I REFER to “Language of opportunity” (The Star, Nov 30). While I have reservations about the author’s presumption that “the Examination Board of the Education Ministry … knew how the graph should be drawn to pass the correct percentage of students accordingly,” and therefore “that the majority of students will fail, is a myth,” I nevertheless agree wholeheartedly that the learning and status of English will be boosted if a compulsory pass is mandated.
The call for a compulsory pass in English in SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) has been made for a long time now. The Education Ministry has yet to give a positive response.
The obstacles seem to be a big gap in opportunities to master English between students in the urban and the rural areas, and there being more English teachers in towns and fewer such teachers in rural settings. It is not a level playing field!
Perhaps we can consider another approach.
Considering that there are disparities in learning English between students from different socio-economic backgrounds and in different schools, and that it will be some time before we can have a level-playing field between rural and urban students, I propose that the English syllabus for different schools be the same, but the way it is dealt with should differ from school to school.
The subject syllabus could be the same, but the levels of depth and breadth or difficulty can vary depending on the school. The same goes for their examinations. Different schools should sit the same subjects, but with different papers.
When our schools are better equipped, we can have a common English syllabus and a common examination paper.
However, it is imperative and of immediate importance for all students to know it is their duty and responsibility to learn, master and pass English.
Also, they should realise that learning a language requires need, effort, persistence and hard work. It is not a matter of spoon-feeding.
It is time our students knew the ground rules and understand this axiom: no pain, no gain. The teachers before them, the textbooks before them and the language software before them are already sufficient.
It is their effort, commitment and persistence in mastering English that needs to be intensified. It is time for students to look inwards for solutions.
See also Language of opportunity