Don’t implement khat just yet, say educationist groups

Jiao Zong chairman Ong Chiow Chuen (seated, speaking in microphone), Dong Zong chairman Tan Tai Kim (seated, on Ong’s right) and representatives from 10 other groups at a press conference today.

KAJANG: Chinese educationist groups Dong Zong and Jiao Zong today reiterated their stand against the government’s move to introduce a chapter on the Malay-Arabic calligraphy of khat in the Year 4 Bahasa Melayu syllabus in vernacular schools next year, calling for a delay in implementation.

In a joint statement with 10 other Tamil- and Chinese-interest groups, they said the education ministry should expound on its explanation that schoolchildren will not be tested on their khat-writing skills during exams despite the inclusion of the component in the Standard Curriculum and Assessment Document (DSKP) and syllabus.

Their spokesman, Jiao Zong chairman Ong Chiow Chuen, urged the ministry to reveal which part of the syllabus and DSKP will be amended to provide further clarification on how khat will be introduced in Tamil and Chinese primary schools.

“This is important to dissuade public concerns and doubts, as well as ensure that the implementation (of khat) meets the needs of Chinese and Tamil primary school students,” he said.

“We are of the opinion that before the education ministry clarifies this matter for public knowledge, this move must be postponed.”

Jiao Zong chairman Ong Chiow Chuen holds up a page from the Year 5 Bahasa Malaysia textbook which introduces khat and other styles of calligraphy scriptwriting.

Also present at the press conference was Dong Zong chairman Tan Tai Kim and representatives from the 10 groups which include the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Hua Zong), the Tamil Foundation, the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia and Merdeka University Bhd.

The groups said the move to introduce khat, the calligraphy of Jawi – a variant of Arabic script widely used for the Malay written form before it was romanised – would not help Chinese and Tamil primary school students improve their Malay language skills.

They said while khat can be included to make leaning the national language more fun, it could burden students and teachers.

The groups said they were neither being unpatriotic nor rejecting the learning of khat and Jawi, adding that there are those who wanted to politicise the matter.

But they said the ministry’s efforts to foster better multiracial interaction in schools would take into account all views, and proposed that representatives from Chinese and Indian organisations be included in the review of textbook contents.

“We will meet Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching tomorrow to discuss this issue, so we can know the latest update on this.”