Tamin rep rebuts claim Iban language teacher shortage is ‘insignificant’, highlights lack of Iban language teaching programmes

Christopher Gira Sambang (file photo)

By DayakDaily Team

KUCHING, March 13: Tamin assemblyman Christopher Gira Sambang strongly disagrees with the claim that the shortage of Iban language teachers is insignificant when the current situation necessitates a holistic and comprehensive solution.

According to a statement, Gira questioned why there is no recruitment of teachers and course offers for the Bachelor’s Degree in Teaching (PISMP) programme in the Iban Language at the various Institutes of Teacher Education Malaysia (IPGM) in 2022 and 2023 to teach in primary schools in Sarawak.

“Data on the number of primary schools (SK) that offer Iban language classes is as many as 693 (out of 1,264 primary schools in Sarawak), data on the number of classes taking Iban language in primary schools is as many as 5,139 classes, data on the pupils/students who take Iban language classes in SK has 67,308 students, and the number of teachers teaching Iban in primary schools is 2,662.

“The issue is, out of these 2,662 teachers, only 352 teachers have been trained and have the option of teaching Iban language in primary schools (i.e. teachers who have completed the PISMP programme or other related courses). This means that 2,310 teachers who teach the Iban language now are not an option (sic) to teach the subject.

“The question is why the Malaysian Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Institute of Teacher Education Malaysia (IPGM) do not offer the Bachelor’s Degree in Teaching (PISMP) programme in the Iban Language in 2022 and 2023 to teach in primary schools in Sarawak, when there is an urgent need to fill this position, which is currently being filled by teachers who do not have the option of teaching Iban language to a total of 2,310 people,” he said.

Gira said that teacher data on the teaching option in secondary schools also showed a critical need for teachers, with only 79 of the 502 teachers currently teaching having the Iban language option, implying that 423 SMK teachers are either untrained or not an option for Iban language subjects.

“Therefore, I ask that it be considered that the recruitment of teachers to Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) for the Iban language option be increased to address the shortage of 423 option teachers.

“The Iban language should be given priority by the MOE (Ministry of Education) since the language is already recognised at a high level in the curriculum in this country.

“The Iban language is no longer an ethnic language to be used and spoken by the Iban community alone, but has developed into one of the languages owned and learned by the people as a whole.”

Gira also emphasised the importance of the Iban language not just as a mother tongue but as a vital part of the culture, emphasising the need for its preservation.

Furthermore, the Tamin assemblyman stressed that the shortage of Iban language teachers is not a new issue and has been persisting without a resolution for a considerable amount of time, noting that Members of Parliament (MPs) from Sarawak have been consistently raising this concern in the Dewan Rakyat over the past few years.

“This unsolved crisis has also received the attention of Sarawak Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas. He has taken the approach of discussing with the Malaysian Minister of Education, Fadhlina Sidek, to move Iban language study centres to local universities in Sarawak, especially in Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) to overcome the issue of a critical lack of Iban language lecturers at UPSI,” he added.

Gira further remarked that Unimas vice chancellor, Professor Dr Ahmad Hata Rasit, has proposed offering a Bachelor of Education in the Iban Language and an elective course in Iban Language for the Communication Profession to tackle the shortage of Iban language teachers.

“Professor Dr Ahmad Hata Rasit said the programme was proposed to be offered to first semester students for 2025/2026. Unimas will also add another Iban language programme which is Iban Language for the Communication Profession as an elective course. This programme will be offered to all students in the first semester of 2024/2025.”

He emphasised that this has demonstrated the gravity of the issue surrounding Sarawak’s lack of Iban teachers.

“At the DUN (State Legislative Assembly) session in May last year, I also raised the issue of the lack of Language Teachers in my debate session. My debate was also supplemented based on the figures presented in the latest study at that time in 2023,” Gira added. — DayakDaily