– Marco Carvalho
It’s one of the oldest teaching institutions in Macau, but old age hasn’t hindered its mission. Founded in 1933, the Chinese Section of Saint Rose of Lima’s School still sees as its main assignment the valorization of women through education. The director of the School, Sister Law Yuk Ching, traces a very comprehensive picture of an institution which is amongst the most sought after by the local families. The reason? The values it transmits and that go much beyond aspects like material affuence and professional success, in a society where abandonment and negligence are increasingly ever present.
The Chinese Section of Saint Rose of Lima’s School was created in 1985. How did things change ever since?
Our school started in 1933. It was established as a Chinese school in 1933, mainly for girls. At the time, Macau was starting to receive many inhabitants from Mainland China and we came to realize that many Chinese girls didn’t have the possibility to get an education. At the time, our mission, with the opening of the Chinese section, was mainly to provide education to those Chinese girls, to teach them. I am with the Chinese Section of Santa Rosa de Lima already for twenty years and the school didn’t change that much its scope on education.
What about the school’s mission? It is still about educating girls that, otherwise, wouldn’t have this opportunity?
At that time, in the old days, there were not many schools in Macau. The poor – those who couldn’t afford to pay for education – they came to us. They couldn’t pay the school fees or they came from a background in which their family couldn’t support them or couldn’t afford their children going to school without working. At the time, our main objective was to help these students, but now our Chinese Section is already part of the Government subsidy scheme. In a sort of sense, we can choose our students, but we don’t discriminate. We just go through the normal exam and registration procedures. We don’t ignore non-Chinese. We don’t do that. We have students from various countries. They want to study Chinese and we accept them, whether they are rich or poor. Nowadays, students don’t have to pay any school fee.
In terms of enrollment, has the number of students been increasing or decreasing in the last few years?
Is it a problem for the school? The space is still sufficient?
Yes. The Education Bureau keeps asking us to have more classes. We have the three tiers of education in our school compound: Kindergarten, Primary and Secondary. Now we have already 80 classes in the whole. With more students coming to receive education and entering the education system, the Government has to think how it can have more schools instead of asking the existing ones to get more students. Our classes are already 30 students or over. This is already much over the small classes that the Government seems to be interested in promoting. They want us to have small classes. Well, we try to accept what we can. In the future, we will cooperate with the Government and see, within our limited space, whether we can have more classes, but we are thinking mostly about the quality of our education. That’s the most important for us.
Overall, how many students do you have in the three tiers of education?
All together, we have over 2500 already. At the present moment, in the Kindergarten, we have around seven hundred and something. We have only 24 classes. The greatest number of students is enrolled in our Primary: we have 31 classes and over one thousand students, one thousand and something. Our students in the secondary are still in the lowest grades, but in two or three years, the Primary go up to the Secondary and the number of students in the Secondary will rise. In the Secondary, this year we have around seven hundred and something also.
You were talking about the cooperation with the Government. The Government has been asking most of the shools to increase the number of classes …
Well, they have asked us already to increase our classes, starting from the Kindergarten. Our Kindergarten works already in a separate compound from the rest of the school and we can’t expand it. To be honest, we still have space, we still have classrooms. But we want to have to think more about how education could be better. We have space and we have teachers, but we want to improve the way we use them. If we increase the number of students we won’t be able to do more than follow the routine: give them lessons and not much more than that. Even our sports playground … We only have one sports playground and we have two lessons for every class, every week. You can imagine how hard it is for us to manage all this …
The idea, as you were saying, is to bet on quality. The School doesn’t intend to expand its infrastructures, I assume ..
We do not intend to expand. Our School Board has already planned the number of classes per section: Primary, Secondary or Kindergarten. In our kindergarten, we have only enough space for 24 classes and we can’t expand that because of the limited space. In the primary section, we have already 31 classes. In the past few years we met certain problems with the number of students that enrolled in our school. All together, we have five classes per tier. Overall we expect only 30 classes. Now we want to resume the number of classes to 30. Concerning the secondary, we have already 25 students per class and it will probably increase. You were asking about our plans: we don’t expact to expand too greatly but if we see that there are more students that want to get education from our school, we just make our best every year to see how we can cooperate to do our best.
What makes Santa Rosa a different school for the families of Macau to want to enroll their daughters …
I can only say that, thanks to these eighty or more years, the feel that I have is that the parents trust us and trust the education we provide. Our Kindergarten is full every year. People line up to enroll their kids in our Kindergarten. If all the kindergarten students came up to the primary, we would have enough room for the Kindergarten girls, but, at the present moment we cannot find a balance in the number of people coming in. Concerning the difference between Santa Rosa and other schools, I can only say that our system and our quality of education is improving and this improvement gives a bigger confidence to the parents and to the families. It’s curious to notice that many of these parents were our students.