Tuesday, September 24

Khat: Minister urged to clarify what is ‘optional’

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Irene Chang

SIBU: The Minister of Education Dr Maszlee Malik is urged to explain the meaning of ‘optional’ in his statement about the introduction of ‘khat’ (Islamic calligraphy) to be implemented ‘in an optional manner’.

Bukit Assek assemblywoman Irene Chang, in a statement issued here yesterday, said the minister had also been quoted as saying that the teachers would be given the authority to decide ways to implement khat in their respective classrooms.

“It’s confusing the teachers – are they given the option to teach Jawi script-writing, or are they merely given the option to implement it?

“Clarification is needed because there have been conflicting news reports – some say the government has decided that the teaching of khat in vernacular primary schools is optional, whereas others report that the option lies in the hands of the teachers,” she said, pointing out that clarification was necessary so that teachers would have ample time to prepare for next year’s school term.

“Nevertheless, I reiterate our DAP (Democratic Action Party) Sarawak chairman Chong Chien Jen’s stand that khat should be made optional, with parents deciding whether to allow their children to learn it or not.”

Chang said the option should not be given to the teachers because they might feel obliged to teach it since the subject is included in the Bahasa Melayu syllabus. Moreover, the issue had been widely politicised, she added.

“Teachers should not be burdened with it because in a class, there are parents who may want their children to learn it and (there are) others who object.

“Maszlee should, by now, know that most people are unhappy with the decision to go ahead with the (khat) implementation, albeit, with some minor changes, like cutting the lessons from six to three pages.

“I call upon Maszlee to be sensitive to the continuing uneasiness, in particular, by the manner that it is implemented without prior consultation with the stakeholders.”

Chang said Maszlee’s uncompromising stand to implement it had been met with fear and suspicion in Sarawak.

She said the people had not forgotten his statement last December when he called upon Islamic religious teachers to stay put in Sabah and Sarawak to propagate Islam among the students.

She said another concern among Sarawakians was the training of teachers in calligraphy.

“Not everyone has a flair for the art, and if the teachers are unable to cope with it, it will lead to more transfers of religious teachers to Sarawak, an issue which Sarawakians are unhappy with.

“If this Malay heritage can be introduced to the students, the ministry should also include the heritage of other ethnic groups in the syllabus.

“In the context of Sarawak, the ministry can also look into introducing the calligraphic arts of the Ibans, the Chinese and even English, apart from khat.”

Chang reminded Maszlee that education was ‘a powerful tool that could be used to foster closer bonds or break bonds’.

“Closer bonds can never be achieved when there is a lack of open communications and consultations between the ministry and the relevant stakeholders, as in this case.”

She said the ministry should review the policy and listen to the people’s calls to make the Jawi-writing an optional or elective subject.

“This will help to bridge the growing distrust among the races, which was caused by the previous BN (Barisan Nasional)’s government of divide-and-rule.”