In Malaysia, the government is looking into introducing Tamil language as an additional subject in secondary schools across the country.
According to Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, talks are already in progress with Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek. The move is said to be in line with the Constitution, ensuring cultural and language rights to all citizens.
In his keynote address during the International Tamil Research Conference in Universiti Malaya, Ibrahim said “It has been our national education policy all along that the Malay language is the main medium of instruction. However, we must promote the use of the English language so that proficiency among students can be assured.”
“At the same time, we must also allow and encourage students, in this case Tamil students, to continue to master the language in secondary schools,” he added.
Despite plans to move forward, concerns have been raised over funding and a potential shortage of teachers – yet the Prime Minister has addressed these points.
“When there are fewer students, it’s difficult to employ teachers. However, I will alert Fadhlina and make the necessary adjustments.”
RM1mil has also recently been allocated for the International Tamil Research Conference. He commented “In this age, mastery of languages is important. The old mindset of some Malaysians would be against efforts to promote other languages in secondary schools.”
“They tend to ignore the fact that the mastery of a third or fourth language is important.”
Malay is the official language of Malaysia and the majority mother tongue of the Malay ethnic group. Han Chinese people and Tamil people are two of many smaller ethnic groups in the country.
Malaysian Tamil is a variant of the Tamil language, spoken across Southern Asia. In Malaysia, speakers constitute approximately 15% of the population at 2 million. Tamil is counted as one of the languages of education, along with Malay, Mandarin and English however it is inconsistently taught in secondary schools.