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The Education Ministry announced that vernacular schools will teach only Jawi script as a basic level, and not khat calligraphy. -- NSTP Archive

KUALA LUMPUR: The Education Ministry announced that vernacular schools will teach only Jawi script as a basic level, and not khat calligraphy.

This will only be done with the consent of the students, parents as well as each school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

The ministry, in a statement, said this was the decision reached by the Cabinet today, following heated public debates over the teaching of the script within the Bahasa Melayu syllabus in primary schools.

“In its latest discussion, the Cabinet has decided to maintain its decision last week in that the Jawi script introduction remains, but this will be implemented only if agreed upon by the PTA and the parents and students.

“The ministry also decided that the segment would be named ‘introduction to Jawi script’ and would only be taught on an elective basis to students in Year 4 in 2020, Year 5 in 2021, and Year 6 in 2021 in SJK (vernacular schools),” said the ministry.

Among the decisions that the Cabinet had retained include that the segment would only cover three pages of the subject’s text book instead of the proposed six.

It also maintained that introduction to Jawi script would not be evaluated in tests and examinations.

“The Education Ministry hopes that the Cabinet’s decision on this matter would no longer be inaccurately depicted to the extent of causing confusion among the public.

“The ministry will continue to engage all parties for the benefit of the national education system,” read the statement.

Parents and rights groups have been divided over the issue since it came to light two weeks ago.

Tamil and Chinese education groups had met Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching on the plan to teach Malay-Arabic calligraphy - also known as "khat" writing - as part of the Bahasa Melayu subject for Year Four students.

Some had complained that children and teachers would be burdened, while others claimed that it was a subtle move towards “Islamisation.”

Chinese education group Dong Zong had also embarked on a public petition with similar entities to stop the move.

In recent weeks, 138 DAP leaders have gone all out to fight the decision, while its adviser Lim Kit Siang had cautioned against falling into pitfalls of divisive politics.

He said that he too had learnt Jawi and it did not make him less of a Chinese. Lim and most other senior DAP leaders have however have not made their stand on the issue publicly.

The issue also came to boil several days ago when Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad described Dong Zong as “racist” for objecting to any move to foster unity.

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