February 9th, 2013

Teaching English in Bahasa Malaysia

POSER: If one who speaks two languages is bilingual, what do you call someone who speaks no foreign languages? Answer: a Malaysian student.

Too many children start school and don’t speak English. That’s indicative of a dysfunctional education system.

Worse, it has now been alleged that certain teachers conduct English classes mostly in Bahasa Malaysia. That’s student rights abuse.

The guardians of education would be thoughtless to ignore how the plight of our students struggling to grapple with the English language is playing out. It’s extreme complacency that causes intense worry. It’s a complicated issue prone to unhelpful generalities.

That’s largely due to those who indulge in reckless interpretations of moves to bring English teaching assistants from abroad and local teachers who deliberately dumb down the importance of speaking and writing English.

The English language is under mounting threat from ignorance and inverted snobbery of teachers who stand in the way of government efforts to boost mastery of the language.

People are always asking me the best way for their children to learn English. That’s partly because music and Mandarin classes have replaced English tuition in competitive parenting.

Frankly, I’m an impassioned believer of more children, even at elementary school, learning languages, because they not only make remarkable additions to Bahasa Malaysia but lay the platform to springboard to global integration in their latter years.

English, Malaysia’s second language, allows children to emerge from school with a useful command of the language that they will retain for life. English is a practical add-on to one’s daily life, meshing — more than any other languages — with whatever career one chooses.

As primary kids we were made to read The New Straits Times by our parents to complement teaching of English in schools. They took it is a responsibility and an obligation to ensure we spoke and wrote good English.

That was when the newspaper was a true family companion. A true teaching tool of the English language. These days, students are shy or embarrassed to speak English if they did not speak it at home. Few read newspapers.

A parent in a recent letter to newspapers bemoaned the predicament of what most students get during their English lesson in public schools:

“My daughter started Year One in an old, established national school in Kuala Lumpur. On the first day of school, she was told not to speak English. She could only do so during English lessons.

“During English lessons, the teacher addressed the pupils in Bahasa Malaysia. She conducted most of the lesson in BM and occasionally switched to English.”

“When are kids, the future of the nation, supposed to learn to speak and write English?” “They are taught English in BM and banned from speaking English in schools.”

I discussed the matter with a dozen teachers, all of whom declared that English is low priority and that many teachers were struggling to teach the language simply because they themselves were deficient in the discipline.

So, where do children turn to grasp the English language?

So, why the policy drift among teachers who conduct English classes in Bahasa Malaysia?

Clearly, the tenor over the quality of teaching of English in schools has broadened, shaking the conscience of parents who sense that educational leaders have lost their way.

To be fair, the education ministry has taken various measures to improve students’ command of English. These include bringing in tutors from abroad and language laboratories.

But the ministry’s efforts are being stymied. Like the fuss over the proposal to recruit English language teachers from India. Why is it okay to have English language teachers from the United States, England and Australia and not India?

The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) in calling for a study on the proposal to recruit English language teachers from India, said discussions must be carried out with the union, experts and the education ministry to ensure the move would profit the government.

Its president Hashim Adnan said: “A study must be made to ensure nobody loses. It is better discussed by local language experts with the union and the ministry so that the subsequent decision will be profitable to the government.”

Nobody loses? And what does he mean by “profitable to the government?” Is he suggesting that a mix of teachers would burden the students and badly affect the national education system? Is the accent of Indian teachers a problem?

Hashim has broadly put himself out of the history of education in our country. He has to take a cue from Malaysian Teachers’ Foundation Berhad chairman Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom who noted that the early history in English language education in the country at the end of the 19th century was dominated by teachers from India who taught in mission schools.

“Historically, they (Indians) mostly served in the education sector and many graduates of mission schools had become leaders and leading national figures,” he said.

Still, what has the NUTP done to address the rapidly falling standard of English in schools?

Then, everyone talks about retired English teachers who should be recruited as they are from the same culture and background and know how to teach Malaysian students.

What’s stopping them from coming forward to volunteer their services? Perhaps, the NUTP could lead the way in bringing their “invaluable contributions” back into classrooms.

The immediate priority should be to ensure schoolchildren speak English and if this sounds simplistic in concept, don’t worry, it is. For starters, backward attitudes must be stamped out.

Frankie D'Cruz Malay Mail Being Frank WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2013 - 16:23

Stop messing with our education system

MUCH has been said of the National Education Blueprint (NEB) recently released for inspection among the public.

The media have had their say, the parents and adults are having their say, the teachers are trying to have their say and the authorities are saying it all.

The Education Ministry has agreed to everything and sundry and tries to fit in all that is said and it is really becoming more than just a blueprint.

It is becoming a big book of an education system, which is unlikely to ever be implemented in all of the areas it has.

I am not belittling it — far from that — it is just that I have become so muddled with the whole Education Blueprint that I feel I just have had enough of it.

When the Primary Schools New Curriculum (KBSR) overtook the old system, I thought it was all wishful thinking — today, many parts of the KBSR have yet to be implemented, and many teachers if you ask them — even if they have been teaching the KBSR syllabus for years — would be at a loss as to actually what the system was all about.

I have been trained as a national school teacher and in the three years of teacher’s training, I have had the fortunate experience to being forced to teach English focusing on grammar, and then to communicative syllabus and then change the focus back again to grammar.


THEIR FUTURE IS IMPORTANT: I want practical solutions to the problems of educating our children — FILEpic

My coursemates, who are still teaching, 18 years later, have yet to be able to tell me if they are teaching communicative syllabus or grammar. Many still lack in their grammar, though.

Once again, I am not belittling, merely pointing out the facts of the education system.

I am a mother of school going children and all I want for them to have is a proper education, which would allow them to become decent intelligent human beings who would be able to make something of themselves and make something for others and contribute to the world.

I mean, is that too much to ask ?

If we had just stuck to the old system and bettered it, we would have had a better system.

Okay, so we do not have the old system.

Well, then if we had stuck to the KBSR, and just worked on that and bettering of teachers, maybe we would have a first world education.

The ministry did that for a while and then, they brought in Primary Schools Standard Curriculum (KSSR).

Now, with the NEB being dangled before us, I am amused and amazed that the authorities are planning to bring in a whole new system and the very people who will be carrying it out — teachers — are the last people having their say.

The problem now is that teachers are so muddled, parents are so confused and the authorities who designed it are just adding and adding on to the pages to please everyone.

I only want an education for my children to make full use of their capabilities — I want teachers who are qualified — not paper-qualified only — to teach my children. I want practical solutions to the problems the children face — like heavy school bags and better laboratories and sports facilities.

A practical solution to the non rational rules of the schools — such as having to wear white canvas shoes in a country where it rains daily and children come muddied and parents spend much time money throwing detergent away down the drain by scrubbing those shoes for fear the children will get scolded by teachers.

I do not speak for all parents, but I speak for those who agree with me — I do not want a blueprint — I want practical solutions to the problems of educating our children.

Our syllabus is good enough — just stick to one thing and just better it, please.