THE Malay adage, “kacang lupakan kulit”, the literal translation which describes the peanut that forgets its shell, actually refers to a person who forgets or denies his roots.

As Malaysians, we should all be proud to know and use the national language of our country.

Recently reported, Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said the ministry will review programmes and syllabi to improve student integration through the national language by looking at methods to enhance the command of the Malay language in schools, especially vernacular schools, as a medium of unity.

“Students at National-type Chinese Schools (SJKC) and National-type Tamil Schools (SJKT) need to master the Malay language and get involved in more nationhood programmes,” he said.

As our Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak also recently highlighted about the need to ensure that students of SJKC and SJKT are able to master the Malay language to enhance national unity, Datuk Seri Mahdzir outlined the importance of reviving our national language.

“Command of the Malay language should not be dominated by the Malays, but it should be equally dominated by all communities, to foster national unity.

“Nationhood should not be dominated by the Malays, but all the races, and the same goes for the Malay language. Schools should involve students in more programmes and activities involving nationhood,” he added.

Under the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025, plans are already in place to strengthen Bahasa Malaysia with the aim to achieve a minimum credit in Bahasa Malaysia at SPM level.

Education Performance and Delivery Unit (PADU) executive director Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim had also highlighted that the latest UPSR results recorded 92% of students passing the Bahasa Malaysia paper in 2015, NST reports.

These are encouraging statistics which shows the government’s efforts having a positive effect yet more needs to be done to ensure that our future generations are inculcated with the same love of our naitional language.

Malaysian Digest reached out to educationists to look at the current state of Bahasa Malaysia in vernacular schools and how it can be improved going forward.


“You Must Always Remember That Bahasa Melayu Is Not The Language Of The Malay People, But The Language Of The Country”


Vernacular schools were created to cater for specific ethnic and cultural communities in Malaysia, namely the Chinese and Indians, who wished to have their respective languages and cultural values promoted in their schools. These vernacular schools emphasize Mandarin or Tamil as the primary medium of communication, although Bahasa Malaysia and English are compulsory subjects.

 Prof Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong, Principal Fellow of the Institute of Ethnic Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said Malaysian society today seemed to belittle the position, value and function of  Bahasa Melayu, preferring to use English in which they equate with keeping up with modernisation.

 “We are a nation of differences. It is so that the Chinese cannot be 100% Chinese and the same goes for Malays, Indians and other minorities,” said Teo.

 In this day and age, Teo believes Malaysians are less proficient in the Malay language. Unfortunately, as citizens of this country where Bahasa Malaysia is the national language, not all citizens  know and are competent in the language. To make matters worse, not all citizens are proud and loyal to the language, indicates Teo.

 “If we were to compare with the Indonesians, every citizen there are made to be proud of their national language. We are not like that because we do not stress in our syllabus in regards to the  importance of Bahasa Melayu in fostering nationalism.

 “We have to stress on how the Malay language is our national language, as well as our national and cultural identity,” he added.

 From his experiences, Teo explains what is lacking in our current approach of teaching Bahasa Melayu syllabus . He points out how we are not taught to love, be proud and loyal to our national  language and how the current system also lacks the politeness of the Malay language, besides being taught the linguistic, syntax, and semantics of it.

 “You can see when the non-Malays, they will speak to the Ministers with respectful Malay language, but still they are not polite. For example, ‘Datuk Seri, apa pendapat kamu tentang masalah  ini?’ You see, the ‘kamu’ is very impolite in the Malay language and this is not taught in school. And when the Chinese or Indian do not mix enough with the Malays, they do not learn this  linguistic politeness,” he highlighted how such nuances require more exposure to the language.

Teo strongly encourages all vernacular schools in Malaysia to use Bahasa Melayu more as they favour their mother tongue up to an extent where Mandarin is part of their curriculum and Mandarin is taught in all subjects, either directly or indirectly.

“Even teachers are reminded to teach good Mandarin to the pupil!” Teo points out.

“For the Bahasa Melayu teachers, the Chinese schools demand that the teachers must be able to speak Mandarin so that they are teaching Bahasa Melayu with a little bit of Mandarin. In my opinion, they overstress and overemphasize the mastery of the mother tongue and most of the time, it is at the expense of Bahasa Melayu and also the English language.

“Currently, the Malay language is only taught and spoken during the Bahasa Melayu lessons which is roughly 180 minutes throughout the week.

“Its high time where the schools make it compulsory for the students to also speak Malay while in the school,” Teo highlighted how the notion that if you speak Malay in a Chinese school, you are in a way diluting the identity of the Chinese vernacular schools must be dispelled.

“You must always remember that Bahasa Melayu is not the language of the Malay people, but the language of the country. It belongs to everybody and this kind of thinking should be inculcated across all vernacular schools.

“Presently, the Mandarin language is profoundly used and once they graduate, these students are naturally proficient in that language. Meaning they only speak Mandarin, therefore, they only mix with other people who speak Mandarin, and they live a way of life that is removed from the other communities,” Teo warned.

