Perceptions of parents and teachers toward mother tongue-based education: A case study of BIDAYUH in Malaysia

Main Article Content

Su-Hie Ting


Indigenous languages are oral languages and most have not undergone language standardisation. The vitality of many indigenous languages is threatened because of the shrinking number of speakers and the lack of literacy. The study examined the perceptions of parents and teachers towards mother tongue-based education in Bidayuh playschools and kindergartens. Bidayuh is an indigenous language endemic to Sarawak, a Malaysian state. The data were collected from nine teachers and 24 parents from the villages of Benuk, Sinjok, Apar and Pasir Hilir located in the Kuching hinterland. Analysis of the semi-structured interviews showed that the parents and teachers have similar views on the benefits of Bidayuh heritage language playschools and kindergartens. The parents reported their children’s personal development, academic benefits, ability to help in their children’s schoolwork, and the maintenance of Bidayuh language and culture. From the teachers’ perspective, the Bidayuh playschools and kindergartens prepared the children for primary school, reinforced Bidayuh language and culture for the next generation, and helped in the children’s personal and spiritual development. However, the teachers also brought up challenges in the areas of parents’ misconceptions, finance, and written materials. The study shows the precarious sustainability of mother tongue-based education programmes initiated by the community.

Article Details

Research articles


Bagang, E. (2017, May 16). Madius: Promote Kadazandusun Language based on Bundu Liwan.
Ball, J. (2011). Enhancing learning of children from diverse language backgrounds: Mother tongue-based bilingual or multilingual education in early childhood and early primary school years. Paper commissioned for UNESCO. Paris, France: UNESCO.
Benson, C. (2004). The importance of mother tongue-based schooling for educational quality. Commissioned study for EFA Global Monitoring Report. Retrieved from
Bongarrá, M., & Siam, J. (2017). The Bidayuh language development and preservation project: A review. In M. Bongarrá, M. Arritt, & F. Kayad (Eds.), Selected Papers of the Bidayuh Language and Development Project (2003-2017) (pp. 79-94). Kuching, Malaysia: Dayak Bidayuh National Association.
Clark, N. (2014). Education in Malaysia. World Education News and Reviews.
Coluzzi, P., Riget, R., & Wang, X. (2013). Language vitality among the Bidayuh of Sarawak (East Malaysia). Oceanic Linguistics, 52, 375-395. DOI: 10.1353/ol.2013.0019.
Dayak Bidayuh National Association (DBNA). 2020. DBNA, Objectives.
Department of Statistics Malaysia. (2017). Sarawak population by district, 2017.
Dumatog, R., & Dekker, D. E. (2003, November 6-8). First language education in Lubuagan, Northern Philippines. Paper presented at the Conference on Language Development, Language Revitalization and Multilingual Education in Minority Communities in Asia, Bangkok, Thailand.
Fishman, J. (1991). Reversing language shift: Theoretical and empirical foundations of assistance to threatened languages. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Ghani, Abd. (2014, November 26-28). The teaching of indigenous Orang Asli language in Peninsular Malaysia. Paper presented at 3rd International Conference on Linguistics, Literature and Culture (ICLLIC 2014) USM, Penang, Malaysia. DOI: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.11.201.
Hanawalt, C. (2015, July 19). Responses in Indonesia and Malaysia to a new planning tool for language communities: A guide for planning the future of our language. Paper presented at 13th Annual Conference on Austronesian Linguistics. Taipei, Taiwan.
Hovens, M. (2002). Bilingual education in West Africa: Does it work? International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 5(5), 249-266.
Joyik, I. P., Siam, S., Tan, G., Bongarrá, M., & Simpson, S. E. (2017). The Bidayuh first language-based multilingual education programme. In M. Bongarrá, M. Arritt, & F. Kayad (Eds.), Selected Papers of the Bidayuh Language and Development Project (2003-2017) (pp. 67-78). Kuching, Malaysia: Dayak Bidayuh National Association.
Kroeger, P. (2009). The dialects in Biatah. In P. Martin & P. Sercombe (Eds.), Languages in Borneo: Diachronic and synchronic perspectives (pp. 111-144). Williamsburg, Va.: Borneo Research Council.
Lewis, M. P., & Simons, G. (2009). Assessing endangerment: expanding Fishman’s GIDS. Revue Romaine de Linguistique, 55(2), 103-120.
McNamara, D. S., Roscoe, R., Allen, L., Balyan, R., & McCarthy, K. S. (2019). Literacy: From the perspective of text and discourse theory. Journal of Language and Education, 5(3), 56-69.
Ministry of Education, Malaysia. (2013). Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025: Preschool to secondary education. Putrajaya, Malaysia: Ministry of Education.
Moinian, F., Kjällander, S., & Dorls, P. (2016). Mother tongue language teaching with digital tablets in early childhood education: A question of social inclusion and equity. He Kupu, 4(3), 19-29.
Noeb, J., & Ridu, R. (2012). Language development in Bidayuh: Past, present, and future. In C. R. Rensch, C. M. Rensch, J. Noeb & R. S. Ridu (Eds.), The Bidayuh language, yesterday, today, and forever. Kuching, Malaysia: Dayak Bidayuh National Association.
Norahim, N. (2010). Language choice of Bidayuh graduates in Kuching-Samarahan division (PhD dissertation). Universiti Malaya, Malaysia.
Siam, J., & Smith, J. (2013, November 6-8). Walking among durians: The Malaysia Bidayuh schools’ journey. Paper presented at 4th International Conference on Language and Education, Multilingual Education for All in Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand.
Stringer, M. (2006). Literacy acquistion and diffusion among pre-literate adults: effects of two methods of instruction in non-industrialized communities in Papua New Guinea. SIL E-books, SIL International.
Songan, P. (2004, August 21). Importance of education: The Bidayuh perspective. Seminar Pendidikan Anjuran Biro Pendidikan DBNA Serian, Malaysia.
Thomas, W. P., & Collier, V. P. (1997). School effectiveness for language minority students. (NCBE Resource Collection Series, No. 9). Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition.
Ting, S. H., & Campbell, Y. M. (2007). Bahasa Melayu sebagai bahasa komunikasi keluarga: Kajian kes sebuah keluarga Bidayuh di Sarawak.[Bahasa Melayu as a language of family communication: Case study of a Bidayuh family in Sarawak]. In Nor Hashimah Jalaluddin, Imran Ho Abdullah & Idris Aman (Eds.), Linguistik teori dan aplikasi [Linguistics theory and application] (pp. 278-293). Malaysia: Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
Trudell, B., & Young, C. (Eds.) 2016. Good answers to tough questions in mother tongue-based multilingual education. SIL International.
Tupas, R., & Martin, I. P. (2017). Bilingual and mother tongue-based multilingual education in the Philippines. In O. Garcia, A. Lin, & S. May (Eds.), Bilingual and multilingual education (pp.247-258). New York: Springer.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2003). Education in a multilingual world. Paris: UNESCO.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: Development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Walter, S. (2010). The mother tongue instructional model: In search of insights. Dallas, Texas: SIL International.