Guan Eng attributes furore over 'jawi illustrations' to misreporting, lack of consultation

Examples of khat calligraphy in Balik Pulau, Penang August 6, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Examples of khat calligraphy in Balik Pulau, Penang August 6, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

KUALA LUMPUR, August 9 — DAP's Lim Guan Eng has blamed misleading news reports and a lack of consultation by the Education Ministry with stakeholders as reasons behind the public furore over khat lessons for vernacular primary schools.

The DAP secretary-general said he’s had to correct news reports that gave out a false impression that the introduction of "jawi illustrations" in the Year Four Bahasa Malaysia textbook in Chinese and Tamil primary schools was not optional but compulsory, and that only the method of teaching is optional.

"This is not true. Cabinet had decided two days ago that the introduction of jawi illustrations to Standard Four students is not to be made compulsory but optional, reduced to three pages and not to be tested in examination.

"Such misleading reports have only compounded the trust deficit and general suspicion the non-Malay community has towards the Education Ministry, following 61 years of broken promises and unfair treatment," he said in a statement.

Lim pointed out that the unhappiness of the non-Malay community and educationists in Chinese and Tamil primary schools on the issue stems from what is perceived to be a unilateral decision taken by the Education Ministry, without any prior consultation with the stakeholders.

He added that the confusion between jawi and Arabic scripts has also exacerbated the situation, with some believing that khat lessons are a veiled attempt at Islamisation in Chinese and Tami primary schools, when both jawi and Arabic are as different as German is to English.

"This failure to carry out prior consultation is why the non-Malay community remains unhappy, do not believe the explanations given and continues to insist on deferment until prior consultation is done.

"For this reason, the government faces a challenging task to build up confidence that was lacking in the previous government amongst the Chinese and Tamil primary," he said.

Yesterday, Education Minister Maszlee Malik, in announcing that khat lessons for vernacular primary schools will begin next year as planned, said that the Cabinet had decided that there would be only three pages in the textbook,dedicated to said art form.

Originally, khat was to take up six out of 164 pages of the new Bahasa Malaysia (BM) Year Four textbook, as part of language art activities.

Maszlee announced that the Cabinet had also decided to grant teachers the option on the method of delivery for introducing khat calligraphy in their classes.

The Simpang Renggam MP added that khat for vernacular schools was not his initiative but a continuation of the policy started by the previous Barisan Nasional administration.

The Education Ministry’s plan to introduce khat, a form of Arabic-Malay calligraphy, as part of the national language syllabus among Year Four students sparked a strong reaction from mostly minority communities, many of whom saw the move as a subliminal attempt at “Islamisation”.

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