Quest International University Perak (QIUP) university council chairman Datuk Vijay Eswaran says back in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, Malaysia’s English speakers were among the best in the region.
“Our ambassadors to the United Nations didn’t even need translators. Somewhere along the way, we seem to have lost our footing and now we rank 52 in the Programme for International Student Assessment 2012 (Pisa 2012) results,” he says.
He says this could be a result of us living in an illusion that by learning a second or third language, we would somehow lose command of the first language.
“But studies show that this is never the case,” he says.
“When we switched the medium of instruction (of teaching) from English to Bahasa Malaysia, the immediate impact was reduced exposure to the language in both written and oral form.” He adds that the effects have trickled down to the rural areas and they are only being felt when young people enter the workforce.
“Whether we like it or not, English is the lingua franca of the business world.”
He says the Asian economic powerhouses such as China are doing all they can to improve English proficiency to remain competitive in the global marketplace.