THE declining standard of English in Malaysia is gaining attention especially since the authorities are mulling over making English a compulsory pass in SPM.
Some feel it’s time to be firm on the matter, while others are more concerned about the number of students who will be made to leave school without a certificate. This debate has consumed a fair amount of time, energy and expertise.
Unfortunately it often hits deadlock and left to hibernate without an amicable solution.
By now one should be aware of the fact that we DO have some serious flaws in our system which needs to be rectified.
Teachers’ unpreparedness is identified as one of the main reasons for the delay in implementing some of the intended policies.
Now with the root cause being identified, what can we do?
If a systematic selection process, one without partiality, was executed and only the deserving candidates were granted the chance to be in the profession, we will not be grappling with this issue now.
I do appreciate the attempts taken by the Education Ministry to upgrade the proficiency level of the teachers by constantly offering various courses and making some courses compulsory. But how have these courses helped in solving the issue at hand? Do we have data to support the claim of progress made or objectives achieved?
If so, how is it reflected in their teaching and the results obtained? How is their progress monitored and by whom?
Are the ones monitoring and assessing the progress competent and credible enough? What if a teacher failed to reach the required level despite numerous attempts? And how about those who refuse to budge from their comfort zone and are adamant in accepting any forms of assistance?
Let’s leave the matter to the experts and start focusing on the students who deserve more attention.
Before taking the big leap (making English a compulsory pass subject), let’s rectify the damage done by changing the perception towards the language and the manner it is taught.
Arresting the issue of the declining standard of English, has to begin by creating interest among the learners. Interest has to be created before aspects of the importance of language are brought in.
Once the interest towards the language is created, learning the language will be effortless. I have witnessed students with zero exposure to the language outside class, succeeding in conversing in impeccable English!
Often, teachers stand behind these students with their power in initiating the first spark. Such is a teacher’s influence! The interest created then becomes the fundamental factor, which pushes the students forward.
As a matter of fact, interest should be an inherent factor instilled on the first day the language is introduced to a child.
Creativity of a teacher plays a significant role here. Games and activities, which involve the participation and involvement of students will surely draw attention of the students.
For those with English being a foreign language, even reciting simple rhymes and poems in English gives such pride and confidence. It’s an undeniable fact that the ability to converse in English gives great confidence to students.
Repetition is the mother of all learning, we are told. If that was to be practised, we wouldn’t have students conversing with mangled sentences in later years. If a child fails to comprehend the fundamental rules of sentence structure by the time he completes six years of primary education, if he failed to master the basic list of vocabulary to engage in a decent conversation, something is seriously flawed in our system.
The first six years spent in a primary school is crucial to lay the foundation and the foundation is basically formed with generating interest towards the language. The greater the interest, the stronger the foundation becomes.
It’s high time to stop pondering and start plunging into this issue and salvage it from further deterioration.
Tampin, Negri Sembilan.