KUALA LUMPUR: Former premier Dr Mahathir Mohammad today clarified a statement that he made on foreign language as a medium of teaching in government schools.

In a recent interview with Nanyang Siang Pau, he said that Malaysia is the only country in the world with government schools that use a foreign language to teach a community whose ancestors originated from a foreign country.

A reader shot down his claim and pointed out that the Chinese language is taught and spoken in many countries. However, Mahathir begged to differ.

“There is a difference between teaching in a foreign language and learning a foreign language,” he emphasised. “I’m referring to the former. Learning a foreign language is not only permissible but encouraged.”

Mahathir also disputed a claim that Thailand has many schools which use Chinese as a medium of teaching.

“There are international schools which don’t use the Thai national language but they are not funded by they government,” he stated.

“Similar international schools that cater to expatriates are found in many countries, including Malaysia.

“Some nationals also attend these schools. But they are not like the Chinese and Tamil schools in Malaysia which are funded by the government,” he said.

Mahathir then roped in Singapore’s policy to use English as a teaching medium to further drive home his point.

“This hasn’t resulted in it being accused of being anti-Chinese, anti-Tamil or anti-Malay,” he said.

“The national language of predominantly Chinese Singaporeans is Malay but Chinese, Tamil and English are also official languages which are taught and may be used.

“If anyone wishes to refute what I state here, they are welcome. But they must provide evidence to show that I am wrong,” he said.

Never thought I would say this but he does have a point.