International students would be required to learn Bahasa Malaysia while enrolling in Malaysian institutions, according to Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, in an effort to raise Malaysia’s national language on an international level.
According to the New Straits Times, Yaakob has asked the Higher Education Ministry to make the Malay language a compulsory subject for international students studying at local universities. Yaakob stated in a separate article that he hoped the country’s national language would become Asean’s second language, noting that Malay is the world’s seventh most commonly spoken language, with over 300 million people using it in ASEAN.
According to Yaakob, Bahasa Malaysia is already used in various ASEAN nations, including Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, Southern Thailand, Southern Philippines, and sections of Cambodia, according to Channel News Asia.
During his recent trip to Cambodia, he learned that there were 800,000 Malay-Chams who spoke Malay and that there were 160,000 Malay speakers among Malay-Cham ancestors in Vietnam. He also mentioned that Laos has a tiny number of Malay speakers.
“Hence in the whole of ASEAN, there are people who can speak Malay. Therefore, there is no reason why we cannot make Malay one of the official languages of ASEAN,” Yaakob was quoted saying. He added that he would discuss the matter with his ASEAN counterparts, particularly those that have populations who speak Malay.
Some groups, including ministers and former ministers in Malaysia, have criticized the government’s decision to force overseas students to study Bahasa Malaysia when they enrol in Malaysian colleges. Focus Malaysia cited Kepong Member of Parliament Lim Lip Eng as saying that any major decision should be made only after consulting with local higher learning institutions.
“The higher education ministry should carry out [a] proper survey to look at the feasibility of implementing Bahasa Malaysia as a compulsory requirement for international students,” he was quoted saying. “How many local higher education institutions did the government talk to before this new requirement was made?”
Malaysia is a burgeoning educational powerhouse. A number of governmental and private institutions, as well as foreign branch campuses, are located throughout the country. Monash University, Nottingham University, Curtin University, Swinburne University of Technology, and Heriot-Watt University Malaysia are among them.
Universiti Malaya, Universiti Putra Malaysia, and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia are among the top-ranked Malaysian institutions, with QS World University Rankings 2022 placing them at 65, 143, and 144, respectively. In the Times Higher Education (THE) Young University Rankings 2022, there were 17 Malaysian universities ranked, up from 12 in 2021.
Separately, recent research indicated that overseas student admissions for PhD programs had increased at Malaysian institutions. According to Education Malaysia Services (EMGS), 11,161 overseas applicants applied for doctoral programs in public and private schools in 2021. In comparison to 2020, where just 6,348 applications were received, the applicant numbers have nearly quadrupled.
“Over the recent years, Malaysia has become the education hub of choice for international students seeking higher education,” read EMGS’ statement. “It is interesting to know that a relatively large number of international students are currently pursuing PhD in Malaysia.”
Malaysia will reopen its borders to foreign travellers on April 1, 2022, according to Yaakob. Those who have had all of their vaccinations will not need to quarantine when they arrive. Travellers must do an RT-PCR test two days before travelling, as well as a quick test (RTK) after they arrive in Malaysia.
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