Monday, August 28, 2006

The Reading Habits of Malaysians: Some Stats

I linked to a Starmag article a couple of weeks ago about the depressing state of readership in Malaysia. The Malay Mail yesterday gave more detail of a 2005 National Library study carried out by the National Statistics Department and designed look into local reading habits. This is what we learn:
More than half of the 60,441 odd Malaysians surveyed read less than seven pages a day.

Those 10 years and above read about two books a year! (The figure excludes text books for students and books that are work-related for working adults.)

Also shocking is that most of those who read books and magazines, read less than three hours a week.

The older we get, the less we read.*

The survey also showed that 55 per cent of those aged 10 to 24, read books, compared to 39 per cent within the 25 to 56 age bracket. Only six per cent are those aged 57 and above.

Reading is not even the favourite pastime of Malaysians as most prefer to watch television and video.

The reading habit looks to be a thing of the past as the survey also unearthed the trend among the young who read only to acquire knowledge.

Most Malaysians read in Bahasa Melayu, followed by English. Reading in Jawi comes third and finally, Mandarin.

About 56 per cent of the respondents of the study were city dwellers and 44 per cent rural Malaysians.

Of the total number of respondents, 60 per cent were aged 10 years old and above and 99.9 per cent of them had formal education.
Two books a year is the figure that the last survey in 1996 came up with, so on the face of it Malaysians are not reading any more than they were ten years ago, despite reading campaigns.

But this is strange: bookchains MPH and Borders though, report increasing sales and the book business locally is apparently worth two billion ringgit a year! What's happening?

Maybe Malaysians are buying books but not reading them!


I came across this very interesting study about the readership habits of Malaysian students by Dr. Ambigapathy Pandian of USM.


It strikes me as very odd that I have so far met no-one (in the media or education field) who has had a chance to read the National Library study. Apparently at the press conference, the journalists had to be content with a few figures hastily scribbled down on a piece of paper by the minister. Shouldn't there be more transparency?


Ted Mahsun said...

I'm no statistics guru but I suspect the sample size isn't big enough or doesn't represent the population fairly...

Come on... more Malaysians reading Malay? Okay, perhaps, this is slightly believeable, but more in Jawi than Mandarin? This in a country where Chinese dailies outnumber the lone Jawi newspaper, which recently had to be resurrected as a trashy tabloid to even survive?

Sounds like they're spinning the numbers to say whatever they want.

bibliobibuli said...

more readers reading in malay i do believe but agree with you re. jawi over mandarin

but then many religious books are read in jawi, aren't they?

i wonder what the racial and language breakdown of the figures would look like? i think you'd have to be extremely careful with your samples for a survey of this kind

i want to see the complete study, not the regurgitated version via the press

wonder if i ask the national library nicely ...?

Fairul Nizam said...

We couldn't trust 100% what we read in the newspapers anymore! :).

bibliobibuli said...

never trust 100% anything you read anywhere

and be especially wary of statistics

irene said...

Buying books but not reading them? I am a statistic!

wjfljql said...

are there any jawi books or newspapers being printed today? just asking. i haven't been seeing them around anymore for a long time.

there are not many religious books in jawi anymore. not a lot of people can read it.

maybe 'jawi' included the Holy Qur'an and religious books in bahasa arab.

Jane Sunshine said...

'never trust 100% anything you read anywhere': couldn't agree with you more.

fida said...

baca jawi? paper utusan melayu tu lah satu-satunya paper jawi kat Malaysia ni.

And don't tell me our young Malaysians can read jawi because the government not really making a strong emphasise on learning jawi.

I still remember I write in rumi for my Pendidikan Islam's paper during the exam.

And I don't believe the survey because they never ask me. I read more than 5 books a month, so I might not be that Malaysian they are talking about. Besides if you just ask those mat rempits and lepaking youngsters who like to making out by the fountain in KLCC, that would be the answers.

If they read the newspaper, they will know that it kills to be mat rempit and it's against the law to make out at the KLCC park.

But then again, do they really know how to read at the first place?

When I was a teacher about 8 years back, I have some students in my form two classes who doesn't know how to read! Yet they manage to get to secondary school, thanks to our over ambitious minister who really want quantity over quality. And the school in question is a school situated just 15 km from JB.

so, come to think again, the stats might be true. Why bother read the book when they can't even read!

Ted Mahsun said...

