Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Malaysian English - Why Now the big Fuss??

Recently, the Education Minister of Malaysia made a lot of noise on the low standard of English among Malaysian students. Everything was blamed for the decline of the standard of the English language. He mentioned the teachers teaching English are not up to the mark, the curriculum have to be changed, bla, bla, bla....
Statistics shows that after 13 years of schooling, an average Malaysian student still could not pick up the language well. When they enter tertiary education, lecturers are having headaches on the these students. When they leave university, they cannot find jobs due to their lack of proficiency in the English language.
Only recently, the PPSMI (teaching of science and maths in English) was abolished by the Minister, himself... Today, he says the opposite.... That's politics. You put politics into education and you get a new generation of Malaysians who will speak neither English nor Malay, but something unheard of....

Mastering a language is not an overnight job, mind you. You just cannot put some 360 English native speaking teachers into some 5,407,865 Malaysian students and expect the students to speak good English at the end of the year.. That's bad governance. That's bad education, indeed.
In the 1970's when I was schooling, we had a choice of pursuing our education in the Malay Medium or the English Medium. While it was free education in the Malay Medium, a RM10 monthly fee was imposed to those seeking education in the English Medium. (RM10 in the 1970's is like RM70 today).
my school fees receipts in 1973.
The English Medium have been abolished since 1981.
I was lucky to have taken the English Medium. I am well versed both in Malay and English, compared to most of my friends (who took the Malay Medium) who only know Bahasa Melayu as a means of communication. Their English is below average and so do their children's who are schooling. These are the Malay "warriors" who will fight for the Malay language and make English as a treat to the Malay language. MOST of them are teachers and there are 405,761 teachers in Malaysia. You can see now why there is a big problem making school children speaking English in school.

*I may be condemned for making this statement but the truth is there - out there in schools !!!!

Nobody speaks English in school today except during English classes. And it is not 100% English. You are lucky if there is 30% English being spoken during English lessons. That's the plain truth !!!

Let us think of the positive ways to overcome this problem - to upgrade the standard of the English language among school students:
1.   The Education Ministry must be SERIOUS.
2.   The Education Ministry must be BOLD to make changes.
3.   The Education Minister must be an academician, NOT a politician.

1.    Bring back the English Medium to school.
2.    All subjects, except Bahasa Melayu and Islamic Studies, MUST be taught in ENGLISH. That includes History, Geography, Living Skills, Maths, Science, Pure Science and so on....
3.    Make the English subject a compulsory PASS in the public exams (PMR, SPM, STPM)
4.    Other languages, like Mandarin and Tamil, should be taught to all races.. Mandarin should be made compulsory to the Malays, Indians, and not just the Chinese. So does the Tamil language. So does Arabic.

My ideas are supported by most parents who care about their children's future. Just take a look at these letters to the press:

Parent 1:
SAMUEL YESUIAH, Seremban, Negri Sembilan

THE letter "Retirees just as good" (NST, July 21) questions the effectiveness of hiring English language teachers from abroad to teach English.
Malaysia has engaged the services of 350 English language teachers from Britain, Australia and Canada.

From the United States, 500 US teachers are here to help our students.

Whether our children will be able to relate and understand the different slang and pronunciation of the foreign language teachers is left to be seen.

Many will view the bringing in of foreign English language teachers as a move to arrest the decline of English among our English language teachers rather than of our students.

It portrays local language teachers as being incapable of teaching and being not proficient in the language.

This move to bring in foreign language teachers to check the deterioration of the English standard in our schools is only a kneejerk reaction for a short-term result.

Many students and parents have a lackadaisical attitude towards the learning and teaching of English, irrespective of whether the curriculum is changed or the language is taught by master teachers from overseas.

Extending the teaching hours for English can result in children getting bored and disinterested in learning a language that they find no immediate practical use for.

A better alternative is for more subjects in school to be taught in the English language.

With a wide exposure to the language in multiple disciplines, pupils will feel the need to learn and internalise the nuances and contexts of the language.

For instance, the policy on the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) should be revived to give ample opportunities for rural pupils to use the language effectively.

Another viable move will be the reintroduction of English-medium schools. Many parents have lost confidence in the national schools because of the medium of instruction.

Private schools, both primary and secondary, are mushrooming in the country, especially in Kuala Lumpur. Many parents in Johor Baru are sending their children to schools in Singapore.

In order to make a significant impact, the English language subject should be made a compulsory pass at the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah, Penilaian Menengah Rendah and Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia levels.

Making English a compulsory pass subject at the public examination level should seriously be considered if the government wants to strengthen the learning of the English language.

Only this move by the government will ensure that students learn the English language subject more seriously.

Parent 2:
I welcome the Education Minister’s initiative to critically review our English teaching in schools. Many times the solutions proposed to improve our English mastery have been short-term simplistic plugging with questionable outcomes i.e. changing the medium of instruction.
If this were the solution, why do our young generation of today also have problem conversing and writing in a standard Malay language? This is despite Malay being the medium of instruction.
I believe that our curriculum now is too rigid and is only exam focused, and lacks opportunities for the students to develop their language skills intellectually and creatively.
Learning may be too didactic and with little room provided for interactive class discussion, as teachers are often pressed to finish their syllabus for exams.
If students are only expected to answer yes/no or regurgitate the exact words from the text book, how can we expect them to construct an intelligent essay?
The rest of the subjects also have the same problems, as we can see that students entering university lack understanding in many basic concepts of arithmetic, biology, chemistry, etc.
Our whole education system is very sick and needs long-term rehabilitation. The list of illnesses is getting longer. Language mastery is just one tick box.
How about extra private tuition, which is no longer a support system but a necessity since kindergarten? How about illiteracy, which still plagues some 17-year-olds in Malaysia? How about the neck breaking weight of their school bag?
It is time to seriously review our education system holistically.
George Town. @ The Star 9th August 2011.

So, you see.. I'm not alone. I think, you too agree. 
Have a nice day... 


Wake UP! said...

Salam bro. Good idea DESS on bringing back the English medium. I also wrote about that before in my blog. And to make a pass in English compulsory.

Anonymous said...

Just hope the Education Ministry have guts to do the changes..., which of course, I doubt.

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Alya YAYA Farhanah said...

As a student,

I agreee !! You know what, even my teachers condemn students who uses too much English in school. Seriously.

The MOE needs to educate the teachers that English is important not for the students only, but for them as well. It's time to make a bold change. I don't think by bringing US teachers to Malaysia to teach us will help. It's still up to the students whether to use English properly or not, right ?

The reason why i think my English is fluent is because that i've been brought up in an environment where English is the main language and the kindergarten i went to uses English everyday.

In this case, the parents too need to play their role. Don't ever look down on English because you might ruin their future. English is actually easy when you use it everyday. It's similar to what you do in daily life to get it perfect.

Everyone should open up their minds and not be shallow minded. I'm sorry if this statement offends any party but i prefer Malaysians nowadays to not be the typical Malaysian stereotype when it comes to English. If you want change but you're scared/underestimating of it then what's the use ?

Gulraiz23 said...

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DESS said...

Thanks a lot for all your comments. I really, really hope those policy makers have soft hearts and think positively about this matter. We have nothing to lose changing to the English Medium in schools. The sooner the better. At least, give the students and parents a chance to do so... Malaysia have already lost 30 years. Don't drag another 30!!!
Have a nice day...

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