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Finding place in global economy
Publication Date : 28-02-2013
The statement by Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin that the Education Ministry is prepared to make English a must-pass subject in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) in order to improve the mastery of the language among students is a step in the right direction.
This is not the first time such a proposal has been brought to light.
In September last year, a similar statement was made by our Education Minister.
While we are aware that the ministry is looking into various ways and methods of improving the teaching of English, we must admit we have not made headway so far.
The decline in English proficiency since the 1970s is a matter that must be addressed with a sense of urgency.
It is about time we make English a compulsory or must-pass subject in schools for the SPM examination so that our students will concentrate on the learning of English.
To achieve this, it is necessary for the ministry to be prepared thoroughly before implementation so as to ensure that it will not fail.
Measures to improve English teaching facilities and ensuring that the English language teachers have the right tools are obviously needed.
Parents and students have welcomed the move as there is a dire need to improve the command of English among students as this will benefit them in the future.
The shortage of trained English language teachers is one of the reasons for the students’ poor grasp of the language.
We did have many good English-trained teachers before but many of them have retired. It therefore makes sense that these retired English-trained teachers be brought back if they are prepared to work.
Besides hiring these retired teachers, the government should also train new teachers in English and with the right components.
Teachers for the rural areas need a different kind of training to help them tackle the problem faced by students there as many of the parents and students there do not see the importance of mastering English.
The teaching of English in schools should also be made more interesting and creative to make the students more receptive and interested in learning the subject.
While we are proud of our national language and it is important to master it, English, as the international language, should not be sidelined.
The government should also re-introduce the English-medium school system to arrest the decline in the standard of English and provide parents with a choice to pick the type of education for their children.
We must not regard the learning and mastering of English as a threat to our culture or national identity.
If we are not able to communicate internationally or are hindered from accessing knowledge because of deficiency in the language, our ability to influence others and do business will be seriously affected.
Mastering English is about rejuvenating the nation. It is about preparing ourselves individually and collectively as a nation in finding our place in the global economy.
Promoting English would not in any way jeopardise the importance and use of Bahasa Malaysia as our national and official language.
Being bilingual or even trilingual is an unwritten need for social and professional competence in this modern age.
My advice to all Malaysians is to make ourselves bilingual, if not trilingual, in this globalised age.
The author is a trustee of the 1 Malaysia Foundation.