However, that policy was scrapped because STEM teachers themselves did not have the necessary proficiency in English. However, on a general scale, what is more alarming is that there are not enough teachers to teach the English language itself.
Brought up in the Dewan Negara recently, the issue shows that in Kelantan, at least, this fact is undeniable.
There, children are, apparently, being taught to read English phonetically, recognising the alphabet as Romanised Malay, thus ending up with, for example, pronouncing cucumber as “chu-chum-ber” and hibiscus as “hee-bees-chus”.
Simply put, the problem, long-standing, is that there are not enough teachers qualified to teach English. There have been several attempts to rectify the situation, and the government continues to address the issue, but is finding it difficult.
Filling the shortfall with retired English teachers, for instance, has not worked because retirees prefer to work where they live.
Meanwhile, the world may be full of unemployed native English speakers, but they do not automatically translate into competent English teachers. English, like any other subject taught in schools, is an academic discipline with its own complexities.
There is no doubting this, although, presumably, there are those who think that any teacher can teach it.
The government, for its part, has started a virtual learning programme to provide the teaching and learning tools.
This Web-based teaching method should overcome the problem; but, the cost of equipping children with the technology could be prohibitive.
For all the advantages of information and communications technology, the problem arises from the speed with which advances are achieved, making the technology obsolete in a short time inevitable, which is expensive.
Nonetheless, there is a need to make the interactive interface that works on a total immersion principle, which can be extended to the child at home — a ubiquitous feature of Malaysian schools, especially those in the rural areas.
Hard though this may be to swallow because of its revolutionary nature which radically changes the pedagogy of teaching, the method as proposed seeks to encompass the complexities of the language.
New teaching and learning methods with new tools, such as providing English language modules to incorporate grammar, allows for its structured teaching even among non-specialists.
While English is the targeted discipline, it cannot but impact on the overall education system, which is scheduled to be overhauled.
This is indeed an ambitious scenario, but one that can transform education, taking the country to new heights of pedagogical sophistication.
In the meantime, to hasten it along and ensure that when it is in place it will serve our young, what is most needed to be in place goes beyond the software, hardware and humanware: as evidence from countries poorer than us, but more successful at learning or retaining English, what will really push us to learning English is attitude — a conscious public support structure and recognition of
English’s importance to our lives, and the public will and conviction to acknowledge that there are no losers when English is mastered; only winners all around.
The NST Editorial 14 December 2015 @ 11:00 AM