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Dignifying the Malay language at institutions of higher learning

Dignifying the Malay language at institutions of higher learning

By Dr. Sidek Baba

The announcement by Minister of Higher Education Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin that the use of Bahasa Melayu or Malay language be strengthen in the context of learning, teaching, research and publication, is a move in the right direction and far-sighted.

Besides, the focus on publication and strengthening the high quality of local journals in Malay and to be indexed in Scopus and ISI is a right strategy. It will also enhance the academic recognition of Malay language in the various discipline of knowledge and increase the effort in internationalizing the Malay language.

The strategy will be more interesting when the 30 percent target of learning and teaching in Malay is for the science stream and another 70 percent for the social science and humanities stream. The strategy of giving Bahasa Melayu its rightful honour has long been waited by the Bahasa Melayu activists in Malaysia.

The announcement is a reflection of a high political will to correct the situation which is getting out of balance in the focus to implement the spirit of the Education Act 1996 which stated the importance of Bahasa Melayu as the language of knowledge, language of research, language of teaching and learning.

The emphasis in strengthening the use of Bahasa Melayu should be received by leadership of the institutions of higher learning with open heart. There must be a will and a well-plan strategy to return the status of Bahasa Melayu as teaching and learning medium and as the language of knowledge and internationalisation.

The institution of higher learning in Malaysia has long made Bahasa Melayu as the medium of language in all disciplines. Its graduates have not lack in competitiveness compare with others. At the same time, enhancing the command of English should be a well-planned move to ensure that the studentsí high proficiency in the language.

The strategy of the Ministry of Higher Education is in line with the effort by the Ministry of Education in upholding the Malay language and strengthening the command of English (MBMMBI) to replace the PPSMI, which in the long run only be unbeneficial to the application of Malay language and the education system in Malaysia.

With this new strategy, the continuous process of strengthening the use of Malay language will be more natural and harmonious, beginning with the primary school level, secondary and right up to the institutions of higher learning. It will make the language policy at the institution of higher learning more focus and clear.

The implementation of the Bahasa Melayu policy in the education system in Malaysia is in line with Article 152 of the Constitution and is a reflection of the Education Act 1996.

For Malaysians, there should be no doubt in the capacity of Bahasa Melayu as an official language and official medium in the administrative and education system. Advanced countries like Japan and Korea and developing countries like China use their own national languages in their education system.

Besides being the signature of resilience, language is also an effective tool to forge unity and development of knowledge because realistically the multi-racial country needs one competitive language and with its own ethos so that it can provide the significance and real meaning to independence.

Giving focus to the strengthening of English at all educational levels and to endear oneself to be proficient in the Chinese, Japanese and Arabic languages is something necessary where we can benefit from the rise of Eastern and Arabic countries in future.

The strength of a language depends on the depth of knowledge of a person out of his voracious pursuit in studies and researches. The more original researches and works a person done, the more locally available references he makes which could be pushed into the international level.

Serious and well-planned translation effort will provide Malaysian scholars to benefit from the research compare with other culture and civilisation. It will enhance the wealth of knowledge from other sources and contribute to the progress of man.

The myth that the use of Bahasa Melayu at institutions of higher learning is a backward step in the thinking and acquisition of up-to-date knowledge does not arise.

Local graduates will find no difficulties in pursuing their studies overseas like the United States of America, Japan, Germany or even China, because language barrier can be overcome by the will and determination to study hard.

A race with an independent soul is a race that has high resilience. The language that he uses is closely associated with history, culture and value of that particular race.

As such, developing the Malay language as dignified language requires creativity in term of learning and teaching using the curriculum or integrative structure of knowledge so that the knowledge gain are moulded in high ethical value.

There are thousands of international students at the institutions of higher learning in the country and it is necessary that communicative Bahasa Melayu be taught to them.

There are those who wish to learn Bahasa Melayu in their daily application and when they return to their respective countries they can introduce the language to their people. Some of them will become education officers, academicians who can turn Bahasa Melayu into international status.

This challenge can only be overcome if there is a conducive environment in institutions of higher learning which make Bahasa Melayu as the language of teaching and learning, language of writings, translation and research and there are recognitions given to scholars and writers to motivate the growth of intellectualism and the advent of new civilisation.

Malaysia has targeted 2020 as a developed country but in our own mould. The strengthening of Bahasa Melayu in the education system is the effort towards strengthening our own mould.


is a lecturer at the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM)