Amid strong backlash over the introduction of khat calligraphy in vernacular schools, the Malaysian Cabinet on Thursday (Aug 8) announced that it would only be an elective in the Malay language curriculum.
Education Minister Maszlee Malik, in a press conference on Thursday (Aug 8), said teachers are given the freedom to decide on the method of delivery for teaching khat.
“There will not be exams or assessments on khat calligraphy,” he stressed.
Last Friday, the Education Ministry confirmed that khat will be taught to Year Four students in Chinese and Tamil vernacular schools as part of the Malay language syllabus beginning next year.
The decision caused an uproar among the local Chinese community, which is known to be protective of its mother tongue education.
Chinese educationists questioned the rationale behind introducing khat, which is usually associated with Islam, adding that it would not help the students enhance their Malay language skills.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, on Saturday, said the government would proceed with teaching khat in vernacular schools.
Saying that those against it were “only a small segment of society”, he said the government – unlike other countries – had never barred other races from using the written scripts of their respective languages.
A FAQ issued by the Education Ministry later revealed that khat calligraphy would also be included in the Year Five and Year Six curriculum beginning 2021 and 2022.
Khat Is Calligraphy, Not Jawi: Dr Maszlee
On Thursday, Dr Maszlee said the pages containing khat in the Year Four textbook would be reduced to three, from the initial six.
Speaking in Mandarin, he stressed: “It is calligraphy, not jawi.”
Elaborating, he said khat calligraphy is not alien to Malaysia as it is featured on bank notes and the national emblem.
“It is not something new, and definitely not about arabicisation and Islamisation.
“The important thing is, we are exposing our children to the national heritage and the history of national language,” he said.
Asked if disciplinary action would be taken against teachers who refuse to teach khat, Dr Maszlee said the goal was not to force anyone, but to encourage Malaysians to acknowledge, respect and learn each other’s cultures.
Lim Guan Eng Calls For Malaysians To “Move Forward” From Issue
Meanwhile, Mr Lim Guan Eng, the secretary-general of Democratic Action Party (DAP) on Thursday called for Malaysians to work together with full respect for diversity and appreciation for each other’s differences.
DAP unity has been in the spotlight after some members of the Pakatan Harapan component party publicly opposed the decision by Putrajaya.
In a statement, Mr Lim, who is also the Finance Minister, said the decision to make khat, or Jawi illustration, optional would not please everyone, including the non-Malays who requested for the implementation to be deferred pending consultation.
“However, Cabinet decision yesterday that it is not compulsory but optional and not to be tested in exams, would hopefully allow Malaysians to move forward.”