PETALING JAYA: “Before you cross the strict, use your ase”.
Understand that? Not likely, because even Manglish is getting mangled in Malaysia.
In case you’re wondering what the sentence means, it was a student wanting to say: “Before you cross the street, use your eyes.”
There are other examples.
“The school are so many teacher and friend. I can read the book in this school.”
“We in deed very conscent of student safety...” and “It is beyond our limit as it held at outside of campus”.
The last two were excerpts from a press release from the student representative council of a local university.
If local universities are that bad, one can figure that sentences churned out by secondary school students have left volunteer teachers horrified.
These teachers found that some students struggled to write their own name.
“Some even felt the need to produce their MyKad just to write their name and IC number. This shows that they have difficulty managing the alphabet and numbers,” said MYReaders government and external relations officer Alex Lim.
MYReaders is a non-profit organisation set up in 2015 to help many Malaysian students learn to read in English using a structured, research-based programme.
It has estimated that 10% of students in half the secondary schools are illiterate in English.
Lim said many of the students were reading at kindergarten level even while they are in upper secondary classes.
There were possibilities that some of these students faced learning difficulties such as dyslexia, he said.
“In a lot of cases, many of them just cannot read. This is more prevalent in the rural areas,” said Lim, who was a fellow with Teach For Malaysia.
Teach For Malaysia is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that aims to end education inequity in the country by sending teachers to high-need schools.
He said having a low self-esteem affected the students greatly and they hated to be reminded that they cannot read.
Lim said one of the best remedial steps he had tried was to remove these students and tutor them one-on-one.
“In a group setting, they will just become more withdrawn. The best thing for them is peer tutoring. And that only works if the mentor is committed enough.
“Our vision is that students should be able to read,” he said, adding that our SPM and national syllabus required students to be able to answer comprehensive questions.
“Are they able to answer them? Are they able to even understand?”
Tay Sue Yen, who taught in an urban school, said most students were able to understand simple spoken English but were not able to spell or write in the language.
There was a lack of solid basic foundation in literacy at the primary school level, she said.
“The parents or guardians and the community also have low English literacy level. Besides, some classes are too big with more than 40 students,” she said.
Tay, who is in charge of training and programmes at MYReaders, suggested that the learning process should be fun and relevant for the students as it would be more effective when they were engaged and motivated to learn English.
EduNation Malaysia head of education and learning Cheryl Ann Fernando, who once taught in a rural area under Teach For Malaysia, said some of the students were at least six to seven years behind their actual reading years.
“In urban areas, there are pockets of students who have the same problem.
“One of the biggest issues is our automatic entry into the next level. For example, those who cannot read in Year Three are automatically promoted to Year Four.
“This leads to huge learning gaps and the issue of literacy is never addressed,” she said.
Fernando, who is also the co-founder of Literacy Malaysia (LitMas), added that she had Form One students who could barely spell their own name and for students in the urban area, some would even struggle to read “this is an apple”.
LitMas is a simple literacy programme that Fernando and her colleague came up with to help students read and write in English.
“We also do not teach grammar in isolation but incorporate it into our modules to help students better make sense of the language,” she said.