Still stumbling over English

At the Dewan Rakyat

MANY graduates from Malaysian public universities cannot speak proper English, although they score well in reading and writing.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said while the scores were good on paper, it was critical for industries that graduates speak English fluently.

“The level of English in our country is seen to be relatively high, judging by international standards.

“However, the spoken aspect of English proficiency here is lower than written or read,” he said in reply to a question by Datuk Noraini Ahmad (BN-Parit Sulong).

Noraini also asked on preparations by public tertiary institutions following an increase in the minimum English proficiency requirement for entering public tertiary institutions from next year.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had said while tabling Budget 2015 that the English requirement would be raised according to field of study, to between Band 2 and Band 4 in the Malaysian University English Test (Muet).

Currently, students only need a minimum of Band 1 in Muet to enrol in most subjects in local universities.

On the first year of implementation, universities will be given leeway to take in students who fulfil the general admission requirements.

However, Muhyiddin said they should ensure that students improve their English proficiency during their chosen course of studies.

For example, a student could be admitted to a course with a Band 1, but he should graduate with an equal or higher band than the required level, he said.

Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, added that initiatives were being taken to extend the same requirements to private tertiary institutions.

To a question by Dr Tan Seng Giaw (DAP-Kepong) on monitoring English proficiency among teachers, Muhyi­ddin said this would be done in classrooms and periodical courses.

About 10,000 out of 60,000 English teachers nationwide are undergoing training to raise their proficiency to a Band C1 or C2 under the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Based on an initial study last year, about 37% of them were already at Band C1 and C2, and could be considered proficient users.

Experts on the framework state that for non-native speakers, Band B1 or B2 is sufficient, which is where most of the remaining 23% are ranked, he added.

According to the framework, Band B1 and B2 are classified as independent users while Band C1 and C2 are classified as proficient users.

Nation , Muhyiddin Yassin , MUET