Strengthen Mother Tongue Education, Protect Native Customary Rights and Implement Multiculturalism

21st Feb 2011

Civil Society Joint Press Statement in conjunction with International Mother Language Day

mother tongue language dayWe, the undersigned organizations, in conjunction with International mother tongue language day 21st February, call upon the government to strengthen mother tongue education by guaranteeing its unrestricted development and allocating equal resources for all schools. The government needs also to review the national cultural policy and national education policy to fully implement the multicultural policy in our multi-ethnic society.

The indigenous people’s languages are intricately connected to the environment that they interact with and the resources that they live from, therefore the protection of environment is vital to the protection of their languages and identity. We call upon the government to ensure sustainable development program that will help in protection of the environment thus protecting the indigenous people’s language and culture.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had adopted 21st February as International mother tongue language day to commemorate the Bengali language movement which witnessed five students of University of Dhaka being killed in a protest against the imposition of Urdu as the sole national language policy on 21st February 1952.


We hold that all ethnic groups’ cultures and languages are equal. They evolved and developed as the cultural heritage of a community. These truths are self-evident. The subordination of other ethnic groups’ cultures and languages is deplorable and will only worsen ethnic relations. The government should not impose discriminatory policy or practices against any particular group’s cultures and languages, especially from minority and indigenous communities.

We therefore urge the government to address the linguistic and cultural issues facing ethnic minorities and indigenous community in this country as follows :

1.      Ensure unrestricted development and allocate equal resource for all schools – national schools, mother tongue schools and religious schools; the government should also give recognition to non formal education based on oral traditions of indigenous peoples

2.      Initiate mother tongue education at the pre-school stage for the various indigenous communities as the first step of comprehensive mother tongue education system, this can effectively reduce the drop-out of indigenous children in national schools; the government should also include curriculum that fulfills the aspirations of indigenous peoples in national schools;

3.      To train sufficient and competent teachers for mother tongue schools, teaching of Malay language subject using method and technique of second language teaching;

4.      Initiate an enactment to introduce the system of “National Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities” to preserve and promote linguistic rights of ethnic minorities and indigenous groups. (India as a reference)

5.      Ensure all movies, writings, performance and art products made in Malaysia are equally eligible to be ‘national movie / literature / performance / arts’ and enjoy the state’s cultural resources regardless of the languages and ethnic background.

6.      To provide institutional protection for indigenous people’s Native Customary Rights (NCR) and obtain the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from indigenous Peoples before any amendment of laws or approval of development projects that will affect their rights

7.      To institute an ‘Ethnic Relations Council’ to address all race-based controversies and abolish institutionalized discriminatory practices against ethnic minorities and indigenous communities;

8.      To revise the National Cultural Policy and National Education Policy to implement multiculturalism policy and cultural democracy.

Endorsed organizations :

1.      LLG Cultural Development Centre

2.      Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)

3.      Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)

4.      Civil Rights Committee of KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH)

5.      Tamil Foundation

6.      Child Information, Learning and Development Centre (CHILD)

7.      Educational Welfare and Research Foundation Malaysia (EWRF)

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