Monday): On Friday, Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Justice Ramly Ali said that lawyers
should master the English language which would eventually make them really
“learned” as it is a means to access a greater pool of knowledge.
When I was in Miri on Saturday to attend the Miri DAP Branch Anniversary
dinner, the Sarawak Agriculture and Food Industries Minister, Dato Sdri Adenan
Satem (bruited as a possible
successor to Tan Sri Taib Mahmud as Sarawak Chief Minister) said the
government’s policy to uplift the standard of English in the country was a
practical decision as “those proficient in the language would open up a whole
treasury of human experience and culture for themsevles’”.
These are only the latest in a deluge of justifications as to why Malaysia
must check the decline in English proficiency, without anyone pausing to ponder
as to how and why Malaysian proficiency in English had dropped to such a
deplorable extent that, according to the National Union of Teaching Profession
secretary-general, Datuk S. Siva Subramaniam,
60 per cent of school heads in the country have a very poor command of
the English language and “people who can’t even understand English are in
charge of English” in the Education Department. (Star 14.1.01)
As the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi clarified
yesterday, there was no total agreement in his meeting with 36 Malay-based NGOs
on Saturday on the use of English to teach science and mathematics in schools,
but there was consensus to support the
raising of English proficiency in
schools and universities
This will also be the case if Abdullah meets the Chinese-based and Indian
based NGOs concerned about education, including Dong Jiao Zong, who all support
the raising of proficiency of English but disagree about using it to teach
mathematics and science in the primary schools as inimical to the educational
interests of the pupils.
DAP fully supports government efforts to raise English proficiency, not only
in schools and universities but in the country generally, because
of its importance as a a global language in the era of
globalisation and information and communications technology.
English is the dominant language of commerce, of science, of the skies,
of the Internet and of opportunity.
The introduction by the Selangor
Mentri Besar, Datuk Seri Dr. Mohd
Khir Toyo of an “English Day” in Selangor every Thursday to get the whole
state government to be proficient in English by encouraging everyone from office
boy to mentri besar to talk, converse, discuss and meet in English and to
promote the English language among the people in Selangor is most commendable
and should be an inspiration to national and other state government departments
Parliament should also set an example and start the two-month budget meeting
on Sept. 9 with an “English-day” where MPs are allowed to debate
fully in English to highlight the national seriousness to restore
“mastery” and proficiency in English in Malaysia.
In May, the Parliament Speaker, Tun Mohd Zahir Ismail had suggested that
English be partly used in future Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara proceedings in an
effort to improve the command of the language among leaders.
This is no more the time to talk but to act, and there is no doubt that the
adoption of an “English Day” by the Malaysian Parliament on the first day of
its budget meeting, which can be emulated by the Penang State Assembly and other
state legislative assemblies, would go a long way to destroy the mistaken notion
that to learn and speak English is an act of disloyalty to Malaysia and the
national language – just as it is a fallacy to believe that it is an act of
disloyalty to learn mathematics and science in English.
However, one must not make the mistake of the Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister,
Datuk George Chan, who called on the Chinese in Sarawak to support the use of
English to teach mathematics and science in Chinese primary schools from Std.
One as 300 million Chinese in China are also learning English – as such an
argument holds water only if the 300 million Chinese in China are being taught
mathematics and science in English in
What should be a matter of grave concern is the frequent
“chop-and-change” in the
education policy, without adequate professional expert advice, parental
consultation or effective implementation preparation.
A good example is the
introduction of English for Science and Technology (EST) for Form Four students
effective next year.
The Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad told The Star on Saturday that
this compulsory SPM paper is an interim measure until mathematics and science
are taught in English at Form Four level in 2006 with the teaching of these two
subjects in English from Form One next year.
Musa said “it only made sense” that this be the case as the proposal to
introduce EST was made before any discussion on the teaching of mathematics and
science in English was raised – and that EST will be done away with in 2006 as
the students will not need it any more. Until then, EST will be taught in
addition to the general SPM English language paper.
This may make “bureaucratic sense” to Musa but it makes no common sense
Although the introduction of EST was made in the 10-year Education
Development Blueprint 2001-2010 approved by the Cabinet on June 20 last year,
there had been no preparation to train teachers to teach EST until last week –
some 14 months after the Cabinet decision.
The first batch of EST teachers underwent training from August 19-23, with
teachers receiving the directive to undergo such training three days before the
start of the course. How
unprofessional and shoddy can the Education Ministry get?
Even now, the Education Ministry has not yet decided if the EST is to be
taught within the school hours or whether it is to be a separate examination
subject! (The Star 25.8.02)
The Education Development Blueprint 2001-2010 adopted by the Cabinet in June
last year approved for “immediate implementation” the introduction of EST
for science and technology students and “Alternative English” for students
who are weak in the language. The latter has now been scrapped.
Instead of introducing a new subject, EST, which is to scrapped in three
years’ time in 2006, the Education Ministry should seriously consider scrapping the EST as well and instead
teach mathematics and science in
English either (i) in all the secondary forms; or (ii) Form Four apart from Form One from next year.
If mathematics and science can be taught in English from
Form One and Lower Sixth from next year, the Education Ministry should
seriously consider the feasibility of switching the medium of instruction for
these two subjects for all secondary forms or at least for Form Four from next
year – which will do away with burdening the education system with another new
subject with such a short shelf-life.
For primary schools, the government should heed the educational objections of
all racial groups to the use of English to teach mathematics and science in
primary schools from Std. One, and instead focus on introducing a radical
programme to significiantly raise English proficiency in all primary schools
including the introduction of English literature so that the pupils could easily dovetail into the secondary
school programme of using English to teach mathematics and science.