Is Arabic Language compulsory for all students from 2005? Hishamuddin Hussein must act now that his officials in the state education department and the school were contradicting each other

Media Statement
by Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday): Madam Indra of Cheras Selangor brought her case to the DAP last Sunday. She claims that her nephew who was enrolled with Sek Keb Taman Puteri Cheras, Selangor as a Standard One student next year was forced to buy Arabic Language textbook and workbook, as the headmistress of the school claims that the subject is compulsory for all students (including the non-Muslims),and that was the directive of the Selangor Department of Education.

DAP views the matter seriously and wanted the Minister of Education Datuk Hishamuddin Hussein to clarify the matter immediately with a clear directive to all schools before they reopen on 3 January 2005.After the DAP’s press conference on Sunday, Malay Mail reporter Nuradzimmah Daim got a clarification from a Selangor Education Department spokesperson that the subject is not compulsory for non-Muslims pupils. Her story was reported yesterday (27 Dec 2004) with the title: Arabic Optional For Non- Muslims. In another words, the subject is not compulsory for non-Muslim Standard One pupils next year.

The spokesperson said it was optional for the non-Muslim pupils to take up Arabic, Chinese and Tamil languages next year. "Even then, schools have to get the consent of the parents of non-Muslim pupils," he said.

But all is not over. Despite the confirmation from the Selangor Education Department, the Taman Puteri national primary school is still maintaining that Arabic Language is mandatory for next term's Standard One pupils.

The senior school official when contacted by the Malay Mail yesterday maintained that the students will be grades on the subject and it will be taught as a foreign language class for the non-Muslims. The same official claims that the optional condition only applies to the POL (Pupils Own Language) program for Standard 3 to Standard 6 pupils. This story came up in the Malay Mail today entitled School: Arabic lesson for non-Muslims to stay.

But a check with the headmistress of the school today got us a different story. She is now saying that Arabic Language is not compulsory for non-Muslims students, and those who have bought the textbooks and workbooks earlier could get a refund from the school. So, who should the parents listen to now? The state education department? The headmistress? Or the school's senior official?

Hishamuddin must not be keeping mum any further now that his officials in the state department and the school were contradicting each other on the subject. He must honour what he has said when the J-QAF pilot project was launched on 24 April this year. He must also understand that this is a very sensitive issue and need to be resolved before 3 January 2005.

He must not wait until more unhappy non-Muslim parents calling up or confronting the school or the education department directly on the matter.


* Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew, DAP International Secretary and NGO bureau chief