WHEN the Teaching and Learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) policy ended in 2009, the Government reverted to using Bahasa Malaysia for those in national schools and the respective mother tongue for vernacular schools, leaving a vacuum in the teaching and learning of English, SMR Group ELT project manager Michael Hughes observes.
SMR Group CEO (Corporate Office) Syed Muzakir Al-Jofre hopes that the Government will continue The Native Speaker Programme (Penutur Jati) and the Professional Upskilling of English Language Teachers (Pro-ELT) Programme.
Hughes adds: “The Pro-ELT takes teachers out of classrooms and into workshops. The goal is to enhance language competency. But the Native Speaker Programme is about helping teachers develop effective methodologies and improve their personal language ability.
“It’s more effective because the subjects covered include storytelling, using flash cards, phonics, functional language and grammar. Furthermore, the trainers work alongside the teachers so they understand and can help address the issues that crop up.”
Stressing that the quality of teacher mentors, or trainers, are crucial, Hughes says non-performers have no place in the programme. Of 3,000 applicants, only 800 were interviewed and from that pool, only 200 were eventually hired, he reveals.
Focused on Primary 1, 2 and 3 English teachers, the programme’s trainers monitor and work alongside Malaysian teachers, help with methodology, conduct training sessions to teach communicative language to the children, and help teachers improve their personal communication skills and increase their confidence in using English.
“The Native Speaker Programme creates a solid foundation to create a competent English-speaking nation. It was a laudable and very bold decision by the Government to target the root of the problem instead of merely focusing on ‘nice, short-term statistics’.
“People question the effectiveness of this programme by pointing to Malaysian graduates who can’t speak English but they don’t understand that we are working with very young kids.
“It’ll take time to see the fruits of this labour but if you get the foundation right, everything will fall into place,” Syed Muzakir says, adding that survey results show that pupils who participated in the group’s projects do better in school assessments compared to those who didn’t.
“Many teachers have benefited from this approach and have given their testimonies about how the children respond and are developing their abilities to use English in a much more confident and relaxed manner because of the way lessons are taught now.
“They also report on the considerable success of the phonics approach to teaching reading that has resulted in a sharp increase in the number of pupils who are able to read at the end of Primary 1.
“This, in combination with the Literacy and Numeracy (LINUS) programme, has made a substantial contribution in the increase in literacy among Malaysian children,” he says.
“The SMR Group started as a human resource solutions provider but the aspiration was always holistic human capital development. Education is a crucial part of human capital development.
“Training trainers – in this case teachers, is our strength. And because we were in the human resource industry, we saw early on that English competency was starting to be a problem among employers,” he says, explaining the group’s involvement in helping to train teachers.