[lg policy] Malaysia: Letters - Bilingualism in Sarawak

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Dec 2 16:40:36 UTC 2015

Letters - Bilingualism in Sarawak
Posted on 1 December 2015 - 07:06pm
*Last updated on 1 December 2015 - 10:56pm*
Print <http://www.thesundaily.my/print/340269>

*I APPLAUD* the Sarawak chief minister, Tan Sri Adenan Satem for announcing
that English will be Sarawak's second official language alongside Bahasa
Malaysia. All official communication in the state can now be written in
English besides Malay.

He has cleverly started the ball rolling by telling the rakyat how English
can be pragmatically used to help them to communicate effectively at the
official level. It does not take much intelligence to realise that this
move will surely create the fluent bilinguals that Sarawakians once were.

I see Adenan Satem's move as a precursor to his taking up the challenge to
introduce a bilingual education policy in the state, that is to allow for
the use of English alongside Bahasa Malaysia in the educational development
of the rakyat.

The bigger challenge for Adenan is to amend the language policy in the
Sarawak education system that will permit the use of English to teach
certain vital subjects in the school curriculum. I do not see this as a
problem as the precedence was set by Tun Mahathir Mohamad when he
introduced the PPSMI policy during his premiership. The policy was
subsequently reversed when Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin took over as education
minister. Efforts to reinstate the status quo of English in the teaching of
Science and Maths on a national scale have not met with majority support
for fear that this will threaten the growth and development of the Malay

Sarawak must not allow politics and the Malay language nationalists to
dampen its bold initiative which, for all intents and purposes, has the
sole objective of raising the language and communication skills of the
people so that they can communicate well in both languages. I don't see why
and how this can impede their greater development or make Sarawakians
disloyal to the nation.

What the Sarawak government must do next is to announce that subjects which
require greater description, narration and reasoning such as History and
Moral Education are to be taught in English. Using English in the teaching
and learning of these subjects will expose teachers and students to the
greatest repertoire of English vocabulary, grammar, idioms and expression
besides developing their cognitive skills of reasoning and logical
argument. What better way to enhance their proficiency in the language than
through regular, structured immersion in these subjects.

Those who oppose the reintroduction of English on a larger scale in the
school curriculum will forever be against it on the flimsy grounds that the
teachers and students are not ready. For God's sake, when will they ever be
ready if you keep telling them that they are not! For heaven's sake,
introduce the policy and then equip them and the system with the relevant
facilities to ensure they achieve the greatest success.

Come on Adenan Satem – you can make Sarawak the model state for the other
states to follow.

*Datin Halimah Mohd Said*
*Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason (PCORE)*


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