The flip-flop policy goes to show that our policymakers do not make an in-depth study on its implications to the students.
Common sense will tell us that without a strong foundation in English at primary school level, Form Five students will have great difficulty with its proficiency, unlike those who sat for MCE/Senior Cambridge in the 1960s and early 1970s, who had no problems with English proficiency.
Even those from rural areas or city slums could speak and write in good English then.
Why? Because they had a good foundation in English, beginning from Primary One, where all subjects were taught in the language.
As I see it, as much as the Education Ministry wants to improve proficiency in English under the present National Education Blueprint 2013-2025, I have my doubts that it will achieve its objectives.
Even with the best English teachers, it will not improve proficiency simply because the conducive English-speaking environment is missing.
Just go to any Sekolah Kebangsaan schools and ask them to choose between a Malay tabloid and an English newspaper. It’s very obvious that they will choose the former as the majority are unable to read the latter because they are weak in the language.
The dual Bahasa Malaysia-English system will not help either, as it will confuse the students more. It may work in other countries, but that cannot be the criteria for this country.
At the moment, the students are suffering in silence for their inability to read English materials and we want to make them more confused by having a dual system.
Let us ask ourselves honestly why private international schools students have no problem with English.
Why is that they are more confident of themselves and can easily communicate in English? The answer is because English is used as a medium of instruction.
It is not because these schools are superior and have better teachers.
In fact, these schools are no different in terms of quality from government schools in the 1960s when English was the medium of instruction and students sat for the Cambridge exams.
It is wise for the Examination Syndicate to put the decision on hold. I would even suggest that English should not be made a compulsory pass in SPM if we do not want to see more students being innocent victims of the education system.
While the intention in making a compulsory pass is noble,the adverse effects far outweigh the good. It will only benefit the tuition industry which knows it is not possible to pass the English paper by just attending tuition classes.
The truth is, we know the problem and its solution. But the solution becomes a problem where the peninsula is concerned.
This is where I take my hat off to Sarawak Chief Minister of Sarawak Tan Sri Adnen Satem, who had said he wanted autonomy in education and where English would be used as the medium of instruction for the state’s students.
To him, it does not make Sarawakians less patriotic and less Malaysian to attend English-medium schools.
Let us not make students as guinea pigs. They have suffered enough. The number of unemployed graduates owing to their weakness in English is increasing by the year.
It will become a timebomb when they become useless and restless. Let us not politicise education.
Let the students enjoy going to school and become useful citizens when they enter the working world.
Let us give them the opportunity to acquire English with ease, so that they can enjoy Shakespeare, read world history and geography, and are articulate and confident.
Let us create a level playing field for them while we are still alive and have the power and wisdom to give them the best.
Let us go to our graves in peace, having known that we have left a sound education system for the younger generations.
They are asking for their right to attend English schools as they cannot afford to attend the private international schools. Hassan Talib, Gombak, Selangor NST Letters 24 August 2015