kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,

Poor English due to education system and environment

I REFER to the report “Still stumbling over English” (The Star, Oct 16) and am not surprised when Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said many graduates from public universities cannot speak proper English although they score well in reading and writing tests.

The reason for the problem is the lack of communicating in English from primary school, at home and with friends.

Students in public schools do not have a conducive environment to speak English as most of these schools comprise only one race who are used to their mother tongue.

The situation is more glaring in rural schools where a good mixture of students from the various races is lacking. Some English teachers do not speak English beyond their classrooms.

Also, some English teachers are not proficient in the language to express themselves and engage with students in a lively discussion.

As the students progress to tertiary level, the rot has set in where they are unable to speak proper English. It is not their fault as they are the product of the environment to which they are thrown into.

At home, not many students have parents who speak to them in English. Some children watch English movies or cartoons on TV to improve their English. However, they have no one to communicate in English at school, home or even the neighbourhood.

Children from aristocrat families were fortunate as they had parents who were Westernised Oriental Gentlemen (WOG) where English supersedes the mother tongue at home.

For higher education, these well-to-do kids are either sent to local private universities or abroad. In the good old days when public schools used English as a medium of instruction, children from poor families, both in the urban and rural, were able to speak in English from Primary One. As they progress, they have no problem communicating with others in English.

And they are not shy to speak in English even with the nobility. They exude confidence and high self-esteem.

Many retired civil servants who had the privilege of studying in English-medium schools in the 1950s and 1960s, where many among them come from poor families, speak excellent English unlike the present generation of civil servants who are the product of the national education system.

Maybe, if we read between the lines of what was said by Muhyiddin, it was indeed a big mistake to do away with English-medium schools.

We now have a situation of Malaysians speaking Manglish with phrases such as “Like that one ah!” or “Die man!” .

Most prefer not to speak in English for fear of being ridiculed or laugh at. It is a sad situation. Hassan Talib The STAR Letters 17/10/2014

Tags: english, language

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