KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 14 — In a surprise statement, the Ministry of Education announced today that the vernacular schools will only teach the jawi script at a basic level instead of the khat calligraphy.

Following a discussion by the Cabinet, the ministry said the introductory lessons will stay in vernacular schools, but only with the consent of students and each school's Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

“In the latest discussion, the Cabinet has decided to keep the previous decision of the Cabinet last week so that the jawi script introduction remains, but this will be implemented only if agreed upon by the PIBG and the parents and students,” the ministry said, using the Malay acronym of the PTA.

“Sekolah Kebangsaan will continue as usual,” it added.

The ministry also reiterated the Cabinet’s decision that the jawi lesson takes up only three pages in the Bahasa Malaysia text book, and will not be subject to any tests or examinations.

Originally, khat took up six out of 164 pages of the new Bahasa Malaysia Standard Four textbook, as part of language art activities.

“The Cabinet meeting also decided that the jawi script [lesson] continues with the name introduction to jawi script and not khat, and will be introduced as elective at only a basic level to Standard Four students starting 2020; 2021 for Standard Five; and 2022 for Standard Six in Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan,” it said.

Last week, Education Minister Maszlee Malik confirmed that lessons for vernacular primary schools will begin next year as planned.

He said the Cabinet has unanimously approved the introduction of the Arabic calligraphy for Year Four pupils in Mandarin- and Tamil-language schools, and indicated two main changes to lessons.

Earlier this week, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said that he would appeal for a review of khat lessons in vernacular schools at the Cabinet meeting today, as minority protest over the new policy continues.

The backlash over the lesson has since culminated in a petition drive launched by Dong Zong, a private Chinese educationist group, on grounds that the insertion of khat into the Bahasa Melayu syllabus was done without prior consultation and reeks of Islamisation.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has since labelled the group “racist” for its singular focus on the Chinese community when it comes to education.