PETALING JAYA: Amidst disagreement over the introduction of khat in schools, two states traditionally known for its Islamic culture and practices have embraced the teaching of Mandarin.
The Terengganu government has announced the setting up of a Mandarin Tahfiz centre that would open its doors beginning next year, while Kelantan plans to expand the teaching of the language in its schools.
Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar said the opening of the Mandarin Tahfiz in Dungun shows the commitment of the state government to foster national unity.
He said with the establishment of the centre, students who are studying the Quran would be able to learn and understand the Mandarin language, noting that “language is one of ways to better understand the culture of other communities”.
“About 97% of the people of Terengganu are Malay Muslims, but at the same time we try to understand the different communities and races that make Malaysia unique.
“We see that the relationship between the different races is quite tense of late, when certain quarters pressure others, leading to unwarranted responses.
“It is hope that with the setting up of this school, it will help to foster unity, besides providing the opportunity for the students to learn and understand other language,“ he told reporters when met at an event in Kuala Terengganu on Wednesday.
The centre, which will be managed by Yayasan Terengganu, will have an intake of 50 students for its first batch, with 25 each for male and female pupils.
He added that the Mandarin language would also be a compulsory subject for the students studying in the Mandarin Tahfiz, when sitting for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM).
Meanwhile, Kelantan Human Resource Development, Education and Higher Learning, Science and Technology Committee chairman Datuk Dr Mohamed Fadzli Hassan said the state is expanding the teaching of Mandarin to schools in the state, as the language is considered a “national treasure”.
“Kelantan already has a religious school that teaches the language, but that does not mean we are interested or are influenced by other religion.
“In fact, we are planning to expand Mandarin further, to diversify the languages in the country,“ he told reporters after the state executive councillor meeting.
Ahmad Samsuri and Mohamed Fadzli were asked to comment on recent criticisms levelled at the government following the Education Ministry’s recent announcement that khat (Malay-Arabic calligraphy) would be introduced as part of the Bahasa Melayu syllabus in schools beginning next year.