International schools should prioritise Bahasa Melayu, says senior educator

The private education sector in Malaysia is expanding, as more local parents opt for international schools.

The Education Act 1996 does not apply to these schools, but come under the supervision of the Education Ministry’s Private Education Division.

As such, the medium of instruction in these schools is English, but students are encouraged to learn a second, and third language – in most cases, Bahasa Melayu, and Mandarin.

Malaysian students in international schools must learn Bahasa Melayu at the secondary level, although most offer the subject from primary.

At my school – Global Oak Tree Scholars (GOTS) International School – we make a mammoth effort to not only learn Bahasa Melayu, but learn it well.

We made Bahasa Melayu compulsory for all students, beginning at the primary level.

By starting them young, we work at improving the competency of the language, to appreciate it, and speak it well.

Bahasa Melayu is a national symbol that helps maintain cultural value and identity.

That is why I wish more international schools would give equal importance to Bahasa Melayu, not just for the local students, but also for the foreign ones, as it is the language of unity.

By learning Malay, you can communicate effectively with Malay-speaking individuals in various settings, including work, social gatherings, daily interactions, and when dealing with official documents.

Moreover, Bahasa Melayu is available as one of the papers for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) examination.

For the record, there are two types of IGCSE Bahasa Melayu examinations – Malay as a first language, and Malay as a foreign language.

So, it makes sense for international schools to make Bahasa Melayu an essential part of their curriculum.

If international schools in Malaysia place emphasis on our national language, it will help their students who may want to become doctors or lawyers.

These students need a credit in SPM in Bahasa Melayu to practise in Malaysia. If these students receive a foundation in the language, it will help when they sit for their BM examinations.

For the record, the Malay language, known as Standard Malay, is closely related to Indonesian.

It is the native language of some 10 million people, but spoken by many ethnic minorities, and the overall number of speakers is now estimated to be about 290 million.

It, therefore, makes it a major world language.

To learn a new language is to have one more window from which to ‘look at the world’.

Learning a language provides children with a new platform to understand the world from a new perspective, encouraging them to embrace new customs and cultural nuances.

Malaysia is a land of many customs and cultures. Our old tourism slogan – ‘Malaysia, truly Asia’ – is a perfect tagline, as it defines the essence of Malaysia. It also showcases the country’s unique cultural diversity.

And what better way to showcase that by promoting the national language.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of Twentytwo13.