MP SPEAKS | Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad was wrong to brand Dong Zong as “racist”, but Dong Zong was not right to claim that the khat lesson for Chinese/Tamil primary schools’ Standard Four Bahasa Malaysia subject from 2020 was the beginning of Islamisation.
Both these incidents illustrate the gravity of the misperception that engulfs the subject of khat in Chinese and Tamil primary schools.
I was in Chennai, Salem, Bangalore and New Delhi when the khat subject controversy blew up and the briefing by Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching at the gathering for Malacca DAP members yesterday was the first time I learned about the origins of the khat subject controversy.
There were conspiracy theories that the khat controversy were invented either by Education Minister Maszlee Malik or the prime minister to serve their political purposes.
In actual fact, however, the khat subject controversy was a legacy of the former government, as the final decision on the new textbooks for Chinese/Tamil primary schools to introduce the khat subject for Standard Four pupils in 2020 was made by the Education Ministry Curriculum Committee chaired by the then education minister and the then two deputy education ministers in a meeting on Sept. 30, 2015.
Deputy Education Minister Teo only knew about the matter when the controversy blew up last month.
As I said in Skudai over last weekend, if there had been no change of government in the 14th general election on May 9, 2018, the implementation of the Education Ministry's decision on the new curriculum in Sept 2015 would probably result in “Three Wants” in the new textbooks for Chinese/Tamil Standard Four primary school pupils – want to be compulsory, want to have examination and want students to learn khat.
As a result of DAP intervention in Cabinet, the “Three Wants” had become “Three Nos” - no compulsion, no examination and no learning/writing of khat, but only an introduction.
There is the proposal that the khat subject be scrapped for Chinese/Tamil primary schools, although it has already appeared for many years in the current Standard Five textbook for Chinese and Tamil primary schools.
When I was in Salem, India last week, I noted the statement of the Education Ministry that it is “still accepting the views of various parties to ensure that there is fair consideration” as indicative that the Education Ministry is still open to views and consultation from all groups and parties concerned on the subject.
This is an opening that should be fully used for a new consideration of the subject of khat in Chinese and Tamil primary schools.
LIM KIT SIANG is the MP for Iskandar Puteri.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.