TEACH For Malaysia, an independent, not-for-profit organisation that enlists Malaysia's most promising future leaders in a mission to end education inequity, also has a programme to teach English language.
Datin Halimah Mohd Said and her team of volunteers from the Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason (PCORE) have embarked on a major project, the English in Harmony Camp, in three schools in Subang Jaya.
The weekend camp brings together 30 Year Five pupils -- 10 from each of the national-type and vernacular schools -- to communicate in English and bond with one another.
Datin Noor Azimah Rahim, president of Parents Action Group for Education, and her volunteers representing communities throughout the country, had been trying hard, armed with a support letter from former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, to get the Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English policy (PPSMI) reinstated in national schools in the last three years.
It has done everything a non-governmental organisation could do to achieve its aim. This includes meetings with the prime minister, deputy prime minister, ministers, Education Ministry senior staff, community leaders, NGOs, representatives from schools, colleges and universities, attending forums, participating in the national education dialogue, and writing letters to newspapers.
Many programmes have been carried out to raise the standard of English in schools.
There are other lesser-known initiatives conducted by individuals or groups of concerned people -- Malaysians, expatriates and foreigners -- to improve Malaysians' grasp of the English language.
Newspapers have dedicated sections for English language where local and foreign writers discuss and write about ideas, suggestions and proposals on the English language.
There are many new books on the English language written by local and foreign writers and many of them experienced teachers, scholars and linguists to improve the learning of English.
The importance of the proper use of English language in this country cannot be denied.
One glaring example is the conduct and performance of civil servants, especially those in the foreign service, whose work is subpar only because they have a poor command of English.
The second bad example is the poor command of English language among graduates.
Now, only a small percentage of Malaysians have a good command of English and this is mainly because of our sub-standard education system.
Many comments and criticisms have been submitted to the Education Ministry with suggestions on how to improve on the situation. One of the most common criticisms is the imbalance in emphasis on the teaching and use of English compared with Bahasa Malaysia.
Despite all these efforts, it is quite disappointing to note that the ministry -- going by what was in the recently launched Malaysia Education Blueprint -- has rejected all proposals pertaining to the use of English in schools.
The proposals to reintroduce English-medium schools, reinstatement of PPSMI and my proposal -- to set up national integrated schools, where the use of English language is increased and made equal to the use of Bahasa Malaysia in schools -- do not have a place in the blueprint.
With only English literature and English language as the two subjects that will be used in national schools, it is grossly insufficient to make English language on a par with Bahasa Malaysia.
How would our pupils improve their command of the English language even after 11 years of schooling when the language is badly taught or not used often enough throughout that period?
Hussaini Abdul Karim, Shah Alam, Selangor | email@example.com Source: New Straits Times Online Letters to the Editors 02 October 2012