“This leads to these individuals being labelled as not being patriotic, they ‘menghalang perpaduan’. We should have a big heart and realise this sort of mentality and attitude is not good for our country,” he remarked.


Conduct More Activities In The National Language

We also spoke to Noor Aniza Binti Che Nor, Head of Operations of BM World, which is an innovative program to help improve a student’s ability to listen, speak, read and write effectively in Bahasa Malaysia.

Aniza does not believe all Malaysians are less proficient in our national language for there are still some out there who are excellent at communicating and writing in Bahasa Melayu.

“I strongly agree that if we enhance the command of Bahasa Melayu, it can be as a medium of unity among Malaysians because a nation should communicate in a single common language for that would also improve the patriotism in a country,” said Aniza.

The response from her organisation especially from the vernacular school students who sign up for courses in BM World has been outstanding.

“We have many students from vernacular schools as they would like to be more proficient in the language and learn the correct ways to communicate in Malay,” she added.

The programmes offered in BM World has attracted many students from different walks of life and the defects seen in the students’ use of the Malay language were highlighted to us by Aniza.

“They do not use Bahasa Melayu correctly and they often times, spell words wrongly. Then tend to use bahasa pasar, or slang language, when conversing and uses short forms in writing.

“Issues like these will destroy our beloved national language,” she opined.



In BM World, they focus more on role-plays, story tellings, and games to attract the pupils attentions to learn Bahasa Melayu and to understand the language beyond the surface value and internalise the language.

As for the vernacular schools and their system of teaching the language, Aniza advises vernacular school teachers to conduct more activities, be it in classrooms or during physical education, where it requires students to communicate more in Bahasa Melayu.

“For example, by conducting activities like Bahasa Melayu Week, Storytelling and Public Speaking Competitions in Bahasa Melayu. These methods can improve and increase the unity among the students which starts in school and they will then bring this culture wherever they go.

Commenting further on the matter, Aniza said their tendency to speak more Malay will then also increase gradually, be it with Malays or non-Malays.

Other current efforts to upgrade the use of the national language among schoolchildren include the collaboration with the Institute of Teacher Education Malaysia, whereby Rimbun Capital Sdn Bhd’s had initiated the Rimbun Education Programme (REP), a fun learning programme which focuses on weak students in English, Mathematics and Bahasa Melayu in vernacular schools.

Under this programme, a total of 22 Institute of Teacher Education Malaysia students will visit participating schools like Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil (SJKT) Vivekanda, SJKT Jalan Fletcher, Sekolah Rendah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina (SJKC) Salak Selatan and Sekolah Kebangsaan Gombak three hours weekly to conduct REP activities.

For 2017, a total of 25 students from each school are selected to participate in REP and out of the 25, five outstanding students will be selected as mentors to guide other four average or weak students.


“The More We Know Of Each Other, There Will Be More Trust and Less Suspicion” – PAGE


Generally, pupils from Chinese and Tamil schools are perceived to have a lower command of the Malay Language. For those students coming from a social background that hardly uses the Malay languague, the gap is even wider.

Over the years, many educationists have weighed in on this ongoing debate as the issue comes back to vernacular schools and national schools not sharing a common curriculum in teaching Bahasia Malaysia.

If we want to get it right, a concerted effort must be made to get all primary schoolchildren to learn Bahasa Melayu with the same intensity from the minute they enter formal schooling in Year One.

Ideally, today’s Chinese and Tamil school pupils should be characterised by their proficiency first in Bahasa Melayu and then in Chinese or Tamil but the opposite is true. Same goes for the increasing numbers of students being enrolled in private and international schools who end up being more proficient in the English Language than their mother tongue.

“Basic Bahasa Melayu is the responsibility of every Malaysian to speak, read and write in the language,” said Chairman of the Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) Datin Noor Azimah, adding that its mastery is not vital as long as pne understands it and a two way communication is achieved.

She points out that a common medium of communication must cut across all races and cultures.

The existing programmes may be enhanced to promote usage of Bahasa Melayu especially in vernacular schools, so that the government’s hopes to unite Malaysians through the use of our national language can be achieved, she commented further.

“However the main objective of education is not to make a particular language the medium of instruction but to seek knowledge in the most appropriate manner.

“There are other factors that will foster unity such as respect, kindness & compassion. This is the soul of the nation. Self-esteem and a caring society too should be inculcated in the young.

“Language with action will complement each other in embracing unity,” added Noor Azimah.

This can be attained by increasing and enhancing engagement among students in school or through inter school activities and not necessarily in competition with each other.

“Community based activities and volunteerism to promote unity should be encouraged too,” she said.

“Another important factor is the mutual understanding of each other’s religion and cultures. The focus should be on commonalities in values and beliefs. The more we know of each other there will be more trust and less suspicion,” she concluded.





Source : Malaysian Digest    

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