MANY suggestions and methods have been employed to enhance English proficiency among students but have ended up with dismal results.
If we still want to retain the national schools or Sekolah Kebangsaan where Bahasa Malaysia is the medium of instruction, then we have to face reality and accept some hard facts.
In the first place, we have to address the feeling of shyness speaking English.
For the Malay boys and girls in particular, English is indeed a foreign language to them as most do not speak the language at home or with their friends.
When they are called upon to tell stories in class by their teachers, they are naturally scared and shy.
Unlike other ethnic groups where English comes naturally to them, most Malays are comfortable speaking only in their mother tongue.
Why is this so? Because the Malays cannot avoid thinking in Malay. You can see them groping for words, which make them seem very unnatural when they speak in English.
So, in schools, the emphasis should be on communication to improve English proficiency.
Teachers and students should be allowed to speak in broken English, not only for English lessons but throughout when students are at school.
The whole idea is to encourage students to speak and not be intimidated by speaking in English. It should be made fun all the way.
For example, a primary school student may begin by saying, “ Teacher, saya hendak ke toilet”. It maybe rojak English, but the whole idea is to increase their sense of confidence and to use a smattering of English.
Along the way, the teacher can explain to the class that the correct way of saying that is, “ Teacher, I would like to go to the toilet”.
We should avoid teaching grammar at primary level so that students will not be bored.
A teacher who is not creative enough will not be able to inject fun teaching English if he/she goes into the subject without adding spice to it.
Grammar can be polished up later, maybe at Primary 5 level or at secondary school.
The focus should be to make them interested and enjoy English lessons so that they can read, write and speak in English.
The role of the teacher as a change agent is very crucial and necessary, especially in rural schools where most parents are unable to help their children with English.
It is not possible for a fisherman or a villager to speak English with their children, like upper middle class families do in the urban areas.
Given the Sekolah Kebangsaan environment, which is a Malay school on a national basis, the onus is on the teachers to create the conducive English speaking environment.
It is a big challenge for the teachers, for in their hands lie the success or failure of all government efforts to improve English proficiency.
So, instead of ridiculing and laughing at the present generation who are weak in English through no fault of theirs, let us give them a helping hand.
At the same time, the authorities must not be hard-headed that they know everything and refuse to listen to the views of others.
They must realise that it is an uphill task to set the clock back to the days of English medium schools when the present education system is devoid of the natural English environment. Hassan Talib, Gombak The STAR Home News Education 26 April 2015