Maszlee: Khat not to be tested

KUALA LUMPUR: Schoolchildren will not be tested on their khat (Jawi calligraphy) writing skills during examinations, says Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik.

“Khat is included in our Standard Curriculum and Assessment Document (DSKP), and will be taught as part of the Bahasa Melayu syllabus.

“However, not all matters contained in the DSKP must be evaluated and assessed in exams.

“What we (ministry) hope for is that a new generation of Malaysians of all races can recognise and know the basics of khat, which is a national treasure.

“The introduction of khat is important as it is part of Bahasa Melayu heritage, in line with its position as the national language and language of unity,” he told reporters during a closed-door meeting at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) here yesterday.

The ministry announced last week that the introduction of khat would be taught as part of the Bahasa Melayu subject for Year Four pupils from 2020.

Maszlee yesterday gave the assurance that the non-examination for khat applies to all levels.

He earlier said that the plan to introduce khat was part of a revision of the curriculum carried out since 2014.

Noting that khat is unique only to Malaysia, Maszlee said the “art form” is part of the country’s heritage and identity that should be shared and understood among citizens.

“Khat is part of our daily life and it can be seen in many places here, such as country and states’ emblems and our currency,” he said.

The ministry, he added, is looking into the best ways to carry out teaching and learning khat in schools and that it is aware of the concerns the Chinese community has about the issue.

“The ministry is considering simple teaching and learning approaches to introduce khat so that it would not burden teachers and students.

“Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching has also been actively raising various matters that concern the Chinese community –including introduction of khat – with me,” he said, adding that the ministry is in discussion with a panel of language experts on the syllabus of khat for Year Five and Six pupils.

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) Applied Linguistics, Phsycholinguistics, Translations lecturer Prof Dr Vijayaletchumy Subramaniam – who is on the panel of language experts working with the ministry – said it is advantageous for pupils to be exposed to khat at a young age.

“Introducing khat in school provides students the basic knowledge about the writing art form.

“It is general knowledge for students – just like Chinese calligraphy.

“Khat is unique to Malaysia because knowledge of Bahasa Melayu is needed,” she said, after pointing out that students are required to take up to four credit hours of Jawi classes when they enter university if they opt to be Malay language experts.

The uproar over the issue, she believes, is caused by the lack of explanation and understanding.

“We (panel of language experts) would also oppose implementation of Jawi should the ministry implement it,” she said.

She also explained that plans for the khat syllabus now – which are subject to change after further studies and discussions are conducted –include Year Four pupils learning khat from idioms.

She elaborated that Year Five pupils could be learning khat from parables (perumpamaan), while Year Six pupils would learn from words of wisdom (kata-kata hikmat).

Pointing out that the voices of objection were from only a small segment of society, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said khat is a high level art form and gave a “nod of approval” to Maszlee’s decision.

He noted that the government was steadfast in its policy of shared prosperity and had never stopped the use of other languages’ writings.

During his visit to Turkey, Dr Mahathir said he observed that the people there were skilful in their writing despite also using the Romanised script.

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan has also stressed that khat takes up a very small part of the new curriculum and textbook.

He said teachers were being trained to teach the introduction of khat to pupils in all schools starting next year.

“Khat is an art of writing that could make learning more enjoyable for pupils while teaching them beautiful handwriting.

“It is an art involving the thickness of lines. NUTP has no objection to this as it can expand our children’s knowledge of the different types of calligraphy,” said Tan, adding that the learning of khat would not touch on any religion.
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