The case for English-medium schools

Datuk Seri Azman Ujang

Datuk Seri Azman Ujang

PETALING JAYA: English-medium schools should be re-introduced to help address the declining proficiency in the country’s second language, an academic said.

Mahsa University pro-chancellor Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican and former Bernama editor-in-chief Datuk Seri Azman Ujang supported the move, saying it was an option the Go­­vernment should consider.

“We did very well when we had English-medium schools. If we were to revisit the formula that was effective for us back then and apply it again today, it should work,” said Dr Ismail.

He said past measures to boost student proficiency in the language, such as using English as a medium of instruction for Mathematics and Science, were too limited.

The former Health Ministry director-general said poor command of English was evident even in the medical profession.

“Poor command of English is painfully obvious when I listen to some Malaysian doctors present papers at national and international medical conferences,” he said.

A product of English-medium schools, Dr Ismail went to the Francis Light Primary School and Penang Free School for his secondary education.

He said being taught in English at school served him well in his career as most of the literature in the field of medicine were in the language.

Dr Ismail said the Government would need to win over those who felt very strongly about preserving the national language.

“We have the interest of Bahasa Malaysia at heart as a national agenda but our point is that English must be taken more seriously as our second language,” he said.

Azman, who also studied in English-medium schools, said mastering any language would require students to communicate in the language as much as possible, especially in class.

“Sadly, English is hardly being spoken by our students throughout their 11 years of schooling from Year One to Form Five, a trend which they then continue at tertiary level,” he said.

One way for the Government to assuage concerns about English-medium schools would be to start with a pilot project to see whether the proposal was workable, he said.

Azman suggested that a few national schools could be selected, with the medium of instruction in a number of subjects switched to English.

“This will allow us to substantially increase English content within the national school system itself, which is more practical and cost-effective compared to setting up new, dedicated English-medium schools,” he said.

Azman said any move to re-introduce English as a medium of instruction in schools would require dedicated teacher training colleges to ensure the teachers were capable of teaching in the language.

Highly competent retired English teachers could also be roped in to teach on a part-time basis so their skills would not be wasted, he added.

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