The practical exams for science, too, is to be postponed to a later date because the laboratory facilities in schools are inadequate. What these postponements smack of is incompetence on the part of policymakers and implementers.
For, the assumption is that a time table must have been considered before dates are announced. Inadequacy of facilities and teaching staff is surely not an arbitrary occurrence that cannot be forecasted.
For example, it has long been understood that there is a shortfall of proficient English Language teachers and to overcome this, teachers from English speaking countries were brought in. What happened to them? Were the numbers brought in too small?
Because if that move had been implemented properly, the problem should have long been addressed.
Instead the public is now told that neither the students nor the teachers are ready. There can be no claims of ignorance. How is it possible then that there is a mismatch between policy roll out and its timeline?
One would have thought that with all the fanfare that went with the launch of the National Education Blueprint in 2013 — and with the decision by the ministry, barely a year ago, to make English a compulsory pass subject from next year — everything had been thought through carefully given the importance of the objectives: to provide quality education in line with international benchmarks.
The clarion call was to bring about an education system that produces the human capital necessary to place the country on par with that of the developed nations.
As a result of the postponement, the stated objectives will be delayed in an area of national concern. That English is almost a global lingua franca is a given and the importance of being proficient in the language should not be understated.
Communicating between people of different nationalities, including those whose mother tongue is not English, is for the most part done in English irrespective of where they find themselves. In the world of commerce this reality is even more acute.
A command of English by Malaysians would give them an edge with respect to employment opportunities, whether at home or abroad.
This is already a fact with companies preferring employees who are fluent in English and have good communication skills. A survey a few years ago by the Malaysian Employers Federation revealed that 60 per cent of its members identified poor English proficiency as the main problem with school leavers seeking employment.
The federation said the inability to converse in the language, even among SPM holders who had a grade A or B for English, was a common complaint among its members.
For business people the ability to communicate clearly, in a language all negotiating parties understand, facilitates negotiations, thus helping to procure projects, contracts and trade. So why the policy and the ease with which it is being postponed?
Malaysia needs an approach to education that is stable, not one that vacillates between one political whim and another. NST Opinions 21 August 2015