Teaching Kadazandusun as mother tongue

Madam. Rita Lasimbang (KLF Chief Executive Officer)

The term ‘Kadazandusun’ is the name of the standard form of the varieties of languages spoken by the largest language community in Sabah – the Kadazan and Dusun. It was introduced in formal teaching beginning in 1997.

According to Catholic Church records, formal education with an initial Kazadan writing system was first introduced to the Penampang populace through the Mill Hill missionaries who arrived in the early 1880’s. Since then, literacy multiplied in the birth of more schools throughout the district of Penampang – the heartland of the Kadazan people. However, the arrival of the Second World War made this a short-lived experience. When the missionaries left, they left behind a legacy of literacy and a Kadazan orthography among the people. The Kadazan writing system introduced by the missionaries then was based on the Roman alphabet and is influenced by the English sound system, thus resulting in inconsistency in giving symbols to certain speech sounds in the Kadazan language. In order to solve this problem, the Kadazan Cultural Association (KCA) took actions for the standardisation of the spelling system which began in 1985.

The idea for the inclusion of the Kadazan language in schools was revived in June 1994, when a concerned Member of Parliament, Bernard Dompok began seriously pursuing the matter with the Minister of Education, Datuk Amar Dr. Sulaiman Daud. Approval for the teaching of the Kadazandusun language in schools was announced by the then Chief Minister of Sabah, Datuk Salleh Tun Said, on 1 April 1995. Prior to this and in order for the State Education Department to begin working on the Kadazandusun language syllabus and curriculum, the two cultural custodians, Kadazan Dusun Cultural Association (KDCA) and the United Sabah Dusun Association (USDA), had to decide once and for all on the name of the standard language to be taught in schools. On 24 January 1995, they signed an agreement that the language to be taught in schools was to be officially known as ‘Kadazandusun’, which is a conjoined term.

Towards the end of 1995, the Education Bill 1995 was tabled and passed by Parliament early the following year as the Education Act 1996, which allowed for the Kadazandusun language to be taught as a Pupil’s Own Language (POL) in national primary and secondary schools. Consequently, a directive was given by the Ministry of Education to proceed with preparations for the formal teaching of Kadazandusun in schools in Sabah. Various steps were taken to include Kadazandusun as a POL in the Malaysian education system. The task of developing a Kadazandusun syllabus was initiated by the Curriculum Development Division of the Ministry of Education and the Sabah State Education Department. A panel was formed with the task of preparing a Kadazandusun Language Syllabus, Teachers’ Guide, and students’ activity books. The first two were given two-language versions, that is, in Malay and Kadazandusun.

While the request to have the Kadazandusun language to be taught in Sabah schools was being considered by the Minister of Education, on the home ground the community was discussing the setting up of an official body to monitor and co-ordinate programmes and activities pertaining to the development of the language. In 1996, the Kadazandusun Language Foundation (KLF) began operating with a specific role in the preservation, development and promotion of the Kadazandusun language; to support and ensure continuous development of the Kadazandusun language in the areas of Mother Tongue Education (MTE) and Mother Tongue Maintenance (MTM).

For the part of teacher training, an orientation course for teachers who were selected to teach the Kadazandusun language was conducted. The selection was based, firstly on them having taken a language course such as Malay or English as an option while undergoing training at their respective teacher training institute, and secondly they must have a strong command of the Kadazan or Dusun language. Training was conducted by the Sabah State Education Department. Refresher courses for these teachers were given from time to time. Orientation and trial courses were conducted to prepare for the inclusion of the language in the curriculum of the upper classes in the schools. In addition, in-house trainings were organised from district to district in order to add to the number of schools teaching the language, with financial support from KLF and the Progressive Education Foundation (PEF). KLF played the role as consultant (linguistic) in all these programmes.

After two years of preparation, the teaching of Kadazandusun started on a trial basis on 17 February 1997, administered on Year 4 students in 15 selected primary schools in Sabah. A year later, the teaching of the Kadazandusun language was implemented in Year 4 in these trial schools and in other primary schools in other districts of Sabah as well as the trial teaching for Year 5. And in the following year, the teaching of the Kadazandusun language in Year 5 was implemented throughout the state as well as the trial teaching of Year 6. The year 2000 saw to the full implementation of the teaching of the Kadazandusun language in Year 6 throughout the state. In 2006, nine years after the admission of the language as a POL at the primary level, the efforts and commitment of teachers and language activists culminated in the implementation of the teaching of the Kadazandusun language in secondary schools. This means that secondary schools had to offer the subject in the public examination of the first level of the secondary school, i.e., at the end of Form 3, together with other school subjects. This objective was fulfilled at the end of the school year 2009. Students who took and passed in the Kadazandusun language paper in this examination had the subject and the grade obtained recorded in the Lower Certificate of Education. In 2011, the Kadazandusun language was offered as an examination subject for the first time, for the Malaysia School Certificate Examination, which was taken by a total of 315 candidates.

The first-ever workshop on “Get to Know the Kadazan Language”, attended by 13 participants comprising pre-school teachers, primary school teachers and community organizers. (1994)
A joint cooperation with Pusat Perkembangan Kurikulum (PPK, Curriculum Development Centre), Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia (Ministry Of Education, Malaysia) to train teachers on the linguistic aspect of Kadazandusun language. (2008)
The student-teacher trainees (Batch 1) posing for a group photo with Mdm Rita Lasimbang during the lecture and training on Rapid Word Collection technique by Semantic Domains (9) for their Corpus Data Collection project at IPG Kent Campus, Tuaran. (2011)

Chinese Version

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