Balinese will fight for their language
Following the Education and Culture Ministry’s plan to revise the 2013 education curriculum, which includes a move to immerse local language lessons into art and culture lessons, the Balinese people have pledged to keep Balinese language lessons in school and say no to the plan.
“In the past, there have been concerns that the Balinese language would be extinct by 2040. We would hate to see that prediction become reality because language is part of our local wisdom and pride. We hope that we can create synergy and drive the political will of the administration, the House of Representatives and our academics and practitioners, to keep the Balinese language in existence,” dean of the school of letters at Udayana University, I Wayan Cika, said on Wednesday.
He was speaking at the opening of the faculty’s public seminar on how the government’s plan to change the 2013 curriculum would affect the Balinese language.
The ministry plans to implement the revised curriculum at the beginning of the 2013/2014 academic year in June. Chairman of the board of trustees for the Balinese language, alphabet and literature I Gde Nala Antara cited that in the current structure of the elementary school curriculum, the local language is taught as local content (for two hours) along with art and cultural skills (four hours).
However, in the revised 2013 curriculum, local content is no longer mentioned explicitly, as it is replaced with an art, culture and craft lesson (for six hours). Similar changes are also to be implemented in the junior and senior high school curriculums.
The public review period for the planned 2013 curriculum has now ended, having run between Nov. 29 and Dec. 23. Nala voiced regret that the schedule for the public review had not been well publicized and made known to his board.
“Basically, we do not agree with the 2013 curriculum and we have urged our governor to firmly state that Bali rejects the new curriculum and uses its regional autonomy right to keep the local language taught in schools in Bali,” said Nala.
“Filing a judicial review at the Constitutional Court has also been considered, as our last option,” he added.
The Balinese language has been a compulsory local content subject taught at schools throughout the island based on Provincial Regulation No. 3/1992 on the Balinese language, alphabet and literature.
A self-confessed lover of the Balinese language, who actively promotes the use of the language in children’s storytelling and songs, I Made Taro was saddened by the situation faced by his much-loved mother tongue.
“The Balinese language is dying. And I am sad if this language is deleted from schools. I have learnt to speak Balinese not only from my teachers at schools but also from my parents, my playmates and from traditional games, songs and poems, which I’m developing even today. Preserving this language requires simple efforts,” said Taro.
Chairman of Commission IV at the Bali House of Representatives, I Nyoman Parta, said that the commission was preparing to welcome the ministry’s education curriculum team, who would be visiting Bali on Jan. 18.
“This is a serious matter. I hope all of us can together join forces to save our language and our identity as Balinese,” said Parta.
Literary critic and lecturer at Udayana University’s school of letters, I Nyoman Darma Putra, emphasized that local language lessons must be explicitly mentioned as a part of the curriculum.
“Although the minister has said that the local language will be integrated into the art, culture and craft lesson, we fear that without explicit mention, multiple interpretations of the policy could harm the Balinese language,” he said.
Putra further stated that in terms of local language development, Indonesia needed to partly learn from the legacy of the Dutch, who generously supported the publication of dozens of books on Balinese language during the era of colonialism.
Up to the present day, the Balinese language still manages to exist through various preservation efforts, including Balinese language lessons at local schools, the presence of Balinese language pop music and the Bali Orti (Balinese language news) popularized by the local mass media on the island since 2006.
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