'Aye' for Mandarin and Tamil

Malay Mail, March 5, 2014

EDUCATION and parent-teacher groups have responded positively to the Education Ministry's proposal to introduce Mandarin and Tamil as language subjects in schools.

On Sunday, Second Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh said the ministry wished to create a balance in language proficiency among all races through the proposal.

The idea has been in the pipeline and is also laid out in the Education Blueprint 2013-2015.

Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) secretary Tunku Munawirah Putra said other races would also benefit from learning these languages.

"It is evident that many Malays want to learn Mandarin since more are enrolling in Chinese schools," she said.

"But it is also subjected to teacher preparedness and availability according to the Education Blueprint."

Tunku Munawirah said another of the blueprint's objectives is to make national schools more attractive to non-Malays.

"There are provisions under the Education Act 1996 and Standard Curriculum for Primary School (KSSR) which stipulate that if there are at least parents of 15 pupils in the schools who request for Tamil and Chinese languages, then the school should offer these subjects," she said.

"For indigenous languages, the same rules apply but are subject to the practicability of doing so."

Malacca Action Group For Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin said such an implementation would better reflect Malaysia's multiracial diversity.

"I'm for it. It is always good to learn an extra language and it would also add value to applications for scholarships for students," he said.

Mak lamented that while there are additional languages such as Mandarin presently being taught in national schools, classes were not held during regular school hours.

"They are usually conducted after school. Students are also often discouraged from taking these subjects as the exam questions are tough and it is difficult to get a high score," he said.

"This has led to people wondering if this was done intentionally to discourage students from taking such subjects in the first place."

National Parent-Teachers Association chairman Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Ali Hassan said the move would "empower" schools in terms of national unity.

"I am fully supportive of the idea," he said.

"It would give the opportunity to all students to fully learn languages other than Bahasa Malaysia or English."