Sarawak schools bound by Jawi syllabus despite legal leeway on official language, says lawyer

National schools in Sarawak are bound by the national syllabus as they come under federal education policies and not the language act. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A lawyer says Sarawak will not be able to escape the introduction of Jawi in the Bahasa Melayu syllabus of vernacular schools next year despite the state not adopting the National Language Act 1963/67.

Kuching-based lawyer Simon Siah said this was because the issue involves a national syllabus applicable in all national schools.

He said the National Language Act is applicable for official government business including in letters, parliamentary and court proceedings.

Sarawak is spared from the provisions in the act, and as such uses English in state assembly sittings and courts.

“However, the hotly debated use of Jawi is an education policy which is not under the act,” he told FMT.

While Sabah and Sarawak have a special provision to use English for official purposes under Article 161 of the Federal Constitution, Siah said education is not part of the provision.

“That will come under the Education Act 1996, wherein Section 17 of the act states that the national language is the main medium of instruction for the national education system.

“And Article 152 of the Federal Constitution defines that the national language is Bahasa Melayu.”

The National Language Act stipulates that Malay is the official language.

But Section 1(2) of the Act leaves it to the governments of Sabah and Sarawak to decide when to enforce its provisions.

When contacted by FMT, Sarawak’s Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Michael Manyin said he needed to check with the state’s attorney-general to confirm the issue.

FMT has also contacted the education ministry and is awaiting a response.