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Bringing back English medium schools best solution
Published on: Sunday, October 08, 2017

By TK
Johor Permaisuri Raja Zarith Sofia called on the Government, NGOs like the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (Melta) and the private sector to raise the level of English proficiency and competency of our students so that they would eventually become global players in multi-national companies and world renowned universities.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid also highlighted the problem of students conversing in English, particularly those from the rural areas.

From my experience managing and teaching English for decades, I know that getting students to speak in this language is an almost insurmountable task even in urban national and national-type schools despite numerous “pushy” and “forceful” campaigns to get them to do so.

Perhaps a multi-pronged approach can be adopted to reach the goal of improved English literacy among Malaysians.

The authorities should consider reintroducing English-medium schools along the lines of private and international schools but affordable to a larger segment of the population.

Before the mid-1970s, almost a third of students were enrolled in English-medium schools which were ethnically mixed and growing in significance compared with other vernacular schools.

Another option would be to make English a compulsory pass in SPM. This was actually proposed a couple of years ago but was shelved because of, among others, the lack of qualified English teachers.

We are hearing now that there are enough competent English teachers who have achieved the C1 level, the highest benchmark set by the Education Ministry, to teach English.

Without doubt, parents and students must be made aware of the importance of English as the language of the world. Principals and teachers should use every opportunity, including parent-teacher association functions, school assemblies and co-curricular activities, and take various initiatives in their interaction with parents and students to promote the use of English in schools.

Parents must be reminded that learning and pursuing knowledge in English will not erode national integration efforts or patriotism or make us less Malaysian. In fact, virtually all our past and present prime ministers were educated in English-medium schools. They are certainly not less nationalistic on account of that experience.

On the contrary, they are more confident and accomplished on the Malaysian and international stage because of it.

Bringing back the teaching of science and maths in English, and introducing other subjects like history in English would also create opportunities for students to immerse in English. More importantly, in this digital era or Internet age, students would be able to access unlimited storehouses of up-to-date knowledge which is predominantly in the English language.

Currently, teaching English only as a subject and devoting just 10pc to 15pc of the teaching hours to it may be inadequate in building English operational proficiency.

Hopefully, the powers that be will act with strong political will to reclaim our lost ground in English language proficiency!

TK

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