THE Government has taken various initiatives to enhance and improve the command of the English language among teachers and students in both urban and rural areas since the introduction of the “Uphold Bahasa Malaysia & Strengthen the English Language” (MBMMBI) policy in 2011.
A couple of years ago, it was reported that about two-thirds of the 70,000 English teachers in Malaysia failed to reach a proficient level in English.
Consequently, English subject teachers who got a low score in the Cambridge Placement Test were required to attend upskilling courses to attain a level of C1 or C2, supposedly on par with English teachers in England, the level of English based on the Common European Framework of Reference which is under the administration of Cambridge University.
A teacher’s English ability is graded through a scale of A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2 with A1 being the lowest and C2 the highest.
With the introduction of the Professional Upskilling of English Language Teachers programme, or Pro-ELT, by the Education Ministry, it had reportedly yielded encouraging results with the majority of the teachers improving their proficiency one level higher in English.
The Pro-ELT introduced in 2012 was intended to enhance the English language proficiency of our teachers and their pedagogical skills to ensure that students taught by these teachers will improve their English, which is basically, among others, the objective of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 – to enhance students’ grasp of the English language, and to further strengthen teachers’ English language.
The training materials and resources are supposed to be specially developed to address the pedagogical needs of the teachers so that their training is transferred to classrooms.
And it is often reported in the media that more and more teachers are being trained and they have improved their proficiency in English.
But why haven’t the students benefited from the teachers’ improved competency in English?’
To be precise, why are the 2016 SPM students not ready, according to the Examinations Council, for the English compulsory pass in the four skills, namely, speaking, listening, reading and writing as well as grammar and vocabulary?
Perhaps the teachers have not been sufficiently trained by the Pro-ELT trainers, though we know that our teachers are incredibly professional in their teaching and are dedicated and committed.
Or, probably the trainers, presumably foreigners, have not done a satisfactory job although millions of ringgit have been spent.
Admittedly, however, success can only be achieved if there is awareness among the teachers, apart from students, parents and the community, that the command of the English Language is of paramount importance.
But at the end of the day, the level of English proficiency depends largely on our teachers and students who have to practise using the language not only in conversation but also in writing.
In light of this, the Education Ministry with a strong political will should seriously reconsider bringing back the teaching and learning of Maths and Science in English.
Alternatively, teach some Arts subjects such as History and Geography in English so that the students will have more space and time to practise English, like in the post-Merdeka days of the 60s and 70s when English was the medium of instruction in schools. Thomas Kok The STAR Home News Opinion Letters 28 August 2015