MUCH has been said about the poor proficiency and competency of our English language teachers and English language teaching.
A media report has revealed that 15,000 English teachers are not proficient enough to teach the subject.
According to the report, only 20,000 out of the 60,000 English language teachers are proficient, competent and confident to teach the language.
But before we start throwing brickbats at the Education Ministry or the English language teachers, it would be good to know the real scenario of English language teachers in our schools.
There are two types of English language teachers.
Most of our English language teachers have been trained as English teachers at teacher training institutes and universities where they took the English Language as their major.
Though they are Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) trained, they came through the Bahasa Malaysia medium of instruction in schools where everything was taught in Bahasa Malaysia except for the English language subject.
Despite this many of these teachers scored excellent results in the English language subject in public examinations.
To be an English language teacher, the candidate has to be competent and proficient in the language and this is normally assessed from the candidate’s academic qualifications based on public examinations – SPM results.
Though they have good grades in English it is not fair to compare them with teachers of the bygone era who were schooled in English schools where everything was taught in English.
The second group of English language teachers comprise teachers of other options who are proficient in English.
Since there is a shortage of English language teachers in schools these non-option teachers were given in-service training and “converted” to English option teachers.
Many senior Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil option teachers, who have studied in English schools, were co-opted to teach English in schools.
Many of them were given the impetus to attend regular workshops and courses to upgrade and develop themselves professionally and linguistically.
Good teachers are a rare breed. Let us not be too judgmental on the linguistic ability of our teachers.
Teaching is a vocation that demands devotion and dedication of a life time.
Some of the English language teachers may not be competent and proficient but they have the passion and desire to teach.