KUCHING: Rural students in Sarawak will be even more disadvantaged if the requirement to pass English in the SPM examination is implemented next year.
State PKR chairman Baru Bian said rural schools lacked infrastructure, equipment and human resources and many did not have enough books for students to read.
“If students throughout the country are struggling with English, then the situation is far more critical in Sarawak, especially in the rural areas where schools lack everything.
“We appreciate that there are dedicated teachers in these schools but they are struggling with the lack of facilities,” he told a press conference at state PKR headquarters here yesterday.
While he supported the move to make English a must-pass subject, Baru agreed with Malaysian English Language Teaching Association president Assoc Prof Dr Ganakumaran Subramaniam and Sarawak Teachers Union president Jisin Nyud that it was too soon to implement it next year.
He said more needed to be done to raise the standard of English, in addition to programmes such as the British Council’s English Language Teacher Development Project.
“Teaching Maths and Science in English will be a good start, but more than that we need to encourage an English speaking and reading culture among the young by providing a good supply of books for school libraries.
“I was told that each primary school is given RM300 per year to buy books for their library. If this is true, it is a ridiculously low amount and totally inadequate,” he said.
“For this reason I have tried by best to assist by distributing more than 8,000 books in English to some preschools and all the primary schools in my constituency of Ba’Kelalan.”
Baru also suggested reviving the Schools Broadcasting Service run by Radio Sarawak in the 1960s and 70s which was used by teachers as an aid in teaching English.
He said while Internet connection was still inadequate in many rural schools, radio broadcasts were easily received throughout the state.
“Such a programme will be relatively easy to implement as radios are cheap and readily available,” he said.
In addition, he repeated his call for the state to take back responsibility over education from the Federal Government.
He claimed that the state would be able to do better than the Education Ministry, which had produced two or three generations of Malaysians with poor English skills.