Languages in the Malaysian Education System: Monolingual Strands in Multilingual Settings

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Moses Samuel


Malaysia is ethnolinguistically diverse. According to Ethnologue, for a population of over 30 million, 134 languages are spoken within its territory, of which 112 are indigenous and 22 non-indigenous. Against this backdrop of ethnolinguistic vitality, only some of these languages figure in the formal education system either as the medium of instruction (as in the case of Malay and, for some time, English) or as a subject within the school curriculum (as in the case of Iban, Kadazandusn, Tamil, Chinese and Arabic). This edited volume, which is published under the Routledge Critical Studies in Asian Education series, provides an overview of the “positioning of these languages” within the education system, “for the purpose of integration of the Malaysian peoples” (p.1). In this regard, the “positioning” of languages within the education system is ostensibly political in nature, and is tied closely to Malaysia’s postcolonial responses to the project of nation-building, of developing national unity with a population that is linguistically and also culturally and socially diverse. The book is organized in 10 chapters, each authored or co-authored by key researchers in the area.


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