To be a More Humane Human: a Look at the Very First Year of MLEP 

By Jason Nathaniel Sutio (22S06U)

When the Malay Language Elective Programme (MLEP) valedictorian sipped his language-changing tea cup, continuing the rest of his speech in Malay, the room burst into raucous laughter. It was a scene familiar to every MLEP student. 

It was also the last time the 2021 Y6 batch would formally gather in Wahah Cendekia (the MLEP classroom) to celebrate the graduation of the very first batch of MLEP in RI.

As they listened intently to his speech, all of them took a walk down memory lane: ruminating on their first plunge, reminiscing about unforgettable highlights and charting the road ahead after the pioneer year of this programme.

Meeting MLEP 

In essence, the MLEP programme aims for students to become effectively bilingual in both formal and informal situations. 

The Deputy Principal for Student Development, Ms Ng Mei Sze, adds: “But we are more ambitious. We hope that the MLEP experience sensitizes students to the complexities of different cultures, beyond Malay.” 

MLEP students’ interest in the programme stemmed from a gamut of sources.

When Dyan Nurqaisara (21S07A) heard that RI was offering MLEP for the very first time last year, she decided to join through the DSA domain. “I wanted to explore my interest in Malay culture and linguistics in greater depth. I was also looking forward to the overseas programme!” 

Others hold sentiments similar to Afeef Ikhwan (21A13B), whose introduction to MLEP was in secondary school.

“I first heard of MLEP in Year 4, when my Malay teacher briefly mentioned it. I didn’t think too much of it. But on Open House in Year 5, I went to the Malay Language booth and heard what the MLEP coordinator, Cikgu Ali, had to say. It was his convincing and witty words that made me decide to join.”

Class Is In Session

The other MLEP teacher, Mr Abdul Malek Bin Ahmad, said, “MLEP sessions are varied and meaningful, where students learn creative writing, batik painting, and have dialogue sessions with leaders, just to name a few.“

Like several others, one of Dyan’s fondest memories is of the Jawi letter workshop. “It made me want to explore linguistics after learning not only language but history. Dr Hirman also shared with us his own font, which was extremely interesting.”

Students also cherish the sessions where MLEP teachers gave them a chance to unwind. Many recounted, “Cikgu Ali would treat us with a boatload of snacks and desserts, so much that we need to ‘dabao’ the food because his only job is ‘to not bring anything back’. “

Many students also cannot forget the time the Second Minister for Education, Dr Mohd Maliki Osman visited them during one of their lessons, and later praised them for their critical points during the session.

“Being able to tap on a wealth of experience, when discussing current issues, in a Malay leader who is in Parliament was extremely enlightening,” said the MLEP valedictorian, Mohammad Wisnu Darmawan (21S06A). 

These sessions equipped students with invaluable soft skills, as well as a deep understanding of regional culture that is beneficial for their future, especially in a business or trading in the Malay archipelago.

MLEP students with Mr. Syakir Hashim on Ethical Business in the Malay region.

However, there was also disappointment about missed opportunities. Afeef shared that he wishes to have more chances to build friendships, especially with his juniors. Furthermore, many students felt that the virtual overseas immersion with Malay students in Australia, while enriching, was simply not the same as the promised trip to Indonesia or Malaysia. 

Moving Forward

MLEP stoked their passion in Malay literature, giving them an idea of what they may pursue in university. “I might even work as a relief teacher later when waiting for university,” said Wisnu. 

Wisnu felt that the valedictorian status was not ‘given’ but rather ‘entrusted’ to him — entrusted with a greater responsibility to preserve the culture and heritage. 

After all, I’m only a boy who went from only aiming to finish Malay in Sec 4 to falling in love with this language.

Wisnu

In a similar vein, Ms Ng underpinned the importance of cultural studies. “I always encourage students to pick up another language. The further you go, the more you understand the nuances of cultural mindsets. When we finally leave the pandemic behind us, opportunities for exchange or immersion will open up in Universities – go for them.”

Ms Ng making her speech for MLEP graduation ceremony.

While the curtains close on this theatre, another one will soon open for the MLEP students.  At the end of his speech, Wisnu concluded: “As MLEP graduates, our journey in spreading the love for Malay has only begun. But we will carry the MLEP slogan in our hearts forever: lmu pemecah ruyung, cita murni mengangkasa, jati diri membumi.” (Empowering Knowledge, Boundless Aspirations, Staying Rooted)

Tingkap papan kayu bersegi, (Windowpanes made of wood)

Sampan sakat di Pulau Angsa; (Sampan stranded at Angsa Island)

Indah tampan kerana budi, (Beauty shines from graciousness)

Tinggi darjat kerana Bahasa. (Stature from language prowess)

translation by Cikgu malek

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