The Language Medium Policy in Malaysia: A Plural Society Model?

Ales Puteh


The aim of this study is to examine the development and the implementation of language medium policy in the Malaysia Education System and it’s relation to nation building. Emerson (1957) Furnival (1948) Chopra (1974) contended that Malaysian plural society was divided in almost every respect. As a plural society, nation building or national integration (Ibrahim, 1985) was considered of the utmost importance in Malaysia. Since independence, the Malaysian leadership has believed that education is critical for national integration. It is generally believed that schools inculcate the child with values and facts, which are supportive of national ideology. The language medium policy refers to the medium of instruction in schools. It considers all the functions of language (informative, regulatory, inter national, personal) but in practice it focuses on the - the informative, the regulatory and the heuristic. This reform which has allowed English to be used as a medium of instruction, with the prior approval of the Minister of Education (section 41), was designed to enable Malaysia to make the quantum leap towards an industrialized nation status and eventually into a knowledge economy. The present study focuses on the process of development and the implementation of a education language policy in Malaysia. In addition to interviews with persons directly involved in the process of education in Malaysia, the study examines a number of scholarly publications and other primary sources of information. The findings of my study show that the language medium policy did not successfully develop unity among the students. The process of integration is taking place in the schools setting but this process is rather slow and tottering. In more ways than one the existence of national-type schools may erode the serious desire to unite all ethnic groups. The implementation process of the particular policy was seen to negate the effectiveness of other policies.

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Review of European Studies   ISSN 1918-7173 (Print)   ISSN 1918-7181 (Online)

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