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3 measures to rectify damage to English caused by Muhyiddin
Published on: Saturday, June 10, 2017

I share the sentiments expressed by Senator Khairul Azwan Harun.

I too have often come across principals, teachers and students who lament the low level of English proficiency in Malaysia, particularly in the rural areas.

I agree with him that a considerable number of students are still unable to string a sentence together correctly.

From my experience of having taught English in secondary schools since 1964, I have observed that the watershed period was in the mid-1970s when English was replaced by Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction in schools.

Of course, this change cannot be the only cause of the deterioration of the standard of English.

I would say, among others, it is the low level of English proficiency among the English teachers as well.

A couple of years ago, it was reported that only about 30pc of English teachers were able to achieve C1 (Advanced) and C2 (Very Advanced) levels of English proficiency that is required to teach English in secondary schools, as practised in England.

Notwithstanding the upskilling courses by the Education Ministry, there is still insufficient qualified teachers to improve English proficiency among students.

As rightly pointed out by Khairul, there are NGOs such as Teach for Malaysia, Chumbaka, MyReaders, TalentBase, Project Fearless and many others who have put in massive efforts to uplift the level of English.

Unfortunately, the proficiency bar has not been raised even marginally.

Many will agree with me that the most straightforward and convenient way to raise proficiency is to revert to English medium schools, which apparently needs extremely strong political will.

And teachers and students must be truly aware of the important role of English, particularly for employment in the private sector and further education, not to mention the key to access the ever-increasing world of knowledge on the Internet.

To motivate students to purposefully and passionately study English, the authorities should seriously consider making English a compulsory pass in SPM.

Additionally, they need to reintroduce the teaching of Science and Maths in English (PPMSI) in all schools which was abandoned in its final stage by former Deputy PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin even though his singer-daughter was educated abroad in English. It was proven then that teachers and students were given ample opportunity to practise the use of English as a functional tool to improve their English skills in class.

Similarly, the Dual Language Programme (DLP), which certainly will help students improve their English and Bahasa Malaysia should be made compulsory for national and national-type schools. Presently, it needs the approval of the PIBG and school heads, but unfortunately not the students.

I believe if the authorities adopt the three measures – SPM compulsory pass, PPMSI and DLP – the problem of atrocious English in schools will be addressed.


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