It is time that your children leave primary school and step foot into middle school. But there are so many schools to choose from and you don’t know how to decide the right school, afraid to make any mistake! You might find yourself in a crossroad between choosing SMK or SMJK. At first thought, many Chinese parents may consider sending their children to Chinese Secondary Schools (SMJK). But there are also many parents who prefer Government Secondary Schools (SMK).

So what is the difference between the two? Are the learning material, curricular, fees, medium of language, subject, exam etc, the same or different? Is SMK better or is SMJK better? There is so much to consider that my brain is getting information paralyzed!

Hold your horses, and have a look at the information that we have analyzed for you! Then consider it slowly.

What does SMK and SMJK stand for

SMK refers to Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan, while SMJK refers to Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan. SMK can also be called GuoZhong (国中), while HuaZhong(华中) is short for SMJK.

 Are SMK and SMJK government schools?

Government schools can be divided into two main types: SMK and SMJK. So yes, SMK and SMJK are government schools of different types. SMK is a government school (Sekolah Kerajaan) that is a fully subsidized by government, and the school fees are borne by the government. SMJK is a government subsidized school (Sekolah Bantuan Kerajaan), also known as a semi-subsidized school, which receives government funding to maintain school fees. Technically, both receive government funding and control, but SMK may get more.

In the eye of MOE, there is only one type of public school: SMK

Under the Education Act of 1996, the government collectively referred to all secondary schools managed by MOE as “Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK)”, including Chinese Schools (SMJK). With the efforts of the Chinese Secondary School Development Council, the Ministry of Education agreed that Chinese Schools could continue to use the term “Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan (SMJK)”. Although in the book of Ministry of Education (MOE) that there is only one type of government school, and are aware of the existence of SMJK, the reality is SMK and SMJK may still be differentiated.

Implementation of “Bilingual Program DLP” (2012) in selected schools, but many Chinese schools were omitted

Since the 1960s, Chinese schools (primary and secondary) have been using English as the medium of instruction, and Chinese and Malay is compulsory subjects. On 1972, the Ministry of Education has implemented “National Education Policy” to convert English into Malay.

In 2003, the Malaysian Ministry of Education (MOE) began to restore the policy of teaching Mathematics and Sciences using English in order to improve the standard of English. However this policy was replaced by 2012 “Bilingual Program DLP”, to teach Mathematics and Physics using Malay and English. This Bilingual Program DLP was only implemented in a few government schools selected by the Ministry of Education (MOE), and many Chinese Schools were omitted. The Malaysian Chinese Secondary School Development Council had decided to the Ministry of Education to allow all Chinese School to participate in this DLP program: which is teaching Mathematics and Science in English. This is because Chinese Schools had been using English to teach Mathematics and Science since the 1960s and was very successful.

Medium of Instruction in classroom.

Today Chinese Secondary Schools (SMJK) uses Mandarin as medium of instruction for subjects such as Mathematic, Science and Geography. Meanwhile Government Secondary Schools (SMK) mostly uses Malay, while some selected schools remained with Bilingual (Malay and English) for Science and Mathematics. Parents who want to know whether the school uses Malay or Bilingual to teach Mathematics and Science are advised to go to the school to understand clearly.

Who is in charge of SMK and SMJK?

Since SMK is a government school, the school is fully managed by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

As for SMJK, it is jointly managed by Ministry of Education (MOE), the Board of Directors, and the Parent-Teacher Association (家教协会) or the Malay acronym of PIBG (Persatuan Ibu Bapa Guru).

What are the subjects in SMK and SMJK?

Generally speaking, SMK and SMJK has the same subject in the classroom, determined by the Ministry of Education Malaysia. But in SMJK, there is one more subject that the SMK does not have, and that is Chinese. SMJK is restructured from Chinese middle school and it retains many Chinese characteristics. Therefore, Chinese has also become one of SMJK’s main media languages and compulsory subject. However, note that some SMK school may offer extracurricular activities, clubs, or optional class to learn Chinese too! So it does not mean SMK schools are completely absent of Chinese cultures.

Is there a monthly fee for SMK and SMJK?

There is no monthly fee required at SMK and SMJK school. As opposed to the private school counterpart which can be around RM100 to as high as RM500 a month! The school fee is subsidized by the government, which can reduce the financial burden of many families. However, note that each school or even classroom may independently decide to collect a small fee for class activities, PIBG or school activities. 

Extracurricular in SMK and SMJK

SMJK school also has many extracurricular activities with Chinese cultural characteristics (such as: twenty-four seasons drums or Diabolo). Meanwhile SMK may lean more to national and traditional extracurriculars (such as: Silat, etc). However, some SMK may also offer club with Chinese cultural characteristic (such as 华语学会 club)! Parents are advised to contact or visit the schools to get their curricular information.

How are the learning syllables and exam different between SMK and SMJK?

The SMK and SMJK syllabus and exams are the same. Students need to take the same 2 compulsory government examinations. First, in Form 3 there is PT3 (Pentaksiran Tingkatan Tiga). Then, in Form 5 there is SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia). Optionally, students can further their studies by taking STPM (Malaysian Higher Education Diploma) in their Form 6, which is equivalent to pre-u level and can open up opportunities to enter government Universities with a broad range of degree.

The only difference is that SMK students can choose whether to apply for Chinese subjects. But for SMJK students, Chinese is a subject that must be taken, and is mandatory to pass the exam. Therefore, SMJK includes Chinese subject as compulsory. At the same time, at SMJK there will be more Chinese lessons than SMK’s in a week. Most SMJKs have at least 5 Chinese lessons per week, while SMK’s only have 3 Chinese lessons per week, or less.

SMJK are all Chinese students and SMK has few Chinese students?

Many people have a misunderstanding that SMJK is all Chinese students and SMK has very few. Generally speaking, the Chinese students of SMJK do make up the majority of the classmates, but not all SMKs have very few Chinese students. In some SMK, the number of Chinese students is even more than that of other races. In fact, it depended on several factors such as the school’s area. Not only that, some other race will also choose to study SMJK, so not all SMJK students are Chinese.

Will SMJK be better than SMK?

Many people will think this way, but this is wrong! The school spirit, environment, extracurricular activities, academic performance, curricular performance, etc. will vary from school to school. Therefore, we cannot jump to the conclusion that SMJK’s discipline must be good, and SMK’s school spirit must be relatively poor. We shouldn’t simply “judge a book by its cover”.

In fact, students studying at SMK can have outstanding performance!

One example is that the 2 groups of student representatives from SMK Menglembu won the Open Group Championship and the Best Innovation Award in the 2019 Perak Robot Competition organized by the Ministry of Education. The school’s consultant teachers also won the Best Mentor Award. (Source: Guanghua Daily). Clearly SMK is not as bad as many people may initially think.

Generally speaking, the difference between SMK and SMJK is not too big. Understand that every school information and situation are unique (such as school environment, value, teaching philosophy, etc). Ask questions in school group or nearby residents. Do some background check on the school of interest to get more information. With that, choose a suitable school based on your own needs as a consideration.