Traditional Orang Asli dancer in a mask
Traditional Orang Asli dance ©

British Council

“Through the gathering of these stories, we hope to support the preservation of the language and culture of these communities"

Storytelling is a wonderful pathway to imagination, creativity and language learning. Students and teachers from six Orang Asli (indigenous peoples of Malaysia) schools and communities in Selangor are now enjoying traditional stories from their tribe, in English, with a new, beautifully illustrated storybook.

Community events were organised bringing parents, children, teachers and other community members together to enjoy English storytelling sessions. A highlight of the events involved parents and elders from the tribe sharing traditional stories in their first language. Teachers, with the support of the British Council, translated these stories into simple English and brought them together in one storybook beautifully illustrated by Shaq Koyok, a local artist. Local teachers from the six schools were also given training in teaching reading and storytelling, ensuring the benefits of the project continue.

The project was run by the British Council in Malaysia with the support of the Selangor State Education Department (JPN Selangor), funded by Hong Leong Foundation and Magicbird Publishing. A total of 16 project teachers, approximately 200 parents and pupils directly participated in the Orang Asli storybook project, with approximately 500 books being donated to the school libraries.

Tok Bali Literacy Project - Students read their finished book
Tok Bali Literacy Project - Students read their finished book
Tok Bali Literacy Project - Parents and children sit together waiting for the event to start
Tok Bali Literacy Project - parents and children enjoy the event

Oil trucks, helicopters and storybooks

Oil trucks, helicopters and storybooks may not seem like three things that belong together but they were all key elements of the first Tok Bali Literacy Project community event at SK Cherang Ruku school in rural Kelantan.  The project is run by the British Council and sponsored by Hess, an international energy company, who also provided the (toy) trucks and helicopters.

British Council staff, Hess staff and volunteers,  Ministry of Education officials, school leaders and teachers came together to organise a hugely successful parent outreach event that saw 100 parents join their children for a morning of activities that concluded with the creation of ten storybooks. The aim of the event was to encourage parents to be more involved in their children’s education and to highlight the importance of reading for enjoyment at home as well as at school. How better to do that than create a book with your child! 

The community event was not without stresses, especially for the teachers and school leaders who had never done this kind of activity before with parents. There were many fears, not least of which was that the parents would be too nervous to come. All these fears were completely unrealised and instead everyone had a fun, relaxing morning creating storybooks and masks, playing games and enjoying engaging storytelling sessions. The addition of prizes, goody bags, Hess trucks and helicopters, as well as breakfast and lunch made it a great day out for all the family.

Community events are only one aspect of the Tok Bali Literacy Project. Three primary schools from the Tok Bali area were selected to take part in the project, as part of the community engagement programme that Hess runs in the area. Each of the schools has received 200 high quality storybooks from the UK for the teachers to use in class and for the students to read during school and at home. The English teachers from the school all participate in workshops focused on using storybooks in class, practising storytelling, story-related activities and sharing ideas for developing the literacy of their students and their confidence in English.  

The project started in April 2017 and will continue until October 2017 with more workshops and community events at the three schools. 

By Lisa Walsh – British Council Malaysia trainer