KUALA LUMPUR: Making English a compulsory pass subject for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) is being considered again, said Deputy Education Minister Datuk Chong Sin Woon.
Chong said the move, which was scuttled last year because teachers and students were not ready, was “under discussion” at the ministry.
In acknowledging the declining English proficiency among students, he said improvements must be made.
“Enhancing English in the country does not mean Bahasa Malaysia is being challenged, and it certainly does not make us less patriotic,” he told reporters after launching Erican College’s corporate social responsibility programme, Erican for School 2017, yesterday.
Chong said improving the standard of English was crucial for the country’s advancement, adding that the ministry would strive to boost English proficiency in the country.
The plan to make passing English mandatory for SPM last year was announced in 2013 and was welcomed by parents, academics and employers.
But in March 2016, the Education Ministry announced simulation studies and research of SPM results from 2011 to 2014 indicated that teachers and students were not prepared for such a change.
Chong added that the ministry planned to elevate SPM to a level equal to European standards.
He said international language classes for Mandarin, German, French, Arabic, Korean and Japanese had been introduced to secondary schools to make the younger generation more multilingual.
On Erican College’s CSR programme, Chong said the ministry commended its effort to contribute to schools.
The programme aims to provide training sessions, including 21st century pedagogical practices, paradigm shift and change management for teachers in 200 secondary schools from June to December this year.
Erican College founder and managing director Datuk Eric Chong said these training sessions were important because “teachers can never learn too much”.
“Training is precious. Teachers will dry out if they are not given the opportunity to receive input, instead of always giving it,” he added.
Separately, Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said the country needs better English teachers to improve standards.
Making the subject a must pass is just a short term solution, she said, while a long term solution is to allow English as the medium of instruction in some schools to produce better local English teachers.
“When these students graduate from school, put them in an immersive English course and send them abroad. They will come back to teach in schools and be the teachers we once had,” she said.
Malaysian English Language Teaching Association president Prof Dr S. Ganakumaran questioned if teachers and students were ready for the plan to make English a must pass subject.
He said the move could leave thousands of students without a full certificate and this could affect their future.
He suggested a longer time frame of between three and five years before the move is implemented to give teachers and students more time to adjust.
Meanwhile in Seremban, Chong said school heads should not be overzealous when enforcing rules on what students should wear to school.
Responding to a letter published in The Star on “conservative” attire for special occasions, Chong said students should not be curtailed as long as the attire was decent.
“As long as the attire is not revealing, too tight or too short, it should be alright. We cannot expect our children to be covered from top to bottom,” he said.