Oxford Fajar Sdn Bhd (Oxford Fajar), a subsidiary of Oxford University Press (UK), turns 60 this year, making it one of the oldest publishing houses in Malaysia.
Since its inception in 1957, which coincides with the year Malaysia attained its Independence, Oxford Fajar has been actively contributing to nation building by supporting the Malaysian education system as well as educators and students across the nation.
Over this period, Oxford Fajar has evolved with Malaysia and Malaysians by publishing quality academic and education resources that address the specific needs of local educators and students from preschool to tertiary, while continuing to push the boundaries of excellence in education.
Oxford Fajar publications, ranging from dictionaries to textbooks, guidebooks, atlases, references and readers, are no stranger to Malaysians. In line with Oxford University Press’ (OUP) heritage and mission of publishing excellence, Oxford Fajar currently publishes about 400 titles annually in 5 key languages—English, Malay, Tamil, Chinese and Arabic. Its bestselling bilingual dictionary, Kamus Dwibahasa, has sold over 7 million copies to date, and the 6th edition will be launched later this year.
In paying tribute to staff who have contributed to this significant 60th milestone, Ms Sharmini Nagulan, Managing Director of Oxford Fajar, said, “We recognise that we could only have come this far because of the dedication and grit of those who have contributed to our rich history. As a result of their contributions, Oxford Fajar is now poised to further impact education in Malaysia and the region in the years ahead.”
Nagulan shared key highlights of the 60 years which have shaped the company’s leadership in the local publishing industry.
The seed was first planted in the 1950s when Oxford University Press extended its English language courses to support education in East Asia. OUP set up its Malaysian office in Kuala Lumpur in 1957 and published its first book, The Crocodile Dies Twice, which was translated into Malay (Buaya Mati Dua Kali) in 1958.
In 1969, a local publishing arm, Penerbit Fajar Bakti, was established to spearhead publishing in the Malay language, supporting the change in the medium of instruction from English to Malay. This resulted in publishing across a variety of subject areas to meet local curriculum requirements, including a series of Malay literature titles developed with renowned local authors.
In 2006, the company was rebranded as Oxford Fajar Sdn Bhd to reinforce its relationship with Oxford University Press, while retaining Penerbit Fajar Bakti’s strong heritage in local publishing.
A year later, in 2007, Oxford Fajar became the first company in Malaysia to publish Higher Education books that catered to local syllabuses, incorporating local and regional case studies, and written in simple English to facilitate better subject matter comprehension. Today, more than 250 local Higher Education titles have been published, and these titles have gained recognition among students and educators not only nationwide but also across borders in other Asian countries and beyond.
Commenting on the company’s growth plans, Nagulan said that Oxford Fajar will continue to expand its focus to provide total education solutions by offering professional development for teachers, blended learning with print and digital resources, as well as stand-alone digital solutions—all with the overarching goal of further improving teaching and learning outcomes.
“At the core of all these efforts to support 21st century teaching and learning in Malaysia is our unwavering commitment to equip our team with the necessary skill sets to manage the changing education landscape. Global and regional training programmes, as well as cross-border collaborations and projects with OUP Asia Education division counterparts in India, Pakistan, Hong Kong and China, will give our people exposure and the opportunity to explore, experiment and grow,” added Nagulan.
Also present to commemorate Oxford Fajar’s 60th Anniversary was Mr Adrian Mellor, Managing Director (Asia Education), Oxford University Press (OUP), who shared, “This Anniversary celebration is indeed a fitting time to remember that we have been present and active on the Malay Peninsula for more than 20 years before our official birth date, or incorporation, in Malaysia. Through the years, we continued to remain diverse, supporting the development of the Malay language, whilst also working with Chinese language schools and English medium schools over an extended period. OUP was training editors at the University of Malaya Press in Singapore before the founding of the campus in Kuala Lumpur, and continued its collaboration with that new academic publishing community. In fact, the Oxford course for English in Malaysia subsequently set the standards in this region.
“Thus, we are honoured today to revisit this remarkable journey of 60 years and trace how, in our own small way, we were able to contribute to the early education efforts of the country and this continues to this day.
“Malaysia remains a key market for Oxford and we will continue our efforts to further develop Kuala Lumpur as a centre of regional development. On this note, I am also pleased to share that Malaysia will be the regional hub to drive OUP’s plans for Southeast Asia. The immediate focus will be on Indonesia and Philippines, across both Higher Education and Schools segments, with emphasis on customised content to meet specific local needs,” said Mellor.
In celebration of its 60th anniversary, Oxford Fajar also rolled out several initiatives to inspire language learning in a fun and enjoyable way.
The Oxford Big Write creative writing competition, themed ‘Journeys’, was well received by schools nationwide. Held from February till April 2017, approximately 1200 entries were received from 300 schools/institutions. The grand prize winner of Category A (Ages 15–17) is Ku Jia Sien from Chung Ling Private High School, Penang, with her winning entry titled ‘The Surreal Journey’, while Nur Fatin Afrina Binti Mohd Fakhruddin from Kolej Islam Sultan Alam Shah won the grand prize under Category B (Ages 18–19) with her winning entry titled ‘Sev & the Hot Chocolate’.
Both grand prize winners received a cash prize of RM2,000 each, while their schools won a stack of books equivalent to the height of the winning student. Melaka Girls’ School, which submitted the highest number of entries, received a trophy.
“This competition is a road to discovery of many budding young writers in Malaysia. I was thrilled to read such creative pieces written by Malaysian students. There needs to be continuous encouragement and motivation to young writers, through efforts such as this competition and more, to unleash their potential,” commented one of the judges, Ms Elizabeth Easaw.
The next big event to celebrate Oxford Fajar’s 60th Anniversary will be the upcoming Oxford Big Read competition.
Targeted at encouraging, not only the habit of reading, but also a love for reading, the Oxford Big Read competition will prompt and encourage students to consider what they have read, to explore ideas, to gain insights and to express opinions; all aimed at developing their thinking skills. Commencing in July 2017, this completion targets students in two age categories: Category 1 (Ages 10–12) and Category 2 (Ages 13–14). More information will be available in July on www.oxfordfajar.com.my.