Socio-historical transformation and classroom discourse in Malaysia

Meng Yew Tee, Shin Yen Tan, Lorraine Pe Symaco


The objective of this paper is to discuss Malaysian classroom practices, as seen through historical and socio-cultural lenses, and the classroom as a space where socio-historical transformation plays out. Malaysia’s formal education system was largely based on a British colonial structure, and still today continues to maintain much of the system established during British colonial rule. Key socio-cultural building blocks also came into being during colonial times, but these have given way to decidedly more locally driven social-historical ideas since Malaysia’s independence in 1957. We explore whether some of these social-historical changes could have contributed to the shaping of contemporary Malaysian classroom discourse. A previous study found that such discourse was almost entirely and persistently monologic, but why was monologic discourse so dominant and so homogenously employed throughout the country? What goes into the shaping of such narrow displays of classroom discourse? This paper examines the socio-historical roots that may have shaped the monologic patterns of contemporary Malaysian classroom discourse. We argue that two far-reaching forces within the macrosystem contributed to shaping classroom practice over time: the first related to the underlying colonial and post-independence rule/government structure, and the second to Malaysia’s particular socio-cultural character.


classroom discourse; classroom practice; dialogism; socio-cultural and historical lens; Malaysia

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