Law doesn’t restrict the use of English in schools, says Sabah CM

Julia Chan
Shaife was commenting on the recent statement by the Education Ministry that the use of English as a teaching medium in schools was a violation of the Constitution. — Bernama pic

KOTA KINABALU, Sept 10 — Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal today said there should not be any restriction in the use of the English language while teaching in schools.

Shaife was commenting on the recent statement by the Education Ministry that the use of English as a teaching medium in schools was a violation of the Constitution.

“There is no restriction in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 that limits the use of English.

“There is no obstacle in using English. We know Malay is the national language — it’s already enshrined. So I don’t think there is a problem. Chinese schools also speak in Mandarin and private and international schools use English.

“We have taught certain subjects in English before. Science for instance. There’s no law in the Constitution that says we cannot,” he said at a Malaysia Day forum organised by the United Pasok Momogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation here today.

In a written Parliamentary reply by the Education Ministry to Batang Sadong MP Nancy Shukri, the ministry said it was against the use of English as the medium of instruction in national schools because it violates Article 152(1) of the Federal Constitution, the National Language Act 1963/67 and contravenes the letter and spirit of the Education Act 1996.

Shafie said English was still largely used in formal situations in Sabah, including during court proceedings and in the Dewan Rakyat with the Speaker’s permission.

“It is important in our human development. We are looking at improving Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes and to do this, the use of English must be incorporated to make sure they can engage with their colleagues,” he said.

Earlier, Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Madius Tangau said that he was offended by the Education Ministry’s statement.

He said that the state’s right to use English as a teaching medium was enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement and that it needs to be dealt with from a technical perspective and not a political one.

“I believe that the mastery of English is so important, one way to make our human capital more productive, knowledgeable and competitive.

“If we want Sabahans to be able to play on a level playing field, then we have to protect our freedom to thrive and not have our opportunities controlled,” he said.

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