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

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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.


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