SOCIAL AND CULTURAL
According to the 2010 Malaysian census, the town of Sibu had a total population of 162,676. Chinese (62.1%, 101,019) are the largest ethnic group, followed by indigenous people (35.01%, 56,949), non-Malaysians (1.99%, 3,236), and Indians (0.37%, 598).
The census also enumerated the following breakdown of the indigenous communities: Iban (26,777), Malays (16,646), Melanau (10,028), Bidayuh (1,337), and other indigenous tribes (874). A majority of the non-Malaysians are Indonesian workers employed at plywood and sawmills factories. The town and its surrounding areas also has groups of illegal workers working in both the urban and rural economy.
Mandarin is the lingua franca of the majority of the town’s population of Foochow, Hokkien and Hakka Chinese. However many among the town’s Chinese community, as with the majority of other long time population, are multilingual and speak or understand Sarawak Malay and English. Local languages such as Melanau, Bidayuh and Iban are spoken by the indigenous communities..
Unlike other towns in Malaysia, the majority of the Chinese population in Sibu are Christians while other Chinese practice Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Some of the Iban in Sibu are Christians while the Malays and Melanaus are Muslims. Yu Lung San Tien En Si or Jade Dragon Temple combines Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism under one roof and is reputed to be the largest temple of its kind in the region.
As with other Foochow settlements, emphasis on education is a feature in Sibu which has about 85 primary schools and 23 secondary schools. The Sibu primary and secondary schools under the National Education System are managed by the Sibu District Education Office.
The oldest school in Sibu is the Sacred Heart National Secondary School which was set up in 1902 by Rev. Father Hopfgarther. This was followed by Rev James Hoover who established the Methodist Anglo-Chinese School in 1903. The school later evolved into Methodist primary and secondary schools in 1947.
Uk Daik primary school, built in 1926, is one of the oldest Chinese primary schools in Sibu. Built in 1954, St Mary primary school is the oldest English stream school in Sibu Division. Sibu also has five Chinese independent schools.