Wednesday, August 21

Focus on Iban language

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State wants it to be on par with Tamil and Chinese education in the country one day

KUCHING: The government is weighing various options to increase the number of high quality teachers for the Iban language subject so that it will one day be on par with Tamil and Chinese education in the country.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, who revealed this grand plan yesterday, said the number of students enrolling to study the Iban language subject had been on the increase every year, but the number of teachers who could teach this subject was insufficient.

At present, there are only 391 teachers teaching this subject in 95 secondary schools and 1,650 in 693 primary schools throughout the state.

But the number of students pursuing the Iban language subject stands at 22,512 in secondary schools and 48,969 in primary schools.

Jabu said the 1:58 teacher student ratio for secondary schools and 1:30 for primary schools is deemed too low to hit the set goal.

“The issue now is to provide more highly qualified teachers on the subject.

More classes could be conducted if more qualified teachers are available as we want to avoid class-overcrowding issues,” he told reporters after opening a one-day dialogue session on the teaching and development of the Iban language in schools at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel here.

Among those present at the event, which was organised by the Saribas Social and Recreational Committee (SSRC) Kuching branch, were organising chairman Andrew Bangkam Bejie, Bukit Saban assemblyman Robert Lawson Chuat and Betong Resident Datu Romie Sigan Daniel.

GETTING THE FACTS RIGHT: Jabu fielding questions from reporters as Andrew (left) and Romie (right) look on.

Jabu, who is also Minister of Modernisation of Agriculture and Minister of Rural Development, said for Iban language education to be at par with Chinese and Tamil education, a proper development framework had to be in place.

“Once we have this (framework) we can start to develop and strengthen the teaching of Iban language in schools. The framework should include the syllabus and competency of the teachers.”

On response to the Iban language subject, Jabu said response from the Dayak community had been on the increase while those from the non-Dayak community were encouraging.

“This shows that the language is accepted by all communities considering that we are encouraging our children to be multilingual.”

Asked if there were plans to introduce the subject at pre-school level, he said the state would look into this possibility but it depended very much on the availability of trained teachers.

On a related note, he said currently 25 post-graduates and 46 diploma students were pursuing Iban language minor at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) in Perak.

In addition, 44 undergraduates are currently pursuing a five-year degree course in the teaching of the Iban language subject at the Rajang Teachers Training Institute.

“These initiatives will be an on-going on. We will strive to persuade more teachers training institutes to offer such courses for we need more teachers.”

Asked to comment on the low response to the Iban language subject in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination, Jabu said the initiative was there to encourage the students to sit for the subject.

“We will find out the reasons and causes which lead to unsatisfactory results in their overall achievement records. We will try to resolve this by, maybe, giving more incentives and providing more quality teachers. We are not discouraged by this.”