Imported books will improve language skills, say experts

PETALING JAYA: Experts believe that imported English books will lead to better usage of the language among schoolchildren.

Welcoming the move, Prof Dr Zuraidah Mohd Don from Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Languages and Linguistics said the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) had become the de facto international standard for language education because it incorporated the best of current knowledge based on more than 40 years of research and had benefited from contributions from scholars all over the world.

In adopting the CEFR, the Education Ministry was providing the children with the best material available, she said.

“It’s essential for all stakeholders to support the changes being introduced to ensure that our children get the material they need to learn English effectively,” Prof Dr Zuraidah added.

She said the CEFR and the asso­ciated approach to language teaching and learning were new in the country, so getting the approach right was essential.

Teachers, she added, must be given appropriate training and needed to have confidence in the new material.

“This means that the textbooks used for teaching English must be aligned with the CEFR and the knowledge it incorporates about language teaching.

“International publishers have been working on the CEFR for many years, so they have a head start.

“The challenge for local writers and publishers of English textbooks is to produce quality textbooks for use in Malaysian classroom,” Prof Dr Zuraidah said.

Describing the move as significant, the faculty’s senior lecturer Dr Surinderpal Kaur said it showed that the ministry was committed to improving English proficiency.

But she warned that the books were merely resource materials.

To improve proficiency levels, other factors such as the proficiency and aptitude of the teachers, their mode of delivery, continuity and sustainability of the prog­ram­me, and attitude of the students themselves must come into play, she said.

“It’s too early to predict with certainty, but there will be improvements for sure as the new books are well written,” she added.

While acknowledging that the textbooks were expensive, Dr Surinderpal pointed out that they were of good quality.

“It’s a necessary short-term start for the programme as we currently do not have adequate local resource materials,” she said.

“But the exchange rate and price of the books are things to be concerned about in the long term.

“In the middle and longer terms, we should push towards producing primary and supplementary learning materials locally.”

Dr Surinderpal added that the nation had experts capable of producing high-quality books which meet CEFR levels, and with a Malaysian flavour and context.

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