“WHEN we think about our country, the future of our country, the future of our students ... I feel very sad to see that many of our students, when they have finished school, they can’t even speak in English.” The words of SK Bukit Beruntung principal Nor Azian Abd Manan, as published on our front page yesterday, speak volumes.
And, if we are truly honest about the situation, we know that she is not alone.
It is not an unfamiliar lament.
Even the policymakers will acknowledge that there is a serious need to boost the proficiency level of the English language of this country if we are to take on the world.
Today, we find that many of our graduates cannot land a job because they cannot speak or write good English, which is so vital in the working world.
And it is not just about the working world.
English, as the Sultan of Johor pointed out earlier this year in an exclusive interview with The Star, is the universal currency which is “accepted everywhere and used everywhere, even in countries where the people don’t speak English well.”
The irony is that many Malaysians, including those in leadership positions, are fully aware that English is indeed the passport to more opportunities in an increasingly connected world.
Many of them in fact have benefited from going to English-medium schools before they were abolished.
Today, they are the ones who send their children to private and international schools locally, or even to boarding schools abroad, because they want them to have the English advantage.
But our concerns must not be on those who have the means to be in such a privileged group.
We must remember the majority of our students, which is why we must begin at the source.
The Dual Language Programme (DLP) initiative is the latest move to boost English proficiency at the school level.
It is a step in the right direction.
But we have to be serious and implement it properly so that it can eventually be made available in all schools.
For a start, the DLP will be used in 300 schools – just 3% of the national total – but only if they meet certain criteria: proper resources, principal’s support, teachers who can teach in English and Bahasa Malaysia and parents who are supportive.
It is clear that the three video clips issued by the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) to garner support for the DLP, have convinced many about the need to enhance the teaching of English in the schools.
We must be careful not to allow emotions and politics to get in the way.
Often times, we have seen how any debate on this issue turns awry when certain groups and individuals play the “racial and nationalist card” to stop any effort to raise proficiency of the English language among our young.
It is their future that is at stake here.
If we care about our future generations, we will make sure we equip them with the right tools, including the correct language, to do well.
The STAR Home > Opinion > Columnists The Star Says Sunday November 8, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM