There are, at most, 205 school days in a year. So, during the whole school year, secondary school students in each form are taught 8,200 minutes of English a year, which is equivalent to 136.7 hours. This, in turn, is equivalent to 5.7 days in a year!
That is the actual teaching time for English language in secondary schools. A Form One student is taught English for 5.7 days for the whole schooling year.
How much language input can teachers give to the students in 5.7 days? How much oral and written language can students learn in 5.7 days?
A vast majority of students, especially in rural areas, do not have any exposure to the language outside of English lessons in the classroom.
Students in the outskirts generally do not have enough practice or usage of English in the classroom. Expecting students to speak impeccable English, solely based on the lessons in the language classroom, is a far-fetched dream.
It is virtually impossible to master any language without practice and usage outside of the classroom. Learning the language needs active participation and interaction in the language.
The best swimming coach can instruct swimmers orally on the best techniques and effective ways to swim. But, the swimmer has to step into the water to apply the techniques in order to learn to swim.
The swimmer will not be able to swim without getting into the water. In the same way, English language students have to be given an environment where they can have the opportunity to be exposed to the language in real and meaningful situations.
All efforts and policies, programmes and plans by the Education Ministry to strengthen the English language up to this point are mere knee-jerk reactions and will not make any significant impact.
If the government is serious in checking the deterioration of the English language, it has to listen to the major stakeholders and implement policies that advocate a radical transformation.
There is a dire need to create a English-speaking environment outside the classroom.
Students need to be exposed to and immersed in the language outside of the classroom. The school assembly can be conducted in English, and announcements and speeches can also be conducted in the language.
English Day and English Week should be revived with more activities and programmes. More opportunities should be created for students to speak in English in schools.
English-medium schools need to be reinstated in big towns, as they are fundamental to our education system to check the deterioration of English.
The rapid mushrooming of international and private schools, which use English as the medium of instruction, and the high demand for these high-priced schools are testimony to their importance.
According to a report, 15,000 children from Johor are studying in Singapore because of their English education. Why should we deprive our students in public schools of an English education?
Finally, two or more subjects should be taught in the English language in all primary and secondary schools. This is to complement the teaching of the English language. Samuel Yesuiah, Seremban, Negri Sembilan The NST Letters 11 September 2015