This monograph examines the education of ethnic minorities in plural societies within the broader context of majority-minority relations. It comprises eight theoretical chapters dealing with various aspects of the education of ethnic minorities. The education of ethnic minorities in plural societies has always been a hotly contested area, having a dynamic of its own, often involving minority linguistic and cultural claims that go against those of the majority. This is especially true in the case of non-marginal minorities or active minorities who are in a position to make such claims. Notwithstanding the right of the minority groups to use their own language in plural societies, when such claims are pitted against the majority language, they have to accept the fact that the majority language is usually recognised as the language of national integration and the sole or the main medium of instruction in the national educational system and as such, their claims for minority linguistic rights should not override the supremacy of the majority language. It is perhaps for this reason that ethnic minorities have to take a middle course so that their linguistic and cultural claims do not jeopardise their social mobility as well as the nation-building process in plural societies. Such an act of balancing is not only necessary but also crucial to the survival of ethnic minorities within the mainstream society. It is essentially a matter of choice between maintaining their ‘life styles’ or ‘life chances’. It is against this backdrop that bilingual education is perhaps a viable option for ethnic minorities to accommodate their educational needs as well as their role in the national-building process. While there are different models of bilingual education, the Malaysian model of transitional bilingual education for the ethnic minorities merits our attention. Despite some shortcomings in its implementation, this model of bilingual education has been able to ensure language maintenance within a wider shift to the majority language.
About the Authors
Dr. Tan Yao Sua is Senior Lecturer and Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and International Studies, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang. His main research interests include minority education, educational policy analysis, bilingual education, sociology of education and Malaysian Chinese Studies.
Prof. R. Santhiram is Professor and Dean of the School of Education, Languages and Communications, Wawasan Open University, Penang. His main research interests are in the areas of education for ethnic minorities, educational policy analysis and history of education.