"Most of the teachers have a poor command of the language. How do you expect students to learn English when the teachers themselves do not know the basics of the language?"
"There is nothing wrong with the textbooks or curriculum. It is all about the teachers. I am sorry to say this but our young teachers are simply not up to the standard when teaching English.
"We did have many good English-trained teachers before but most of them have retired."
Hashim said the shortage of trained English language teachers began when the government decided to change the medium of instruction from English to Bahasa Malaysia 20 years ago.
He said it was quite impossible for students to master the language when almost 90 per cent of the subjects in schools were taught in Bahasa Malaysia or other mother tongues.
"How can we expect our students to have good command of English when they are given little opportunity to use the language?"
He said the five years of Teaching and Learning Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI) was simply too short to judge the efficiency of the initiative.
"It's quite impossible to improve the standard of English overnight. Five years is not enough. It should be at least a 14-year plan -- six years for primary school, five for secondary and three for tertiary.
Taylor's University dean of education Professor Dr Malachi Edwin Vethamani said instead of hiring retired teachers, the government should train new teachers with the right components.
"Proper training is crucial to ensure teachers' quality. For example, teachers in rural areas might need a different kind of training to help them tack the problem faced by students there.
"Many parents and students in rural areas do not see the importance of mastering English. We might not get this kind of problem in urban schools."
Hiring native speakers to teach in rural areas, Malachi said, was not the solution either.
"Getting foreigners to teach will just discourage our teachers here. Although they speak English on a daily basis, this does not guarantee that they will be good teachers."
The New Sunday Times reported that the Education Ministry was looking at several factors, such as teachers' incompetency and unsuitable school books, to determine why students continue to have a poor grasp of the English language.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also education minister, said even after learning the language for 13 years at primary, secondary and matriculation levels, some students still could not master English.
National Parent-Teacher Association president Associate Professor Datuk Mohamad Ali Hasan said lack of communication in English caused students to have a poor grasp of the language.
While welcoming the Education Ministry's announcement to review the English language curriculum, Ali attributed the problem in improving students' language skills to lack of communication in the language.
"Language is a spoken media. You have to speak it in order to master it and not enough focus has been given to communicating in English.
"The children are also not encouraged to participate in activities that are English-oriented, such as drama, choral speaking and debate."
Nurwahidah Mohd Khairuddin, 34, who has a 7-year-old son, said children were naturally averse to something they were not used to. Therefore, the emphasis should be on cultivating an English-speaking culture.
"Parents and teachers should encourage and support the children and help them learn through other ways such as through the media where they can visualise and understand things better and more clearly," she said.
Chandrika Nair, 50, who has a daughter in Form Five, said the problem was caused by lack of capable teachers.
"What is important is ensuring that there are enough trained teachers who are proficient in the language."