‘Shortage arises from unsuitable candidates teaching subjects’

KLANG: Retired school teacher Dr Devi Arumugam says the various problems plaguing the national education system was one of the factors behind a shortage of teachers for certain subjects.

Devi, who took optional retirement eight years ago after 28 years of service, said the lack of efficacy in the education system had paved a path for unsuitable candidates being trained to teach these subjects.

After struggling for a few years, they leave the teaching profession and reduce the number of teachers trained to teach these subjects.

She attributed this to the very lenient marking system used in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination for subjects such as English.

According to Devi, who was a SPM marker and team leader for English under the Malaysia Examination Syndicate for 20 years, students who have fair proficiency are given very high marks as they are the best of the worst.

“So, when these students go to colleges and universities, they are given English as their main option due to their perceived proficiency in the subject and are subsequently dispatched out as English teachers,” added Devi, who has a PhD in English Literature from International Islamic University Malaysia.

Devi, who runs her own language centre, recalled the time when two students from a public university pursuing TESL (Teaching of English as a Second Language) had come to her centre seeking help.

“They told me it was difficult for them to cope and sought my advice. I told them to write an essay each for me to evaluate.

“I was shocked to see that their linguistic proficiency level was equivalent to Form Two or Form Three. These are the people who will be sent to secondary schools to teach English,’’ she said.

Devi added that the shortage was creating a lot of misery for students and teachers like.

She said the mother of one of her students, who was a Geography teacher, was made to teach English in her school.

The teacher was out of her depth and struggled daily, said Devi, adding that just because someone spoke English well did not mean they would be able to teach the subject.

“There is a methodology in teaching English as a second language and unless you have trained at the college or tertiary level, you would be oblivious about this,’’ she added.

Devi said the Education Ministry needed to overhaul the entire national education system by upgrading the marking level for subjects such as English to be on par with the strict grading system accorded to Bahasa Melayu at the SPM level.

Another retired teacher, SC Ng, concurred that the shortage was because many teachers were leaving the profession too soon.

She said this could be because teaching was not the choice profession or passion of these teachers.

“They could have signed up to train as teachers or gone into teaching after graduating because that was the only option available to them at that time,’’ she said.

“When they cannot take it anymore or find something more likeable, they leave and create a shortage of teachers for the subjects they had trained in,’’ said Ng, who retired about a decade ago after teaching for over 30 years.

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