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SIL Malaysia helps organize conference on multilingual education: Report and photos

Malaysian Indigenous Peoples' Conference on Education 2007 logo (April 2007) Several thousand people attended the opening ceremony of the first-ever Malaysian Indigenous Peoples' Conference on Education (MIPCE). More than 200 delegates representing 21 language communities across Malaysia remained for the seven-day conference. Eleven international and a number of local speakers raised awareness of the benefits of effective multilingual education (MLE) programs.

The initiative for the planning of MIPCE came from a number of indigenous language communities in Malaysia who desire to preserve, develop and promote their mother-tongue languages. They recognize that a strong educational foundation in the mother tongue provides an effective bridge to learning Malay and international languages. This conference was jointly organized by Bahasa dan Kebudayaan Iranun, SIL Malaysia, Kadazandusun Language Foundation and the United Sabah Bajau Organization, with support from UNESCO and SIL International.

Deputy Minister Hon Choon Kim officiated during the opening ceremonies on behalf of the guest of honor, Y.B. Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Bin Tun Hussein, Minister of Education. National and state government representatives were on hand, as well as delegates from language projects where SIL has consultants. The largest contingents came from the cultural minorities of Sabah and Sarawak, in East Malaysia, and from Labuan, on the northern part of Borneo.

Keynote speakers were Dr. Sheldon Shaeffer, UNESCO Regional Director; Dr. Larry Jones, SIL International Asia Area Director; and Dr. Edilberto de Jesus, Director of SEAMEO (South East Asian Ministries of Education Organisation) Secretariat.

Y.B. Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia presented the opening address.

Y.B. Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia presented the opening address.

The Iranun contingent gave a cultural performance

The Iranun contingent gave a cultural performance

Plenary speakers were Y.B. Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Hj Mulia, Chairman of the Institute for Development Studies (Sabah); Y.B. Tan Sri Bernard G. Dompok, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department; Noki Martin, Maori Lecturer at Whitireia Polytechnic, Wellington, New Zealand; Ripeka Martin, Project Manager, Maori Research in Learning Media (Government Publications), Wellington, New Zealand; Dr. Suwilai Premsrirat, Mahidol University, Thailand; Dr. Susan Malone, SIL International Consultant and Multilingual Education Consultant; and Dr. Kimmo Kosonen, SIL Representative to UN Agencies in Asia.

The last three days of the conference offered workshops for leaders who came from local language communities. Topics included Beginning Orthography Development and Writing, Beginning a Playschool and Listening Stories, Pre-primer Preparation for Kindergarten, Anthropology through Indigenous Eyes, Indigenous Children’s Music and Movement, and Study of Music in Your Culture. Participants expressed interest in providing opportunities to their respective language communities for lifelong learning and participation in the rich and colorful tapestry of Malaysian life.

MIPCE organizers anticipate that this conference will contribute to the on-going process of dialogue about the benefits of effective MLE programs. MLE enables ethnolinguistic minority language learners to establish a strong educational foundation in their home language. The organizers are hopeful that such programs will progressively form an integral part of language development efforts in many communities.

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