Saturday, July 10, 2010


Source: Straits Times July 9, 2010

No, those headlines are not from our local papers. Wish they were. Perhaps only then would there be an all-out effort for Malaysians to start getting serious about improving their English. The language has been in freefall over the past 30 years.

A real pity. There was a time when English was our second language. Now, it is more like a foreign language. No thanks to blinkered politicians who seem to think that those who speak English are traitors to our national language. What utter rubbish! My bi-lingual Malay friends would find this libellous, to say the least.

Even the Sultanah of Johor, Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idri has lamented that most Malaysians cannot speak or write well in English, compared to older Malaysians who are at ease using the language.

At the root of the problem are the English language teachers themselves. If we are to believe the news reports, the majority of these teachers are barely proficient in English. Some of the application letters I received for the post of English language teacher at my former private school were written in such atrocious English, it would have been criminal of me as Head of the English Department then to allow such teachers to wreak further damage in our English language classes.

The Education Ministry is ever so quick to defend itself. In response to a letter "Teachers need help to improve their English", the ministry has this to say: "Apart from being trained in universities or teacher training institutes for a minimum of three years at pre-service level, these teachers also attend in-service programmes conducted by the ministry's Teacher Training Division."

A teacher may have received training, but that does not necessarily make him an effective teacher. If we apply the ministry's argument, our children should be speaking the Queen's English by the time they leave high school since they would have learned the language for 10-11 years by then. We all know this is not the case. Far from it.

Unless the government is prepared to take drastic measures, and not flip-flop as they have done over the teaching of Maths and Science in English, Malaysia will lag further behind in competitiveness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, but many of us just kept quiet when the "blinkered politicians" decided to remove one shining hope of improving English language competency through the PPMI.
Also, these "blinkered politicians" are the ones running the whole federal government which in turn controls the education policy in Malaysia.
I suppose what needs to be done to bring back the glory days of English is obvious.