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Malaysia’s plan for language education questioned for months and the saga is not going away

Biggest Malay-based NGO ABIM now wants dialogue with Chinese NGOs that are against the policy

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Malaysia — The planned introduction of Jawi and Khat in non-government schools next year has been questioned for months by non-Malay/Muslim social-cultural groups and the saga is not going away.

Jawi refers to the Arabic script for writing the Malay language, while Khat refers to calligraphy that often involves brushwork.

The Pakatan Harapan government’s decision to introduce Jawi and Khat in vernacular schools as a new subject for the coming school year has not gone down well with non-Muslim minorities.

The government has made it optional but it will have to be taught if 51 per cent of parents vote for it in a survey conducted by the parent-teacher association of the school.

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Mr Anwar Ibrahim, the Prime Minister-in-waiting, had to intervene last week to calm matters. He urged the societies and NGOs in favour of the introduction of the subject and those against it to stop their demonstrations or forums on the subject.

Mr Anwar stepped in to prevent the risk of confrontation between Malay groups and the Chinese organisations.

Some Malay NGOs have lodged police reports against a Chinese group, the Dong Jiao Zong. They urge the police to prevent the group from holding a congress on Dec 29.

However, the biggest Malay-based NGO ABIM, which is the Malay Youth League of Malaysia, now wants dialogue with Chinese NGOs that are against the education policy.

Abim is close to Mr Anwar, who was a leader of the movement in the 1970s before his ascension to political power in the Umno.

Dong Zong thinks the teaching of Jawi in vernacular schools should not be left to the parent-teacher associations. It wants the school boards and bodies that play a pivotal role in Chinese vernacular education to be roped in.

Meanwhile, the Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) will revive the use of Jawi script at its two campuses in Perak beginning next year.

The institution wants to give a boost to the use of Jawi in Malaysia through its Sultan Azlan Shah Campus and the Sultan Abdul Jalil Shah Campus.

It says the move is to help elevate the writing as a national heritage.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said the introduction of the subject is a good move and has supported the idea. The Democratic Action Party, the largely Chinese-dominated party in the Pakatan Haparan government, has defended Dr Mahathir on the matter.

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