KUCHING: Students might not be ready to face English as a must-pass SPM subject by next year, says the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association.
Its president Asso Prof Dr Ganakumaran Subramaniam said the present failure rate was too high.
“In Sarawak, for instance, about one in four failed the English paper in the recent SPM examination,” he said.
Delaying implementation of the policy (first announced in 2013) might be the logical thing to do, he told Sarawak Metro recently.
“Students everywhere in Malaysia are struggling with English,” he said, pointing out the English failure rate nationwide has fluctuated between 22% and 28% in the last decade.
The latest results for English were actually poorer than the result for the year before, Ganakumaran added.
As such, imposing the must pass policy next year, he believed, could be “rushing it”.
“Students, teachers and parents need time to get their heads around this target. More importantly, since the announcement, there hasn’t been significant changes to the way teaching and learning is carried out in schools,” Ganakumaran said.
“If students today have not been able to cope after nine years of public education, how can they make that dramatic turn by end of next year?”
Ganakumaran said denying school-leavers the certificate for a subject, which the Malaysian public education system has struggled to teach for decades, was unfair and disruptive.
“This will have a big impact on their lives. To me what needs to be done is to ensure the system is supportive and just. We know the ministry is trying to raise standards by implementing the must-pass policy.
“On the other hand, students are not being taught and trained to achieve those standards. We need to take responsibility for that.” Sarawak Teachers Union agreed.
Its president Jisin Nyud told Sarawak Metro, while he supported the move to make English a must-pass, starting next year was too soon.
Jisin suggested the policy should only be implemented to students who began Form One knowing for sure the English paper would be a must-pass by the end of Form Five.
Those who will sit for SPM next year were already in the middle of Form Two when the policy change was announced.
“I know school principles are pushing teachers to help students on their English. In a way, it forces the students to understand the importance of English... but it’s very drastic. Everybody is worried,” the unionist said.
Jisin said students from non-English speaking backgrounds would suffer the most, and called for a return of using English to teach Science and Math.
During an interview last week, Sarawak’s Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister, Datuk Fatimah Abdullah, said the policy change presented to “monumental challenge” to teachers, especially those in rural areas.