THE establishment of the Tamil Language Standardisation Council, a first in Malaysia, shows the commitment of the government to improving Tamil literature and language education.
But here’s the thing: The Education Ministry should have shown greater transparency by appointing a Tamil scholar to lead the council instead of deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching.
We note the disappointment in the Indian community over this situation.
The deputy education minister should play the role of advisor and advise on the overall management of the council in drawing up strategies, policies and development plans.
As we know, the council is under Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP), a government statutory body.
The DBP must adopt an inclusive approach to empower and widen the usage of the Tamil language (spoken and written).
As for the council, it must emphasise the learning of Tamil. The values of Tamil culture can only be inherited through the learning of the language.
Recognition by the Education Ministry could inspire the community to empower a reading culture in Tamil. Hence, Malaysia’s sizeable Tamil community hopes that mother-tongue education would be implemented more effectively and with better quality.
The use of the Tamil language is preserved through vernacular education. There are currently 524 national type Tamil primary schools (SJKT) in the country.
Unfortunately, there is not even a single secondary school. Why is it so difficult to build a Tamil secondary school?
Four hundred and seventy nine candidates sat for the Tamil language paper in the SPM examination last year. For the same year, in the STPM examination, 686 candidates sat for the Tamil language paper.
Tamil school education in Malaysia has existed for 203 years, beginning with the first class in 1816 at the Penang Free School. The teachers were from Tamil Nadu, India. Today, Tamil school education is based on a Malaysian syllabus and taught by mainly graduate teachers.
The Tamil language developed about 3,000 years ago and is one of the first to attain the status of classical language. It has a vast and rich literature, which has inspired a host of other cultures and communities into making their own written and spoken words. The Sangam literature, for example, was first recorded between 200 and 300 BC.
Membership of the Malaysian Tamil Language Standardisation Council comprises Tamil language experts from the Education Ministry, Examinations Syndicate and various NGOs. They would be involved in creating new vocabularies, translating books, reading materials and documents, and enhancing grammatical skills.
The council would also provide free courses to those who are keen to learn the Tamil language.
We want the council to write textbooks for Tamil secondary schools and also provide opportunities for students to improve their writing skills. It is also the duty of the council to honour Tamil scholars, writers, poets and journalists who have dedicated their life to the language. The council should organise a Tamil Literary Award event to recognise these people.