The Limits of Malay Educational and Language Hegemony

By Guan, Lee Hock | Southeast Asian Affairs, January 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

The Limits of Malay Educational and Language Hegemony


Guan, Lee Hock, Southeast Asian Affairs


hi Malaysia, the implementation of official policies to entrench Malay educational and language hegemony has prevented the growth of an inclusive multicultural educational system. The New Economic Policy (NEP) period, 1971-90, was characterized by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) dominated state aggressively pursuing its educational and linguistic hegemonic objectives. In the 1990s, however, several developments forced the state to take a more conciliatory stance towards the educational and linguistic needs of the minority groups. The state claims that critical aspects of multiculturalism have been incorporated into the 1996 Education Act. But, in practice, it appears that official policies have not fully abandoned the hegemonic project, and minority languages and educational needs are still discriminated against in the national education system.

Malay Educational and Language Hegemony

During British rule, the colonial state's use of racial categories to classify and control the local population contributed to the emergence of a racially segmented society. Race-based discrimination policies set the British colonizers apart from the colonized, and, significantly, indigenous Malays from the immigrant Chinese and Indians. Race thus was constitutive of the state in colonial Malaya. Indirect rule, attained through various treaty agreements, recognized Malay States as sovereign states and treated Malays as the native group with a "special position". For this reason, the British positioned Malays at the top of the political hierarchy of ethnic groups in the colony. Selected Malays, then, were educated and recruited for high administrative positions in the colonial bureaucracy, which were denied to Chinese and Indians because of their immigrant status.

Partly to maintain the Malay character of the Malay States, the colonial state felt morally obliged to provide Malays with a Malay-medium education that would enable them to preserve and reproduce their culture and tradition. Colonial policies gave preferential treatment to the education of Malays and this resulted in the formation of a separate and unequal colonial educational system. For ideological and economic reasons, the colonial state funded a limited number of public English schools and financially assisted Christian missionary English schools. Enrolment in English schools was largely multi-ethnic as admission was open to students of all races. In contrast, the British refused to build mother tongue schools for Chinese and Indian students because of their immigrant status.1 While Chinese medium schools were funded, established, and administered by the Chinese community, the plantation owners were tasked by the state to provide Tamil education for the Indians, most of whom were Tamils. In brief, in colonial Malaya, Malay and English schools were regarded as state educational institutions, while Chinese and Indian schools were treated as not just private - but in fact "foreign" - institutions in the colony.

The primacy of mother tongue schooling in colonial Malaya naturally reinforced the ethnic groups' primordial attachment to their languages such that language became an essential ethnic marker. Because Malay feelings of insecurity were intertwined with their attachment to their language, defending Malay as the national language of Tanah Melayu (Land of the Malays) appealed to most Malay individuals and nationalist groups. Malay emotive attachment to their language also coalesced with a nationalism that imagines a nation as a community of people sharing a common culture and language. However, although a majority of Malay nationalists clamoured to recreate multi-ethnic colonial Malaya into a linguistically homogenous nation, UMNO elites, in order to win the support of their Chinese and Indian political partners and the British, agreed to constitutionally define Malay(si)a as a monolingual polity where Malay is the sole national and official language, while also recognizing minority language rights. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Limits of Malay Educational and Language Hegemony
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.