Students Oppose Removal of Balinese Language from Schools

DENPASAR

Hundreds of students from a number of state and private universities in Bali have held a demonstration to protest against the central government’s plan to eliminate Balinese language from the curriculum.

Carrying posters and banners and wearing Balinese attire, students from the State Hindu Dharma Institute (IHDN), Dwijendra University, Udayana University and the IKIP PGRI teacher’s college expressed their concern for the future of the language if the government continued with its plan.

“We fear that one day the Balinese language will be forgotten because students will no longer learn the subject in school, and also an increasing number of people no longer use the language nowadays,” said I Nyoman Suka Ardiyasa, leader of the alliance.

The plan to remove the subject is in line with the Education and Culture Ministry’s most recent policy on a new teaching curriculum, which will see the amalgamation of several different subjects into one. The policy also stipulates that “local content”, or unique subjects taught only in schools in specific regions, will be integrated into “art and culture” classes.

In Bali, the local content affected by this policy is Balinese language. Consequently, the subject that is now compulsory in elementary, junior and high schools will be merged with art and culture, thus limiting students’ opportunities to learn the traditional language.

“We are calling on stakeholders in Bali to oppose the government’s plan,” Ardiyasa said.

Bali has a 1992 bylaw on language, letters and literature that clearly stipulates the need to teach, develop and preserve the Balinese language.

Ardiyasa added that integrating Balinese language with art and culture would be inappropriate. “Balinese language should be a stand-alone subject.”

Such integration also runs counter to the 2003 National Education System Law, which stipulatesthat the curriculums of basic and higher education should contain both art and culture and local content subjects.

“Therefore, it is clear that the two subjects should not be merged,” he said.

Statistics show that the number of people who can speak Balinese drops on average by 1 percent each year; therefore, removing the language’s study from the curriculum will only worsen the decline.

Head of the provincial education, youth and sports agency, Anak Agung Ngurah Gde Sujaya, agreed about the importance of maintaining the subject in schools.

“We will convey our thoughts to the central government. We still have a chance to share our aspirations, in the hope that the plan to integrate subjects will be annulled,” Sujaya said.

Moreover, he added, the integration of Balinese with other subjects would affect hundreds of Balinese language teachers.

I Ketut Suwandhi, deputy speaker of the provincial legislative council, said the council would follow up on people’s wishes.

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