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Malaysia’s Catholic school turns co-ed amid student shortage

Saint Paul's Institution has welcomed 10 female students for the first time in its 125-year history
Church-run Saint Paul's Institution in at Seremban, the capital of Negeri Sembilan state in Malaysia, has started admitting female students from March 11.

Church-run Saint Paul's Institution in at Seremban, the capital of Negeri Sembilan state in Malaysia, has started admitting female students from March 11. (Photo: Saint Paul's Institution Facebook page)

Published: March 12, 2024 10:30 AM GMT
Updated: March 13, 2024 04:05 AM GMT

One of Malaysia’s oldest Catholic boys-only schools has started admitting female students to tackle a drop in admissions in recent years, a phenomenon believed to be fueled by a fall in the birth rate.

Saint Paul's Institution, run by De La Salle Brothers, at Seremban, the capital of Negeri Sembilan state, has welcomed 10 female students for the new school session on March 11, reported Bernama, Malaysia’s national news agency.

Founded in 1899, the institute is one of the oldest schools in the state and the country, reports say.

The school’s management said the decision to turn the school co-educational was taken after the school had about 70 students admitted in the first year for the past five years.

"Usually, there are over 100 year one students, but for the past five years, it has decreased to about 70 students only. So, the former headmaster wanted us to do something because we don't want this school to close down due to a lack of students,” Dr. Mahadevan Deva Tata, chair of the school’s Board of Governors, told reporters.

“We need to make changes before the situation worsens.”

Tata said the move has received positive responses from parents.

"Most parents who sent their daughters here also have sons studying in this school. Many want to register for years two and three, but we are only accepting year one for now," he added.

Headmistress E. Margret said girls account for about 10 percent of the 102 year one students this year, but their percentage is expected to increase in the future.

"We want changes for their future success; today I see them happy and excited to come to school. There are no objections from parents; our goal is to increase the number of students in this school," Bernama quoted her as saying.

Year one student Ashley Vianna Mattheus said she was excited to attend school today to meet new friends.

Government data shows population growth has stagnated in Malaysia amid a falling birth rate and a drop in the total fertility rate (TFR), the average number of children a woman is expected to have in her childbearing age.

The TFR has dropped to 1.6 in 2022 from 4.9 in 1970, below the replacement rate of 2.1.

Malaysia’s population increased to 32.7 million in 2022 from 29.5 million in 2012 with a growth rate of 0.2 percent, according to official data.

The growth rate gradually dropped from its peak of 2.8 percent in 1992.

The live births per 1,000 people have dropped to 12.9 percent in 2022 from 22.9 percent in 2000, the government days.

In 2022, Malaysia registered 206,525 deaths compared to 224,569 deaths in 2021 after the Covid-19 pandemic, a decline of about eight percent.

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