KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's Chinese and Tamil associations on Monday (Aug 5) urged the government to put the teaching of khat calligraphy on hold in vernacular schools, after a decision by the Education Ministry to introduce the syllabus stoked controversy.
This came after the ministry confirmed last Friday that khat, or Jawi script writing, will be taught to Year Four students in Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools as part of the Malay language syllabus beginning next year.
The decision caused an uproar among the local Chinese community, which is known to be protective of its mother tongue education.
In their Monday joint statement, the 12 associations, led by prominent Chinese educationist groups United Chinese School Teachers’ Association and United Chinese School Committees’ Association, said khat calligraphy would not help students improve their Malay language skills.
“While we disagree with the inclusion of khat calligraphy in school syllabus, we are not undermining the status of the Malay language or jawi script, nor rejecting multiculturalism,” the statement read.
The associations stressed that they support the promotion of multicultural values in vernacular schools, but such moves should not alter the schools’ special characteristics.
They urged the ministry to provide more details on the introduction of khat - a form of jawi calligraphy with Malay and Arabic elements - in vernacular schools, so as to assuage public concerns.
Amid a heated debate over the issue, Education Minister Maszlee Malik explained on Sunday that students would not be tested on their khat calligraphy skills in examinations, stressing that the introduction of khat was for the young generation to recognise and understand the basics of the calligraphy form, 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 was quoted as saying by the Star.
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MAHATHIR THROWS WEIGHT BEHIND TEACHING OF KHAT
The ministry’s decision was backed by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who said those against it were “only a small segment of society”.
He said on Saturday that the government had never barred other races from using the written script of their respective languages. This, according to him, has made Malaysia special.
“Chinese written script is not allowed in other countries such as Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand,” he said.
The government would proceed with teaching khat in vernacular schools, Dr Mahathir added.
Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail told reporters on Monday that she would meet Dr Mahathir to discuss the matter.
“Khat is a form of art; it has got nothing to do with religion. That is why we have to discuss further,” she said, according to Malay Mail.