EXCLUSIVE:KUALA LUMPUR: First it was the United Kingdom, then the United States. Now Malaysia is turning Down Under for help in boosting the standard of English – this time right at the grassroots level.
Not enough teachers who have mastered the language? Not a problem.
The latest attempt would be aimed at pre-school children, where they will be guided via an online platform with little or no involvement at all by teachers.
Australian High Commissioner Andrew Goledzinowski (pic), who disclosed this, said he had been informed that Malaysia’s Education Ministry had in principle agreed to launch a pilot project involving pre-schools.
The online module was being customised in Australia for introduction here this year, he added.
Australia is renowned for its established pre-schooler educational shows; among the notable ones being Hi-5, Play School and Bananas in Pyjamas.
The series is designed for a pre-school audience, featuring five performers who educate and entertain through music, movement and play.Play School produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is the longest running children’s show in Australia, and the second longest running children’s show worldwide, after Blue Peter.
Goledzinowski said the project in Malaysia was mooted when he visited Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, adding that the Prime Minister stated his passion for education and asked if Australia could help with a model for learning English “which would skip the need for teachers”.
He said Dr Mahathir’s concern was that teachers themselves may not have mastered the language well enough to guide the young.
“We have modules like that but not for teaching English, interestingly. So we have to adapt it.
“The plan is to roll out a pilot online programme targeted at Bahasa (Malaysia) speakers keen to learn English at that early stage,” the envoy said in an interview.
Goledzinowski said pre-schools keen on the programme would have to ensure that they had the right equipment and infrastructure to handle online learning.
The British Council has helped strengthen English teaching and learning in primary and secondary schools across Malaysia, by increasing the English proficiency of teachers under the Professional Up-skilling of English Language Teachers (Pro-ELT) project funded by the Education Ministry.
The United States, for its part, is involved in the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) project here, under which US graduates foster a strong command and love for the English language among students in Terengganu, Pahang, Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Perak, Sabah and Sarawak.
The ETA programme in Malaysia brings nearly 100 Americans to secondary schools to promote English language learning and bi-national mutual understanding.
The Fulbright programme is jointly supported by the US State Department and the ministry through the Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange (MACEE).
Goledzinowski also noted that there are currently 26,000 Malaysians studying in Australia.
“We have about 20,000 others in Malaysia getting Australian degrees at various universities,” he added.