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Tuesday, 3 June 2008

PITA POLITIK (32): EDUCATION BACK TO SQUARE ONE?


Dato' Sri Hishamuddin Tun Hussein: What happens now?

2008/06/03

USE OF ENGLISH: Ministry is to blame for the decline
By : IBRAHIM ZAKARIA, Kuantan

AS a concerned citizen, parent and teacher, I find it disturbing that within a span of 30 years, English proficiency among our students has deteriorated to such an extent that intelligent young graduates are having trouble getting their ideas across in that language. Even our local lawyers lack proficiency in English.

I have been teaching English in secondary schools and tuition centres for 41 years in Kuantan. Most of my Form 5 and Form 6 students can neither speak nor write proper English. Almost every sentence has to be corrected.

But, surprisingly, some of them score distinctions or strong credits in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination. The same answers would most likely have earned them an E or F during my era. There is quality in English question papers but the passing mark has been manipulated in such a way that even undeserving students can manage to score an A.

Various reasons have been given for the decline in English but so far nobody has honestly pointed out that the root cause is the shortsightedness of the Education Ministry.

Had our policymakers thought over the education policy with their heads instead of their hearts, they would have enhanced the national language without diluting the English language. They should have used English to teach Science and Mathematics from the very beginning.

In fact, they should also have considered teaching Civics, Arts and Physical Education in English to check the erosion of the language.

Our leaders lacked the political will to implement such a scheme for fear of jeopardising their political careers at a time when the flame of nationalism was raging furiously.

I salute Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for his courage in reintroducing English as the medium of instruction for Science and Mathematics before he stepped down as prime minister. He knew that a generation of Malaysians had paid for the sins of the policymakers.

Parents and teachers have expressed their concern over reports that the Education Ministry may be thinking of reverting to teaching Science and Mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia. Don't our leaders ever learn from past mistakes?

Lee Kuan Yew would never have let matters come to such a sorry pass. Singapore's English standards are way above ours where English in schools is concerned.

I pray that the education minister will act swiftly to contain the rot. I hope he will take measures to produce students who can cope with the pressures and competition of this fast-changing world and be able to keep abreast of discoveries through the English language, even to the extent of bringing back English schools.

This move will not only strengthen our children's command of English but also do away with a system that favours the elite in the form of private and international schools. (NST Online, 3 June 2008)

Comment:
..and so the Education Ministry is to blame for the low proficiency of English among students in schools. Is it fair? say some analysts. Another blame game? Passing the buck to the helpless minister-in-charge? Please bear in mind that our education policy is always undergoing cometic changes every now and then and at every possible turn. No thanks to our political and government leaders who always assume that "they are doing what is best for the people (students)." They (the leaders) think they are responsible to chart the students' future. Once again students' future is at stake, considering the inability of some of our leaders to formulate sound and solid changes to our long-standing education policy. Shouldn't we go back to the Razak report, or any other subsequent reports, thereafter?

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