Global language for integration

  • Education
  • Sunday, 26 May 2013

I AM pleased that there are many Malaysians who like me, think that bringing back English-medium schools is a step in the right direction.

In his column last Sunday, The Star’s executive director and group chief editor Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai had said that the Government should use English as the medium of instruction in schools again.

If Chinese and Tamil schools have been allowed to exist, perhaps having English-medium schools isn’t a bad idea as racial integration may stand a better chance with the universal language.

I consider myself a “victim” of the nation’s education system. I was proud to attain a distinction in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) English, in 1990. However, it didn’t do me much good. I was not proficient, wasn’t able to communicate well, and struggled in the early years of my career.

It was only through my own effort and determination over time, that I progressed in reading, writing and speaking the language.

I often ask myself why I was “not good” at English despite attaining an “A” in those early years.

The answer, I’m sure lies mainly in the fact that we, as students, were not taught the fundamentals such as the rules of grammar, intonation and pronunciation, which are important when one is learning the language.

The absence of teaching and learning such essential language components at both primary and seconday school, is perhaps one of the many reasons why students like me failed to grasp English.

In fact, if we continue at the rate we are going, I think there will not be much improvement in government schools.

Those who are at an advantage would be those in private schools, where the subject is given more emphasis, or those who speak the language at home.

I must also point out that children in government schools are segregated and hardly mingle with their peers from other backgrounds and culture.

How do we overcome that? We should have children of all races study under one roof. The next step is to integrate them but what language do we use?

Bahasa Malaysia (BM) should be upheld and given the importance it rightfully deserves, and English should be the medium of instruction.

I respect BM as our national language and I am proud of the fact that I also scored a distinction for BM in the SPM, which I am immen-sely proud of.

While the suggestion is bound to bring resistance from pro-Malay groups, there must be a compulsory requirement ensuring that those who sit for the SPM must obtain at least a pass in BM before they are given a full SPM certificate.

At the same time, some form of resistance will also come from the Chinese, Tamil and other independent schools. These schools have to come to terms that the importance of the English-medium school system is the path to take for the country, therefore we must be receptive to it.

Of course this doesn’t mean, Chinese, Tamil, Iban, Kadazan, or other languages will not be accessible under the one school system, as they can be taught as third languages.

To maintain the high standards of these languages, they could perhaps collaborate with institutions of higher education. For instance, Chinese language should perhaps be recognised and certified by the education authorities in Taiwan or China. The same can be done for Tamil, which can be recognised by an established Indian university.

Perhaps some of the strict guideline of vernacular schools could be incorporated into the English -medium system for the benefit of all students.

A multi-language society is vital for a country’s development and economy. Countries like Australia introduced Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia and other languages into their public school system.

For community integration, the National Service Training Council has been doing the right thing by facilitating integration among young people in the National Service programme.

I strongly believe that the English-medium system which was once part of Malaysia’s education system, can still work since it has proven to be a success in other parts of the world.

I am certain that this school system will benefit all Malaysians when it comes to English proficiency, and in promoting racial tolerance and national integration.



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