Now, Muslim teachers group sues to have vernacular schools declared unconstitutional

Kenneth Tee
Lawyer Datuk Shaharudin Ali who represented Ikatan Guru Guru Muslim Malaysia said the originating summons was filed at the High Court in Kota Baru, Kelantan, around 6pm. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 20 ― Ikatan Guru Guru Muslim Malaysia has filed a lawsuit at the High Court to challenge the existence of vernacular schools in Malaysia, the third such in the country.

Lawyer Datuk Shaharudin Ali who represented the group said the originating summons was filed at the High Court in Kota Baru, Kelantan, around 6pm.

“On behalf of our clients, we are pleased to inform that another constitutional challenge to Sections 17 and 28 of the Education Act has been duly filed by the plaintiff Ikatan Guru Guru Muslim Malaysia against the Minister of Education and Government of Malaysia,” he said in a statement.

Two similar challenges have been mounted by different groups in recent months to seek clarity on Article 152 of the Federal Constitution in relation to the use of the national language as the main medium of instructions in schools and to determine if Sections 17 and 28 of the Education Act violated the constitution.

Last December, Putra vice-president Mohd Khairul Azam filed a similar lawsuit in his second attempt to have vernacular schools declared unconstitutional, after his first failed in November.

In his lawsuit against the education minister and Malaysian government, Mohd Khairul Azam claimed Sections 28 and 17 of the Education Act are invalid due to alleged inconsistencies with Act 152 of the Federal Constitution.

Earlier this month the High Court allowed 14 organisations, including political parties such as MCA, MIC, Gerakan and education and language groups, to become part of Mohd Khairul Azam 's constitutional challenge.

Mohd Khairul is also represented by Shaharudin. The High Court previously fixed May 5 for the hearing of the constitutional challenge.

Section 17 of the Education Act states that the national language shall be the main medium of instruction in all educational institutions in the National Education System, except for national-type schools created under Section 28 or others given exemption by the education minister.

The section also said that educational institutions that do not use the national language as the main medium of instruction must teach it as a compulsory subject.

Section 28 enables the education minister to establish both national schools and national-type schools.

National-type schools are defined in the Education Act as primary schools using Chinese or Tamil as the main medium of instruction, and where the national language and English are compulsory subjects.

Article 152(1)(a) states that the national language shall be the Malay language and that no person shall be prohibited or prevented from using (except for official purposes) or from teaching or learning any other language.

There is also a separate lawsuit filed on December 16, 2019 by Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung (GPMS) and the Islam Education Development Council (Mappim) to challenge the constitutionality of vernacular school.

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