NOT all the 120,000 children in primary and 42,000 in secondary schools should be labelled illiterate.
Clarifying figures released last week, Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said some could read but not write while others could count.
“The figures don't tell you what level the children are at but they are not completely illiterate. I have asked the Education director-general Datuk Dr Ahamad Sipon to look into the problem,” he said after receiving a delegation of English teaching assistants (ETA) and an English Language Fellow from the United States at his ministry yesterday
Deputy Education Minister Datuk Noh Omar was quoted as saying that last year, 162,000 children in primary and secondary school could not read or write .
He said the Government was taking remedial action to ensure the illiterate students master the basics of reading and writing.
Beginning last month, Noh said all Year One pupils have to sit for a test to evaluate their reading and writing skills.
On the delegation, Hishammuddin said the ETA is a programme between the Terengganu state government and the US Embassy to improve the level of teaching English in the state.
“Under this programme, 10 American graduates were chosen to assist English teachers in 10 selected schools in Terengganu from the aspects of teaching and learning,” he said.
He said the English Language Fellow was placed at the Sultan Abdul Halim Teaching Institute to assist in the planning for English in other institutes.
At the same time, he said the ministry was also working with the Centre for British Teachers (CfBT) for various programmes including the District English Language Coordinator, Project English Teachers and State English Language Coordinator.
“Under these programmes, native English speakers from Britain are placed in schools, district education offices and state education departments to assist the ministry in increasing the mastery of English in rural areas,” he said.
He said the ministry was also working with foreign universities to train English teachers under a twinning programme for the Teaching of English as a Second Language.
“This was first started in 1992 and for the 2007 intake, the ministry will increase the number of students sent to various universities in Britain, Australia and New Zealand,” he said.