Consider teaching Mandarin in national schools

June 19, 2019

We can no longer deny the rising power and dominance of China as an economic powerhouse in Asia. China is leading the current trade activity primarily in Asia, which alerted United States of America and prompted the country to launch their trade war against China.

Indeed, there is a need to learn much from China to learn further from the country for the benefits of our own country, we had to first understand their language just like we do with English to learn from the Britain and US.

To recall back the statement made by our education minister not long time ago, which had drawn some criticisms shown that something must be reflected and done — in how to suit our current education curriculum with the reality happening around us especially in terms of employment.

Our prime minister when he delivered his keynote address and in his interview in Cambridge Union recently on June 16 emphasising for the need of this country to benefit further in its Look East Policy where previously Malaysia decided to learn from Japan and later South Korea, while still maintaining and appreciating Western good values.

He says further that today Malaysia is looking towards China for its tremendous economic achievement.

His statement shown that something should be done in our education curriculum. Even though, our government never put Japanese and Korean languages previously as part of our national school subjects, but it is timely to consider to put Mandarin as another subject to be learned at national schools alongside with Malay and English.

There is a book entitled ‘Footprints in the Paddy Fields’ written by Sabahan writer who is a retired teacher, Tina Kisil, which portrayed part of the education curriculum in Sabah before and after the formation of Malaysia.

From his writing, while she was schooling in Kota Kinabalu before the formation of Malaysia, the subjects of English and Mandarin were in their curriculum before the latter was scrapped and replaced with Malay after the formation.

Malay language is not a problem, but Mandarin subject should be maintained in the national schools then and not segregated the language to be taught in vernacular schools only. Everyone should learn the language just like English and Malay.

Only recently, Mandarin has become an optional subject in national primary schools alongside with the Kadazandusun and Arabic in Sabah.  

While, in public universities, Mandarin is also an optional language where students can learn it as one of foreign languages being offered by the universities unless you are majoring in Mandarin.

However, UiTM and probably other universities offered the subject to be learned by the students in certain programmes such as in business studies and tourism to prepare them for employment later. 

It is a reality that the graduates or those intend to join the workforce in private sector in this country — being able to at least speak in Mandarin is an advantage for them to secure jobs.

Even some employers those do not speak Mandarin, are right now seeking those who can speak in that language.

The education ministry can no longer ignore and remain silent about the importance of learning Mandarin, as the students themselves who will benefit should they know the language just like they do with English in their job-hunting later after they finished their studies.

Of course the students can take course by themselves to learn the language at outside, but it is a waste of time and why not they just learn it at the national schools at the first place.    

It should not be a questioned whether we should put Mandarin in our national schools curriculum or not,  as we should be more flexible and learn to adjust with our dynamic world.

Latin has once become a widely spoken language in world history due to the rising Roman Empire then.

So, it goes with the Arabic where the Europeans were once proud to speak the language during the Golden Age of Islamic Empire where the Muslims were ruling part of Europe, which is now part of Spain and Portugal.

European nations are sending their intellectuals to study knowledge in the Western Islamic Empire, which later transform Europe from Dark Ages into Renaissance. 

China might be once a poor nation and being struck by famine in few decades ago. But, it is totally different today. 

Therefore, the call made by our prime minister to learn from China should open our national school curriculum to be reviewed further — to add Mandarin as a subject to be learned in our national schools.

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