KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 5 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim wants Malaysians and higher learning institutions in the country to ensure their students master the national language, Bahasa Melayu (BM).
He said mastery of the national language not only builds national pride but also a nation’s identity.
He added that doing so will also indirectly lead to mastering the English language, which he stressed is equally important in this day and age.
“If we have sound policies in all universities that mastering BM is crucial and this is accepted as a clause, including for local students, it’ll strengthen your national pride and make you learn some history but once you have mastered it you can study and do whatever you want.
“If this is accepted, then it’s logical to then focus this year on doing this where mastering BM is important so that indirectly then you will start mastering the English language. I feel today must be the day we start this, right away. And when I say now I mean by next week.
“I want our professors to identify good books for their students to read so their mastery and knowledge of English is top notch,” he said during a dialogue session with officials from the Ministry of Higher Education and representatives from universities and local colleges here today.
Anwar gave the example of Thailand where the locals speak fluent Thai but have now transitioned into speaking impeccable English, saying their universities insist on having their students master English as well.
He assured Malaysians that proficiency in BM will not suffer if their English is good.
He said many people think promoting English is at the expense of BM, but stressed that thinking of it as a “zero sum game” is an “outdated view”.
“When it comes to higher education, lots of universities insist on mastering more than one language so this is one of the most important things we need to look into,” he added.
Anwar also said tertiary education institutions should have more leeway to come up with better programmes for their students.
Anwar said the Higher Education Ministry must streamline all their programmes to avoid any issues.
He warned that a leadership change is warranted if it is not done in the next two years.
“I want the ministry and the universities to allow some space for better programmes, different programmes that are suitable for our current needs, and if these changes don’t happen, then we will change the leadership.
“That includes the prime minister and the minister as well,” he added, smiling.
Anwar was attending a programme called “Wacana Strategi Kementerian Pendidikan Tinggi” at the World Trade Centre here organised by the Higher Education Ministry on setting the right landscape for 2024 and the direction the higher learning institutions will need to take.
Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Zambry Abd Kadir was also present.