Classroom Thursday: Ejaan.

As the rest of the nation discusses the pros and cons of teaching certain subjects in English and the merits of using technology in the classroom, it can be easy to forget that in many of our schools, students still fall behind in reading and writing in Bahasa Malaysia – even at the age of 12 or 13. Here, 2013 Fellow David Chak tells us about his experience in a Peralihan classroom.


“These are my peralihan students. A few years ago, if someone were to tell me that I’d one day be teaching Bahasa Malaysia, I would tell that person off and think it was a joke. My Malay was so-so; not so bad, but not so good either.

And now, I have one year to bring their language level up to standard 6 so that they won’t miss out when they go into form 1 next year. They won’t be left behind like my weaker form 2 and 3 non-Malay students. Or like the Chinese boys in form 4 who refuses to do anything in class.

I wasn’t quite sure what kind of impact I will be bringing them. I mean, come on, me teaching Malay? What a joke!

But the truth is, to them, we, the Amalan Bahasa and Bahasa Malaysia teachers, are all they get. Peralihan students need the attention, they need the care and the language skills so that they can make it through secondary school. I am not exaggerating when I say they are some of the most vulnerable students in our national education system. English is an important language to master, but to me, Bahasa Malaysia is equally if not more important as well – after all, it is the language for all the other subjects (Sains, Geografi, Sejarah dan lain-lain).

Every week we are going through the same process: new words, discussion, ejaan [spelling]. In the beginning, half the class would fail their ejaan. Now, just last month we had a monthly test where almost 90% of students passed! And more and more students are starting to bring their own kamus bergambar [picture dictionary] to class – some even went to the bookstore to get the same one I use.

Last week’s ejaan was on a very difficult vocabulary topic and almost everyone failed. I told them I was very disappointed and I want to see them do better in the same ejaan today – because I know they can do better.

Lo and behold, today, all but four students failed! Some kids even told me proudly that they studied really hard for this. “Teacher, I studied for 4 days for today’s ejaan!” says the one boy who got every word wrong the last time, and today had gotten all of them right.

If you were to ask me how much impact I am making, I don’t really know for now. But I can tell you this, I have never see any kids playing Sahibbah so enthusiastically.

They work together and help each other out. Winning is not really important, but finding letters to make words is. And that, my friend, is all that matters to me now.”