KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 1,457 national primary schools have included Arabic Communications, Tamil or Chinese in their formal curriculum as Bahasa Tambahan under a new Education Ministry policy.
The upgrading of such languages from “pupils own language” (POL) classes held after school to languages offered to every pupil within the formal timetable is to promote a “better understanding of each other’s culture,” said Education director-general Datuk Abdul Rafie Mahat.
He said the urban and rural schools selected to spearhead the programme were those that already had POL classes in place for one of the languages.
“The subjects offered under the Bahasa Tambahan programme are for pupils who want to learn an additional language.
“We are not going to force anyone to take it, but they are expected to as the lessons are part of the timetable.
“The aim of the programme is to enable students to understand and appreciate different cultures and languages.
“However, due to factors like the availability of teachers for the subjects at the moment, it is not yet possible for all schools to offer all three languages,” he added.
Of the 1,457 schools, 900 are offering Arabic Communications, a new subject altogether, while 277 have Tamil language classes and 218 have Chinese in the timetable.
“We have to be realistic and implement the programme in stages based on the availability of teachers. Various measures are being undertaken to expand the programme.
“The recent move to extend the retirement age of contract teachers was partly to ease the shortage of teachers for these subjects as well,” said Abdul Rafie.
He was speaking to reporters yesterday after launching the Star Education Fair 2003 at the Putra World Trade Centre here.
This is the first year Bahasa Tambahan is being introduced as a subject option for primary schools.
Although the ministry aims to offer more subjects in the long run, only Arabic Communications, Tamil and Chinese will be offered in the initial stages.
In his speech, Abdul Rafie congratulated The Star for successfully organising its 15th Education Fair, aimed at informing school leavers of their tertiary education choices.
“Today, not only are more students studying overseas financed either by their parents or government and private scholarships, they also have the option of obtaining a foreign degree without leaving the country.
“This just shows how far the education industry has developed in the past two decades,” he said.
Abdul Rafie urged both public and private education institution operators to ensure quality in the delivery of their programmes.
“We have at present 23,000 foreign students from 141 countries pursuing tertiary programmes in our institutions. This is a sure sign that Malaysia is fast becoming a regional centre of educational excellence.
“Nevertheless, the private education sector has to be on guard so as not to allow the lead we have to slip,” he added.