You said these students had yet to master the language or even reach a satisfactory level in proficiency, and that the country also still lacked a sufficient number of English teachers.
“Schools in towns and cities are more prepared. There is no problem (for them) if we implement it. But, overall, we have to give more time to teachers to be better prepared. When it is time, we will implement it and there will be no further delays. The teacher training institutions (IPG) have to be on top of things and ensure that there are enough English teachers,” you were reported to have said.
Well, let me remind you that the strategy to have a compulsory pass for English in SPM from next year was mentioned no less than 10 times in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, which was launched with so much fanfare by your predecessor two years ago.
Unless the annotation carries no meaning, look back at what was said in the foreword no less, and I quote: “The Blueprint is the result of a multitude of analyses, interviews, surveys, and research conducted with the support of national and international education experts, officials, teachers, principals and parents all across Malaysia.
In addition, through the National Dialogue conducted earlier this year, almost 12,000 members of the public and various stakeholder groups were consulted for their ideas and feedback.
“In this Blueprint, we have set ourselves ambitious, yet achievable and feasible tasks to build a strong and efficient education system by 2025 that features universal access all the way through to secondary education, that will produce students who perform in the top third of international student assessments, to provide equal and quality educational opportunities for all students regardless of background or socioeconomic status and to instil a sense of common Malaysian identity amongst all students.”
Obviously the Blueprint was not an overnight effort. So, what has happened to the “ambitious, yet achievable and feasible tasks” formed from such an extensive groundwork?
The deferment has also made a mockery of this statement in the executive summary: “The Ministry engaged with the rakyat on a scale never seen before. Over the course of a year, over 55,000 Ministry officials, teachers, school leaders, parents, students and members of the public across Malaysia were engaged via interviews, focus groups, surveys, National Dialogue townhalls, Open Days and roundtable discussions. More than 200 memorandums were submitted to the Ministry and over 3,000 articles and blog posts were written on the issues raised in the Blueprint. The Ministry also appointed a 12-member Malaysian panel of experts and a four-member international panel of experts to provide independent input into the review findings.”
In one stroke, therefore, the ministry is now cancelling out its own massive engagement and dialogues including on SPM English that led to the 300-page blueprint. It was okay then, not okay now?
Something wrong with what transpired, or blind politics got in the way? It was realistically acknowledged in the blueprint that poor English proficiency among fresh graduates, since 2006, had been consistently ranked as one of the top five issues facing Malaysian employers.
And this is where the “fairness” that you had stated should come in. Fair to postpone to be fair to the rural students, you said. Let me ask you, would it really be fair to them if, in the end, they continue to be rejected in job applications?
Is the ministry willing to take the rap for the absolutely feeble attempts to raise the bar and improve the ever-deteriorating standards of non-urban students?
Again, refer to the Blueprint which also carried a Jobstreet survey on graduate employment where it listed down the Top 5 reasons why fresh graduates were rejected after interview sessions.
The second most-given reason: Poor command of English. You would rather postpone and prolong the agony rather than fix the flaws and get on with it.
Minister, your predecessor has turned around the vital secondary school programme to teach science and mathematics in English (PPSMI) after it had already run for nine years.
Now, the students are back to square one. I hope you give more thought to this, for the good of our children’s future. And the future of our children’s children.
Happy National Day. Syed Nazri The NST Columnist 1 September 2015