I REFER to the report “Don: Give prominence to Bahasa Malaysia” (The Star, Nov 28). I support Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Nik Safiah Karim’s call on the Government to emphasise the strengthening of BM by giving more prominence in the Malaysia Education Blueprint.
No right thinking Malaysian would deny that BM has been the language of unity in our beloved country since independence.
Suffice to say, it is the lingua franca used by everyone from all walks of life throughout the length and breadth of our land.
In addition, BM has been used by scholars, academicians and researchers in many public universities since early 1970’s.
Furthermore, BM has always been the compulsory language subject taught in schools since merdeka and it was made the medium of instruction to replace English in all national schools in the mid-1970s.
However, these days as we strive to a become a higher income nation with the Government’s transformation programmes, especially the Economic Transformation Programme, our students need to acquire, and if possible, master the language of trade, commerce and industry, that is, English.
Besides, 80% of the world’s information is stored in English in the Internet which is now used extensively by students, academicians and professionals.
I would like to repeat the clarion call made before by many concerned educationists and professionals to make English a compulsory pass in the SPM exam.
Obviously, it is suicidal for political reasons for the Government to implement such a policy now as election is just round the corner.
But I honestly believe if the Government returns to power, and is sincere to achieve the developed nation status in 2020, it must have the political will to make it compulsory for Form 5 students to pass English to get the SPM certificate.
Once it becomes a Government policy, everything will subsequently fall in place: the lackadaisical attitude of teachers and students towards the teaching and learning of English will change for the better; English teachers will upgrade themselves; and students will read more English materials.
For instance, in the mid-1970’s, when Malay was made the medium of instruction, every teacher and student faithfully switched from English to Malay without much fuss except for some hiccups, simply because it was a Education Ministry directive.
The assumption that supposing English is made a compulsory pass in SPM, the majority of the students will fail, is a myth.
When I was the examiner for the SPM English paper in the 1970’s, my fellow examiners and I found that a large number of students generally scored below 50% marks.
But as usual when the official results were announced, to everyone’s amazement, many of them invariably passed.
I presume the Examination Board of the Education Ministry was professional enough, and thus knew how the graph should be drawn to pass the correct percentage of students accordingly.
Hence, if English is made a compulsory pass in SPM, I guess there will not be a significant drastic drop in the SPM passers.
Therefore, it is my fervent hope that the Government will also give equal prominence to English besides BM by making it a compulsory pass in SPM for the sake of the students, particularly those from the rural schools, who need English as it is the language of opportunity now and perhaps forever.
THOMAS KOK Ipoh The STAR Online Home News Opinion Friday November 30, 2012