The Malay Mail,
Must choose either Arabic, Mandarin or Tamil
Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
The Education Ministry will make it compulsory for Year One pupils to take up either Arabic, Mandarin or Tamil as an elective subject. This could be implemented as early as next week.
Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong told The Malay Mail
this morning: "The circulars have been distributed to all schools to
prepare for the elective subjects. I can confirm we will proceed with
our plan come next week."
ministry source had said earlier the move would cover 5.4 million
pupils enrolled in 9,943 schools throughout the country. The source said
preparations for the introduction of the subjects were "almost
"Discussions within the ministry are in the final stages. If there
are no last-minute hitches, the pupils nationwide will be taking classes
in any of the three languages," said the source.
The ministry mooted the idea of introducing Bahasa Tambahan
(Additional Languages) in primary schools in 2002. A ministry circular
dated Oct 1, 2002, had said the classes, comprising the three subjects,
were to be implemented in Year One classes in 300 national schools
(sekolah kebangsaan) at the beginning of the 2003 school term.
The primary schools, subject to their capabilities and facilities,
were required to offer at least one Bahasa Tambahan class an hour a
week, which would be incorporated into the regular school hours.
Asked for the rationale behind the move, Wee said: "It is to
encourage the younger generation to take up more languages aside from
Bahasa Malaysia and English, and make our future leaders multi-lingual."
He also said it would help to narrow the racial gap. The source hoped
parents would cooperate to make the classes a success "as this can only
enhance the pupils' knowledge of other languages".
However, the move, coming less than two weeks into the new school
year, has not been well received by many. At SK Taman Ehsan in Kepong,
at least one parent has opted to move his son from the school because of
its inability to offer any language class apart from Arabic.
Klang resident Michael Chong, 37, whose son has just entered Year
One, is also among those against the move. "I think it is ridiculous.
They should not force our children to learn subjects they have no
interest in. Does the ministry have enough teachers for these elective
Other parents were more open to the idea. A parent, who requested
anonymity, said he was pleased with the move. "It will give my daughter a
chance to learn Mandarin. She has always been interested in Chinese
culture and has many Chinese friends, so I'm sure she would be very
"I believe it could also be a platform to bridge the racial gap, starting with our children."
But Jenny Lim, 35, from Klang, said: "My husband and I are neutral
about this. We think it is an ideal approach to narrow the racial divide
but it should not be imposed upon the pupils. They have the right to
make their own decisions. After all, it is their future."
'No choice but to pull son out'
THE Education Ministry's plan to introduce either Arabic, Mandarin or
Tamil as elective subjects in Year One classes has caused a controversy
at a school here — even before such classes have begun.
Checks by The Paper That Cares at SK Taman Ehsan showed at least one parent has opted to move his son from the school.
The parent, who only wished to be known as Ayappu, said he was angry
to learn the school would only be offering Arabic language classes.
"I had to transfer my son out of the school. He does not want to learn Arabic and there are no other options."
He said this had affected the family as he had to enrol his son in another school 10km away from their home.
Ayappu said at least three other parents had decided to move their children from the school for the same reason.
"I know of other parents who are unhappy with the decision but have
no choice but to let their children remain in the school. They are
working parents and cannot move their children.
"The ministry should have ensured it had sufficient staff who can teach all three languages before making the move."
A school spokesman told The Malay Mail it had no choice but to choose Arabic because it did not have teachers proficient in Tamil or Mandarin.
"We have no other teachers who can speak Tamil or Mandarin. The
subject is compulsory and we are doing our best," said the spokesman.
It is understood the school has a predominantly Malay student population.