A. Puteh, Z.M. Yusoff

University Utara Malaysia (MALAYSIA)
As a classic case of the plural society, Malaysia’s racial divisions tended to coincide with and be reinforced by linguistic, cultural, religious, and most important, economic divisions. Malaysia is also a multicultural society as well as a multiracial one in that the cultures of the Chinese, Indians and other races are accommodated and preserved. This structure demonstrates the approach to national unity adopted by the government. Historical study is chosen as the research design. This study using interviews with persons directly involved in the process of education in Malaysia and examines a number of scholarly publications and other primary sources of information. In this study, the theory by Fishman (Fishman, 1968) will be discussed in conjunction with the role of language as a tool for nation building in previously Western colonised countries and its role as a tool in nationalism. In addition, related issues like language policies, especially in education, more specifically the language policy pertaining to the medium of instruction with regards to development, nation building and globalisation. According to him Western languages such as French, English and Spanish should be used in ex-colonial countries to further develop their countries. This is the function of nationism. Whereas, the indigenous language such as Swahili, Guarani and Malay should be use as nationalist language for national unity and identity only, which serves as a nationalism function. The indigenous languages could not be used to develop the nation with respect to education (especially higher education), the economy, industry, science and technology.The British colonial system of education made its impact on almost every aspect of the education in the colonized countries. All the National-Type schools in the country had to undergo a change in their language media of instruction to Bahasa Malaysia. The first conversion was launched in January 1968 with the conversion of English primary schools to National Schools (State the name of the school). The conversion was conducted in stages, by first teaching five subjects in the Malay language in Standard one (I) to three (III) in National-Type English Primary Schools. By 1970, all subjects except English were taught in Malay in Standard one (I). Malay-medium classes had also started in secondary vocational schools in 1968 and in secondary technical schools in 1970. And from 1983 all courses in the local universities were progressively converted to the national language. After 20 years, the Ministry of Education has reintroduced English as a medium of instruction to teach mathematics and science in all schools, colleges and universities. The stress on English medium on the other hand show that British colonial belief that language can change one’s pattern of the output and to see things differently (Barbour, 2000). British wanted as many as Malayan people studied in English medium because it would help the colonial to administrative Malaya pre-independence and post independence. This objective was fruitful because after 54 years independence, many of the English educated still believe learning English as the best way to face globalization and unity..