The government will press on with its plan to introduce khat lessons for Year 4 students in national-type schools, although a reduced lesson plan failed to appease critics.
However, the lessons will be made optional and would only be taught if approved by parent-teacher associations, parents, and pupils.
The Education Ministry (MOE) said this in a statement today, following this morning’s cabinet meeting.
“In the latest discussions, the cabinet has decided to maintain last week’s decision to proceed with the introduction of Jawi script, but it would only be implemented if agreed upon by PTAs, parents, and pupils of national-type schools. National schools will continue as before […]
“The cabinet has also decided that the Jawi script would continue to be used and would be introduced as ‘Jawi script’ instead of ‘khat’, and would only be introduced optionally at a basic level to Year 4 students beginning 2020, Year 5 students beginning 2021, and Year 6 students beginning 2022 at national-type schools.
“The MOE hopes that following the cabinet decision, the issue of introducing Jawi script in national-type schools would no longer be raised inaccurately such that it causes confusion,” it said.
Khat is a Malay word referring to calligraphy in general, whereas Jawi is one of several scripts that had been used to write the Malay language. The Jawi script had been adapted from the Arabic script with some changes made to suit the Malay language.
The government had planned to introduce six pages of Jawi calligraphy lesson in the Year Four Bahasa Malaysia textbook beginning next year.
Following backlash from Chinese and Tamil education groups, however, the cabinet decided to reduce the lessons to three pages and make it an optional subject.
Nevertheless, the compromise failed to appease critics. The United Chinese School Committees Association (Dong Zong) in particular had opposed the move, which it claims uses khat lessons as a medium to spread Islam and forcing it upon non-Muslim students.
For the record, Education Minister Maszlee Malik had denied allegations that the new lessons are meant to ‘Islamise’ vernacular schools, but to help students recognise Malaysia’s heritage and identity.