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Reinstate Hokkien

in Schools

There were still many schools in Malaysia e.g. Penang's Yu Chai School teaching in Hokkien up until the 1920s. After the rise of Chinese nationalism, many educators abandoned Hokkien for Mandarin and they started to ban Hokkien when the Chinese nationalism reached its peak. Unfortunately, the ban on Hokkien has not yet been lifted in many schools up until today.


The Hokkien Language Association of Penang is calling for the restoration of Hokkien as a medium of instruction by educational institutions under the control of the Chinese community, such as National-type Chinese Primary Schools and Chinese Independent High Schools.


The Association will provide support and training for teachers to conduct their lessons in Penang Hokkien. For those who wish to receive language training, please complete the registration form below.

Why should schools reinstate Hokkien as a medium of instruction? 

Language policy in education is generally regarded by linguists as one of the key factors contributing to language shift in the family domain. Schools need to reinstate Hokkien as the medium of instruction, in order to restore Hokkien as a language with practical value. It is the responsibility of schools as cultural institutions to implement true mother-tongue education.


Why now?

At present, most of the school staff in Penang are still fluent in Hokkien. Teachers only need to undergo language training to improve their command of the academic vocabulary and technical terminology. This existing resource of Hokkien teachers will decline over the years. The longer the delay, the greater the resources needed to train competent Hokkien language teachers.

Our campaign proposes to reform the traditional ideology that associates language with individual ancestry to one that associates language with territory. This proposal would prevent the domains of Hokkien from being taken over by other languages due to intermarriages and migration. The transformation of an old language ideology based on ancestry to one based on territory would lift the limits on domestic use and enable it to permeate the wider community.


Educational institutions under the control of the Chinese community, such as National-type Chinese Primary Schools and Chinese Independent High Schools, should use Hokkien as a medium of instruction. 


[1] Appel R. and Muysken P. 1987. Language Contact and Bilingualism. London: Edward Arnold.

[2] Edwards J. 1985. Language, Society and Identity. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

[3] Spolsky B. (ed.) 1986. Language and Education in Multilingual Setting. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters 25.

[4] Xu, Daming, Cheng Hai Chew & Songcen Chen. 1998. Language use and language attitudes in the Singapore Chinese community. In Gopinathan, Pakir, Ho and Saravanan. (ed.) 1998. Language, Society, and Education in Singapore: Issues and Trends, pp. 148. Singapore: Times Academic Press.

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