Teach Malay to all, with emphasis on listening, speaking

All these years in Singapore, there has been intermittent public discourse on the importance of Malay, our national language.

However, in reality, many Chinese, and some Indian, Singaporeans are less than familiar with this language.

Eurasians seldom encounter this problem, as they often elect to study Malay as their mother tongue language.

Over the years, proposals to teach Bahasa Melayu to other ethnic groups appeared somewhat half-hearted, and failed to gain traction.

If the primary objective is to equip students with basic communication skills in Malay, then the emphasis should be exclusively on listening and speaking skills, and the language should be non-examinable. Reading and writing are, by comparison, secondary.

Armed with the rudiments of this language, students of different ethnic groups would be better able to bond, thus achieving stronger cohesion and social harmony.

Allocating a minuscule number of hours to study Malay would not add undue burden and stress to the students. The learning of Malay should not be at the expense of the other academic subjects.

Although it should be a non-examination subject, the schools should still test the students to ensure learning is achieved.

By the time the students reach adolescence, they would be conversant in our national language, and all would be able to better relate to the National Anthem whenever it is sung.

The same applies to those doing their national service, where virtually all the commands are in Malay.

Being the national language of Singapore, Malay has to be understood by all, regardless of race or creed.

Joe Teo Kok Seah

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2017, with the headline 'Teach Malay to all, with emphasis on listening, speaking'. Print Edition | Subscribe