Devil is in the details of implementation of language classes
Teaching of Pupils Own Language (POL) classes is actually part of the secondary school’s curriculum. This policy has been in existence for some time. However, its implementation has been wrought with problems.
However, the requirements of 15 students for the classes to operate, having the classes outside school hours, the opposition from the Malay language nationalists and others have stood in the way of the implementation of the POL classes.
Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim advice to the Minister of Education Fadhlina Sidek for the successful implementation of extra languages classes for Chinese and Indian students is something timely.
Anwar made the announcement during the closing ceremony of 11th International Tamil Conference held at University Malaya, July 22, 2023. The conference that begun on July 21 ended on July 23, 2023.
Anwar might have given a much needed political impetus to the effective implementation of the POL classes, not just Tamil but also Mandarin.
As I said, this is not a new policy on the part of the unity government, but a reaffirmation that POL classes are beneficial to all students, Malays, Chinese and Indians.
Just like in other countries, students learning more than one language is something beneficial for them in terms of broadening their horizon but at same time good for the country as a whole. But Anwar is not naive, calling for the effective implementation of the POL language classes is easier said that done. It is not that the policy is not there, but its implementation has been slackened over the years.
The lack of understanding on the part of the officials of the ministry of education, the school authorities who see the introduction of other languages as an affront to Bahasa Melayu are the factors that have derailed the POL classes in secondary schools.
How Anwar can get the education authorities to go along with his idea of POL classes is left to be seen. It is nice to hear that Anwar as the Prime Minister has broad and progressive view towards the learning of languages other than Bahasa Kebangsaan.
Needless to say, Bahasa Melayu is mandatory subject and the medium of instruction in schools and public universities. There is no compromise on not learning the language.
In fact, Malaysians of all races have no problem in accepting the Bahasa Melayu as the official and national language. It is not just the lingua francs of the nation before independence, but requirement of the Federal Constitution.
But at the same time, there is need to learn other languages, Mandarin, Tamil, and even French, Japanese and others. Why not?
Anwar’s announcement yesterday hopefully can spark off a renewed interest in the learning of POL before other languages can be introduced into the school curriculum.
Such a move will to some extent address some of the shortcomings of the present vernacular system of education.
There are so many areas where the school system in Malaysia needs to be revamped.
One area is to ensure the school system prepares students for TVET education, especially those who might not be interested in pursuing tertiary education.
Another area is the diversification of the language learning in schools.
Let us see whether the government bureaucracy is receptive to the ideas of Anwar.