November 2nd, 2015

To recruit or not, that is the question

The Education Ministry recently announced that trained English language teachers from India will be recruited under the School Improvement Specialist Coaches programme.

These teachers would be placed in rural schools across the nation in a bid to help raise the command of the language and competency levels of teachers and students.

Many are against this idea as they believe that local English language teachers should be given the job opportunity instead, as they would be able to do a better job of improving the command of the language in schools.

However, as an English language lecturer who has been in the teaching line for almost a decade now, I cannot understand what the fuss is all about. I feel that people, especially those who are not from the education field, should look at the bigger picture here.

To begin with, the current proficiency level of some of our local English language teachers is simply atrocious. I’m talking about the ones who have graduated with a Bachelor’s or master’s degree in the English language.

These teachers, whom we have entrusted to teach our children on how to converse and communicate in English, cannot even construct a grammatically correct sentence in English themselves! I’ve personally witnessed how these teachers speak and write, and believe me when I say that their grasp of the language is cringe-worthy.

How then are they supposed to educate the future generation, when they need help themselves?

Many who are against the idea of sourcing teachers from India argue that the accents of these teachers could be a hindrance to the learning process itself. My argument is this: would you then rather have our children speak with a local accent but with dreadful grammar instead?

The Indians may have a heavy accent but their proficiency in the language beats ours hands down. I think it’s terribly unfair when we underestimate and judge them so quickly when we have flaws of our own.

So, if we locals cannot get the job done properly, we shouldn’t get all hot under the collar if someone else is hired to do it.

However, this is only one step towards the right direction in improving the standard of English in schools, especially in rural areas.

Another possible solution is to recruit retired local English language teachers, especially the ones who still have a burning passion to continue teaching.

Perhaps these teachers can be placed in urban or suburban schools, because most of them would rather not be sent to rural areas to work.

In fact, many young teachers do not like working in places that are too far away from the city. If the local teachers do not want the job, who else are we to turn to then?

When complaints come in claiming that the rural students’ level of English is appalling, who then is to be blamed?

This is where the Indian teachers would come in handy, as they would be able to help fill the gaps.

For the time being, looking for an external solution is the best we can do, in addition to the possibility of utilising the services of retired local English language teachers.

It’s a first step toward an improved command of the language among students, at least until a more permanent solution is found.

The process of mapping out a policy with expert planners and policy makers isn’t enough. It is imperative to consult teachers and educators with hands-on experience in order to come up with a decent, workable plan for a proper shift in system.

Perhaps then we would be able to tackle the issue without the need to engage external help.

We are more than capable of finding a long term solution to this problem — it all lies in taking the proper initial steps toward that goal.
Ashley Greig NST Columnist 1 November 201511:01 AM

Who’s watching the guards?

At this time last week, 17-year-old Intan Suraya Mawardi already lay dead in her room. The poor hapless girl was allegedly raped and killed by her boyfriend, a 20-year-old security guard at a primary school in Penang.

It was a sad story indeed, as details of what purportedly happened unfolded before a shocked nation. Police had said the boyfriend had admitted to perpetrating the crime and led them to where he hid two knives, believed to have been the murder weapons, and Intan Suraya’s mobile phone.

In spite of the purported confession, whether or not he did the horrible deed is best left to police to investigate and the courts to determine.

What is of equal importance is the fact that this 20-year-old was a security guard — at a primary school, no less — despite the fact that he had a criminal record for a drug-related offence.

It was also recently revealed that he had been arrested last year in connection with a burglary, along with a friend.

Police investigations led them to believe he was not involved in the break-in; the burglary tools found in his possession purportedly belonging instead to the friend, who was eventually charged.

The fact of the matter is that security companies are supposed to perform thorough background checks on potential employees.

These checks include criminal backgrounds. Whether someone has a criminal record or not is something that is of prime importance when background checks are conducted.

It is obvious that such background checks were not conducted in this case. This is the only thing that can explain how a man with a criminal record can be hired by a security firm.

This paper, in fact, had spoken to a colleague of the man, who said that he, too, was hired without having a background check conducted.

The colleague said he and the other guards hired by the company were only made to go through eye and hearing tests.

There are those who say convicts should be given a second chance after getting out of prison, that people should give them a chance to reintegrate into society at large.

They have served their time, paid for their mistakes. They should be given a chance if they are truly repentant.

True. They should. If they are truly repentant, society should give them a second chance.

Let them earn an honest living as everyone deserves that. In fact, not giving them a second chance could turn out to instead be detrimental to society itself.

If a man or woman who has served his or her sentence and been released from prison does not find gainful employment once in the free world, then chances are high indeed that he or she may return to a life of crime out of desperation.

But there are certain jobs which former criminals should not have access to. One such job is as a security guard. The requirement by the Home Ministry is a sound one.

As Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said a few days ago, this is something which involves the lives of people.
I just like the photo ...

Security guards at a certification ceremony in Kuala Lumpur recently. Security firms are supposed to perform thorough background checks on potential employees, including for a criminal record. Pic by Sairien Nafis
It is something that cannot be compromised.

The company which hired the man and all companies that flout regulations by neglecting to conduct background checks risk having their licences revoked.

Again, there can be no compromises here. The Home Ministry should — it must — revoke the licences of such companies.

These rogue companies are putting the very lives of the people they are supposed to be protecting at risk.

Kudos to the ministry that, within a few days of the revelation that the boyfriend of Intan Suraya had a criminal record, sent enforcement officers to the school where he had stood guard and the Penang branch office of the Kuala Lumpur-based security firm that hired him.

That the branch office had been closed for some time is another matter altogether.

The company is now under investigation and has been issued a show-cause letter which, if it fails to reply, will lead to a revocation of its licence.

But more needs to be done. We need to be proactive, and not just reactive.

We cannot wait till something happens before we act.

One suggestion is for the ministry to conduct frequent, random checks on security firms to ensure that they constantly toe the line as far as regulations are concerned.

People should be able to rest assured that their lives are in good hands when they have security guards. The ministry has the means to do this and, as public servants, the duty to aid the rakyat.