't much, a teacher who was in the old school hated white children. Her classroom door was next to the bathroom and Dzul could not use the facilities without her yelling at him.


My wife, Suriani, pulled him out and sent him down the street to St. Thomas. Most of his cousins went there as well as aunts and uncles, which I think had more to do with it than the teacher. I could do nothing but agree.


While in the States, I purchased a math program called Saxon. I bought it for the second grade, and naturally, it came in the day before I left. The series is yearlong math teaching syllabus with worksheets and teachers manual. In every lesson, it reinforces what the student learned before.


For example 2+2=4 is taught at the first lesson and is repeated throughout the year until the last lesson. I had used it in the Algebra program and thought it excellent for my first grader.


Alas, so far it is way too easy. He finishes the lessons before I can tear them out of the manual. Well, I try to convince myself it is good review. Meanwhile, I supplement with more difficult worksheets I can get free from the Internet.


St. Thomas has grades Primary 1-Form 6. (Grade 1-(second year college for the Americans). The school was established in 1848 by missionaries from England. Over the years, it was a vehicle of Chinese education using the British system. In the 1970's it was forced to accept other races and join the national curriculum of Malaysia. The Chinese built their own schools. It now teaches Malays, Ibans, Bidayaus and a cacophony of other people here in Sarawak. The school has an Islamic curriculum as well as a catechism. People from all over come to study at this school.


Dzul had a problem in that he did not know what race he is. He knew he wasn't Malay because his skin is too light and his hair fine, like mine. He spoke English and Sarawak Malay. The other children teased him and called him "orang putih," white man. He knew, I wasn't local, but his mom was. He finally decided he was "champur," mixed.


And that's what he tells everyone. And that is fine by me.


...Life is good. . . . .


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