In 1991, at the launching of the Second Outline Perspective Plan 1991-2000, the government announced that beginning with the Sixth Malaysia Plan 1991-1995 “The teaching of English as a second language will be given greater importance in order to stem the decline in the standard of English”. (para 737).
What has the government to show for this OPP2 programme to arrest the decline of the standard of English?
Last year, there was a shortage of 3,075 English language teachers in the primary schools while the shortage for secondary schools stood at 1,673. How could such a serious shortage of English language teachers occur ten years after the OPP2 programme to arrest the decline of English in the schools?
The failure of the OPP2 programme to arrest the decline of English in the schools is highlighted by the low attainment of pass rate for the English language subject in the UPSR examination for the past five years 1996-2000.
UPSR pass rate (percentage) - English
1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
53.6 54.0 55.5 56.9 56.7
SJK© 66.9 70.3 63.9 62.8 53.2
SJK(T) 51.8 46.8 45.1 47.7 45.6
Apart from the generally low percentage of passes for the English subject in the UPSR for all schools, the drastic drop in the pass rate for Chinese primary schools from 62.8 per cent in 1999 to 53.2 per cent last year and for Tamil primary schools from 47.7 per cent in 1999 to 45.6 last year should be particular causes for concern.
Clearly, something is very wrong with the Education Ministry and unless there is a total revamp in the administration of education, the OPP3 programme to arrest the decline of English is likely to go the way of the OPP2 programme.
The proposal of the special committee to check the decline of English standard to bring in teachers and students from overseas is quite ridiculous - when Malaysia should have sufficient resources if properly mobilised to raise the standard of English in our schools.
The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) recently said that about 60 per cent of school heads in the country had a very poor command of the English language.
What has the special committee proposed to ensure that all school heads set the good example of having good proficiency in the English language, as by putting them through special courses?
If the Education Ministry is serious about checking the decline of the English language, it should elevate English as a “critical” subject and appoint one master English teacher for every school to be responsible for the programme to arrest the decline of standard of English.
Musa should put the full report of the special committee to improve the learning and teaching of English on the Internet and invite the fullest public debate on its proposals before a final decision is made on whether to implement all of them, or whether to incorporate new proposals.
Musa had put the cart before the horse in asking the Cabinet to approve the recommendations of the special committee before giving the Malaysian public an opportunity to give their comments and feedbacks.