I take offence to that! Me and my gf are young Malaysians, and we can read and write jawi (though I spell lousy and I forget my Fa's from my Pa's; so many dots to juggle about).

Nuri said...

I wouldn't put so much trust in Malaysian media (or International media for that matter...) as most people do nowadays, much less base my opinions on the statistics they provide. The campaigns probably didn't tremendously boost reading habits among M'sians, but I'm sure they've had some sort of effect.

My classmates -- for the last year or so -- have expressed more interest in English novels than I have previously noted. Perhaps western entertainment and bias might be causing this phenomenon? Malay-speaking individuals are acquiring a tendency to read "chic lit" and it's not unusual to see school girls sporting a different novel in their hands every week or so. Hollywood movies incite people to go out and read their written counterparts. Of course, there's always the occasional International controversy (do I hear "The Da Vinci Code", anyone?) to help attract audiences.

Eitherways, I'm sure that people are reading more. They're definitely buying more books, apparently. Unless it's my imagination that Kinokuniya and MPH are more busy than they were a couple of years back. Now all we have to worry about is WHAT their reading. ;-)

animah said...

You may not believe this but I'm probably part of the half that read less than 7 pages a day - this excludes work related reading, internet and newspapers. I note the much lower rate among the 25 to 56 year old - obvious reason - this is the employed category.
In holding a full time job, and looking after one child (imagine more), reading is a luxury. I catch up on some weekends when I don't fall asleep before my daughter and when I am ill.
And somehow I manage to read about 2 books a month.
Oh, and I watch very little TV, no Astro, DVD player is dominated by the kid, no internet connection at home. In other words, tv does not affect my leisure time, what little I have of it. The fact is many of us do not have the time to read, no matter how much we may love reading.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks for your very interesting views

irene - yes, we've probably distorted the statistics! i confess i bought 18% of all the books sold in MPH (actually it feels like that)

burhan, fida, ted - i'd be very intersted to hear more about how much people read in jawi these days

fida - i well know about kids not being able to read at that age since i've sometimes ended up teaching them ... it happens in UK too

nuri - thanks. especially as it's positive news ... and i suspect you could well be right. there's sure to be a big difference between rural and urban areas though, isn't there? actually it doesn't matter what people read. the important thing is that they read at all.

animah - i know. but you're working on training up your little reader

fida said...

hahah ted, sorry. have no intention to insult. I can still read jawi though maybe not as fast as reading the rumi version. plus newspaper jawi is different, especially the spelling, if you care to look carefully.

glad there is some of us who can still read jawi, no matter how small the number.

I agree sharon, it happens in every country. But it's sad. because they can't do much in life without education.

and we have some minister who never think it's a must to create semi skilled and skilled workers for technicals.

we used to have technical school, the enrolment is exclusively for the cream of the crop or those who are excellent in their SRP or PMR.

and vocational school for those who are not really good in studies but still have the will to learn vocational skills like carpentry, welding etc.

then came a minister who think that it's a waste to have both school at the opposite end of each other. so he decided to merge this two and it no longer churn those who are good in technicals, good enough to get them to good unis and those who can be the support system for those professionals.

now we are lamenting that we have not many people to do the semi skilled and skilled work around the country. But whose to blame?

Our societry still looks down on vocational school, institutes but in reality, they are needed. plus some of them made more monies than us, the professionals.

sang diva said...

I think Harian Metro did some learning stuff last time before they rebranded themselves.

now, with four newspaper to read, I never go beyond the 7th page.

but like I said, jawi in newspaper is much different from the jawi we learned in school. It's readable, but it will take some time to read an article through.

YTSL said...

Hi there --

Am not sure whether you're still checking comments to this August 28th entry but thought you might like to know that I linked it to a blog entry I just wrote today over at :)

Josette said...

I buy more than I read! Well, maybe they interviewed the wrong people. They should have interviewed me! LOL.

But then, I see quite a lot of people in bookstores like Borders, MPH, and Popular. Well, I don't follow them to see if they bought any books or not but I do hear the cash register's sound every now and then.

I think that there's no time to read, what with the Internet and the's no wonder less people are reading books.

Jayelle said...

They must have interviewed the wrong crowd... I read more than what they mentioned in that study :)

silverlily said...

its not weird.
if we go anywhere
hard to find a Malaysian reading.
at least magazines or light material
i believe some of Malaysian read, but if you see around you, you will realize that Malaysian lack of reading community