WE refer to the letter “No longer a colonial language” (The Star, Sept 1) and feel humbled that the writer has urged the Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) to work closely with the Education Ministry “without any delay”.
We are glad to say that we have, over the years, finally gained the attention and confidence of the Education Ministry which has eventually opened up and have several times engaged with us on matters of English and the way forward for our children.
However, the sudden decision to postpone the English compulsory-pass policy took us by surprise and we agree that such a move will only be detrimental to the students who most desperately need it. We share the disappointment expressed by the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) and numerous writers to The Star who are equally crushed by the regressive step yet never fail to continue to offer solutions, among them, “Have two versions for SPM” (Aug 22), “Employability and mastering of English” (Aug 26), “Revisiting Pro-ELT plan” (Aug 28) and “Create more job opportunities for Science graduates” (Sept 2).
MBMMBI (Uphold Bahasa Malaysia, Strengthen the English language) was introduced in 2011 to ensure that equal emphasis is given to both major languages and provide a follow-through from kindergarten and thereupon build a solid foundation from Primary One onwards.
At the same time, English teachers were upskilled to prime them for the challenge. Teachers were supported by the intensive Pro-ELT initiative while weaker schools were supplemented by programmes such as the Native Speakers as well as the long-standing Fulbright Teachers which was initiated in Terengganu and now has expanded to other states.
Questions posed by us on costs, effectiveness and measured outcomes of these programmes thus far have remained unanswered. We hope the annual report in 2015 on the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 will provide the answers.
It is clear that in order for students to be proficient in English there needs to be, of utmost priority, an environment of greater immersion to practise speaking English in school. There must be a shift in the mindset of the school leaders and its teachers to make students comfortable, of not being embarrassed, of having low esteem or being teased.
At a later stage, students should be proud of the ability to speak Bahasa Malaysia and English interchangeably, like in urban schools.
Break the barrier with a concerted effort.
But, of course, the next step is to have more subjects in English for the desired outcome going forward.
DATIN NOOR AZIMAH ABDUL RAHIM
Chairman, PAGE Malaysia
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