Teaching of Jawi calligraphy in schools not ‘petty’ issue, says Chong

Chong (centre) at the press conference, with Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong (right) and his new special assistant Michael Kong Feng Nian.

KUCHING, Jan 6: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s recent remark about the teaching of Jawi calligraphy in schools as a ‘petty’ issue does not sit well with Pakatan Harapan (PH) Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen.

Responding to the ongoing arguments over Putrajaya’s move to introduce khat or Jawi calligraphy for Year 4 pupils this year, Chong said it is not a small or petty issue.

Abang Johari was reported as saying, “I do not want to be dragged into this petty issue. To me it is very petty. Why should we be dragged into this petty issue? We have to tackle the rising cost of living.”

Speaking at a press conference today, Chong said the issue actually concerned many Chinese community members, including parents and school board members in Sarawak.

“For Abang Johari to label the issue as petty, it shows that he is not a chief minister for all races. This is also a slap to Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) who’ve been constantly harping on it, calling the PH government as constantly introducing a flip-flop education policy. In the end, their own leader said this is a petty issue,” Chong asserted.

Last year, the Ministry of Education announced that vernacular schools will only teach the Jawi script at a basic level instead of the khat calligraphy and only with the consent of students, parents and each school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA).

Meanwhile, Chong pointed out that the Jawi lesson takes up only three pages in the Bahasa Malaysia textbook, and will not be subject to any tests or examinations.

“Under the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) policy, khat was already introduced in 2012. All the 37 Jawi letters were in the Bahasa Malaysia Standard Five textbook and subject to examination, depending on the teacher who sets the exam questions.

“However, under PH, we listened to the rakyat’s views. Instead of the full 37 letters, there are only 14 letters in three pages. The guideline has also clearly stated that parents and the school board can decide if they want it to be taught or not and there will be no exam on it,” he said.

On the issue of Dr Maszlee Malik’s replacement as Education Minister, Chong asserted that it will not affect any current ongoing or approved projects and policies.

“The ministry is still there to operate. A lot of policies have been set, budget approved by Parliament and implemented over time. I don’t see the change in minister causing any disruptions on that part,” he added. — DayakDaily