Ramp up English language programmes to stay on target

PETALING JAYA: It has been eight years since the roadmap for English language education was prepared to boost proficiency in the language among teachers and students.

With two years left until the completion of the Education Ministry’s Roadmap for English Language Education in Malaysia (2015-2025) reform plan, stakeholders say more needs to be done.

This is if the 10-year reform plan is to achieve its goal of developing young Malaysians into effective and proficient English speakers.

Parent Action Group for Education (Page) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim (pic) said there has been an improvement in the mindset, whereby English is no longer seen as the language of the colonialists but a universal language of knowledge.

“Unlike in the past, even the rural people are aware of its significance. Parents continue to seek ways for their children to be taught the English language,” she said, adding that students in this era were also more digitally exposed, which opened them up more to the language.

“With the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) in place, there appears to be an improvement.

“However, more dual language programme schools need to open up for the English language to be applied even more in the classroom,” she said yesterday.

Noor Azimah added that although there appeared to be an improvement, much effort still needed to be done.

Jobs, she said, required skills, and having a command of the English language was an asset to any potential employer.

Raising English language proficiency among students and teachers, she added, depended on the delivery and implementation of the roadmaps and frameworks.

“Teacher training and the use of digital tools, as well as extensive reading and conversation, will also improve English language proficiency,” Noor Azimah added.

Melaka Action Group For Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin said there has not been much improvement in schools and colleges.

“How to improve when most students and teachers are shy and not comfortable communicating in English in schools and outside?

“Most, if not all, programmes, activities and announcements are still being carried out in Bahasa Malaysia,” he said.

Mak described the lack of implementation as having a domino effect on students until the tertiary level.

“Thus, it is no surprise that the majority of our graduates can hardly communicate in English, and this deprives them of good jobs at multinational companies.

“There is no need for slogans or roadmaps, we already have a good immersive programme.

“We just need to ensure schools implement it at all activities and levels,” he said.

The Highly Immersive Programme is specified in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 and is aimed at solving the poor language proficiency problem among students by involving and immersing them in an English language environment.

“Immersive programmes are where students are allowed to conduct extracurricular activities in English, for example.

“Just strictly enforce the immersive and dual language programme, where students can opt for Mathematics and Science in English, and the level of English education will be enhanced,” Mak added.

National Association of Human Resources Malaysia (Pusma) president Zarina Ismail said there has been gradual improvement in the English proficiency level among young job seekers.

She said graduates demonstrated varying levels of proficiency, from being able to use the language to communicate effectively to having a basic grasp of the language.

“Not everyone will be fluent, but generally all of them will have a basic command of the language.

“The English language requirement in the job market depends on the company’s needs; some don’t stress having fluency in English, but of course, a strong grasp of the language is still seen as an extra advantage,” she said.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) president Datin Christina Toh said members of the hospitality and tourism industries must enhance their English proficiency as this would also benefit Malaysia’s international integration.

She believed that tourism-related sectors in Malaysia may attract more foreign tourists if their people have an excellent command of English and can communicate effectively with travellers.

“Proficiency in English can also increase job chances, particularly in the hospitality business, which welcomes travellers from all over the world daily,” she said.

SME Association president Ding Hong Sing said the older generation of business people tended to be more educated and had a better command of English, which was helpful in attracting investment.

He cited the example of former international trade and industry minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, who required ministry and Malaysian Investment Development Authority officials to speak English.

“When you go to the United States and Europe to attract investment, English is the key language of communication,” he said.

He said that the English language skills of people in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should be improved, and the government should invest more in education to encourage more young people to strengthen their proficiency.

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