A Sarawak DAP state representative has reminded the Pakatan Harapan government that it had promised a free choice of language options in schools in the state.
This follows the government’s stance that it is illegal to use English as the medium of instruction in national schools.
In a statement yesterday, Bukit Assek assemblyperson Irene Mary Chang Oi Ling said the promise of free choice of language was stated in the Sarawak Pakatan Harapan election manifesto, so the Education Ministry’s statement on this was disappointing.
“The ministry is reminded that in our Sarawak GE14 election manifesto, Pakatan Harapan promised that if it formed the government, parents in Sarawak shall be given the free choice to have their children educated in Bahasa Melayu, English or Mandarin in schools offering these language options as the medium of instruction.
“The ministry should now not go back on the word but should find ways to deliver the promise made to the Sarawakians,” Chang said.
In a written reply to the Dewan Rakyat that was released yesterday, the Education Ministry said it ws against the use of English as the medium of instruction in national schools, including those in Sarawak.
This is because it violates Article 152(1) of the Federal Constitution and the National Language Act 1963/67, the ministry said, and contravenes the letter and spirit of the Education Act 1996.
However, Chang (photo) said Sarawak Harapan had included the promise in its manifesto because there is strong local sentiment to bring English back as the medium of instruction in schools.
“This, in part, is due to the recognition that under our Malaysia Agreement 1963, English should be the official language for all purposes, state or federal, without limitation of time.
“This is encapsulated in the Federal Constitution whereby Article 161 provides for the continued use of English in our state legislative assembly and the courts of law in Sarawak,” she said.
Therefore, she said, proficiency in English is still required in courts of law and the State Assembly of Sarawak.
Thus far, Chang said, the ministry’s past attempts to improve the standard of English, including by using it as a medium of instruction for the subjects of Science and Mathematics, have failed.
“As a result of these past failures, we have so many unemployed graduates who find difficulty in stringing proper sentences in English.
“It is, therefore, time for the ministry to be more wholesome and holistic in its approach, especially in Sarawak where proficiency in English is still required in our courts of law and the State Legislative Assembly.
Chang added that efforts to overcome the lack of English proficiency should not be seen as a move to reject Bahasa Malaysia’s position or undermine the Federal Constitution.
Instead, learning English would help Malaysians become globally relevant, she said.