THE surprise announcement by Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin that public university students must pass English to graduate is long overdue. English was sidelined in the early 1970s and the decline is obvious.
Despite the call by companies — both local and foreign-owned, concerned individuals and non-governmental organisations — the call has often fallen on deaf ears and it is time to wake up from our slumber to do something positive for our graduates.
Malaysia was once an English-speaking nation but we have neglected the importance of the English language for more than four decades. Since then, our children have been paying the price for that decision made without thorough thought.
|People must know than just 2-3 languages
Armed with the ability to communicate effectively in English, our graduates can soar.
The consequences of that decision are now being felt by our children. To their dismay and horror, companies nowadays want staff who can speak and write in English, and to communicate effectively, confidently and proficiently with their counterparts overseas.
Rightly mentioned by Muhyiddin is the fact that multinational companies want graduates who can competently speak and write in English. You walk into multinational companies and you will find they want staff who are proficient in English.
Those who cannot communicate well in that language will find themselves doing office work.
In the eyes of foreign investors, those lacking in English are not competitive and productive, and do not have an edge compared with those who are conversant in the language.
Surely, our students can rise to the occasion to learn and be proficient in the language. For more than four decades, our nation paid the price for taking English lightly, which has caused such a massive decline that it will take years to build it to the level we were once at.
Sadly, we wasted many years implementing all kinds of policies on the teaching of English in schools and at the university level, which brought us nowhere and drained millions from the national coffers.
With Muhyiddin’s announcement, I am sure there will be objections from various quarters, who still feel we can live without having to master English.
By and large, we will have individuals, NGOs and political parties, among others, who are strongly against the idea of a pass in English at tertiary level.
I am sure we do not want to hear illogical reasons that stall the advancement of English among our students and graduates. After all, do we have a choice?
We have no alternative but to ensure English is given importance in schools and tertiary education so as to produce marketable graduates in the already tight job market.
Give our fresh graduates a competitive advantage by equipping them with English. In the long term, our nation will reap what we sow.
When our graduates can communicate in English competently and proficiently with the outside world, they are more confident, convincing and dauntless. Only then have we produced or given birth to a generation of graduates who can face the world in a more self-possessed and self-reliant manner.
I suggest that we take one more step by making English a must-pass subject at the school level. This is despite having had different initiatives to improve the language in schools at huge cost to the nation.
Sadly, we are going nowhere at this stage.
Unless a hard positive step is taken, high school students who graduate to tertiary education will be struggling to catch up with the language at that stage.
It is also perturbing to note that Maths and Science are no longer taught in English in schools but are taught either in Bahasa Malaysia or vernacular languages — a decision that should have been given serious thought and consideration but was blatantly decided based on intangible and non-cogent reasons.
I hope the Education Ministry will reconsider and reverse the policy that was implemented during Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration.
Many understand how the “must-pass English” policy at tertiary level would be implemented. By all counts, it is the right step and the implementation is best left to English language experts to decide and to advise the ministry on the direction the teaching of the language should take.
Needless to say, there must be a strong political will and support all the way.
I suggest an independent council is set up to advise the government, especially the Education Ministry, on how to implement the policy. This council should be free from any political interference.
Pressure and adversity from ill-informed individuals and NGOs who do not want this must-pass policy to get under way should be ignored. Instead, the ministry should continue the tedious but worthwhile journey of implementing this policy for the common good of our present and future graduates.
This “a pass in English a must” decision must not be allowed to go down the drain again even if there is massive pressure from ill-informed sources. Dr Tan Eng Bee, Kajang, Selangor NST Letters 11 SEPTEMBER 2014 @ 8:10 AM