PUTRAJAYA: After the plan to introduce khat in Year Four next year sparked a rash of reactions among various groups, the government has now given teachers in vernacular schools the power to decide whether they want to teach Jawi calligraphy to pupils.
Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik said after a Cabinet meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and upon taking some considerations into account, it was decided that khat would be taught in Chinese and Tamil primary schools but reduced from six to three pages.“Teachers have the power to decide how they want to teach during their classroom sessions, and whether they want to teach it.
“We don’t want to force anyone but are encouraging them to learn each other’s culture and something that relates to our bahasa kebangsaan (national language).
“We are encouraging people to appreciate the history of their nation, ” he said during a 20-minute press conference at the ministry here yesterday.
The minister reiterated that there would not be any form of test, assessment or exam in the learning of khat.
It will be taught as scheduled as part of the Bahasa Melayu curriculum for Year Four pupils in national schools from next year.
Maszlee noted that khat was not something introduced by his administration nor was it a new thing that was introduced overnight.
“It is part of the Standard-Based Curriculum for Primary Schools (KSSR) syllabus that was reviewed in 2014 and implemented in 2017.
“The preparation process for khat began in 2015.
“It’s just that the KSSR implementation (for vernacular schools) is set for 2020, ” he said.
The ministry previously said that khat was included in its Standard Curriculum and Assessment Document (DSKP) and would be taught as part of the Bahasa Melayu syllabus but added that not all matters contained in DSKP must be evaluated and assessed in exams.
“What we 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 said last Sunday.
The ministry’s initial announcement on the introduction of khat in the Bahasa Melayu subject in vernacular schools triggered an uproar among education groups, politicians and parents, who questioned the rationale behind the move.
Various people, including former minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, opined that khat should not be made part of the school curriculum but an elective subject, while Chinese and Tamil educationist groups wanted the government to give details on how the calligraphy would be introduced in vernacular schools.
Even the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism weighed in, saying that there were more important issues to be tackled by the ministry like preparing pupils to be more competitive.
Others like moderation advocate and former Johor lawmaker Mohamed Tawfik Ismail, who called for more talks over the matter with stakeholders, said khat script was more of an art form rather than having any religious undertone.
At yesterday’s packed media conference, Maszlee also said that he was questioned as to why the ministry did not introduce coding in place of khat.
“Coding has been introduced in schools since 2016, starting with 431, 231 Year Six pupils.
“By next year, all primary schools will be teaching coding, ” he said.
On another matter, Maszlee said the ministry held a meeting with state education exco members, where all parties had agreed to conduct additional classes for Maths and Science and carry out more Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-related programmes in primary schools.
Noting that the focus was on the teaching and learning of Maths and Science in primary schools, the ministry would encourage states to have additional classes for the two subjects.
“We find that the reason many students choose not to take up science courses in their tertiary education is because they don’t opt to enter science stream in secondary school. And the reason for this is because they have a poor grasp of Maths at primary school level.
“UPSR results from 2015 up to 2018 show a drastic decline in their achievement in the subject, ” he said.
Maszlee said to overcome the problem, STEM initiatives must be enhanced.