UNTIL today, we are still grappling with the issue of English language proficiency. Various measures have been taken, like corporations sponsoring English newspapers for schools and importing foreign native English-speaking teachers, but all have come to nought. Will the impending recruitment of English teachers from India help?
For as long as the sekolah kebangsaan (national schools) do not have a conducive English environment like international schools, I am willing to bet my last dollar that even Albert Einstein or Ralph Waldo Emerson could not make miracles happen for students studying at sekolah kebangsaan. That is the reality and we have to accept it.
Since the government has stated that Bahasa Malaysia would be the medium of instruction in line with the National Education Policy, those in power should not lament or ridicule the product of sekolah kebangsaan being poor in English.
We should not compare these unfortunate children with the children of our diplomats or the rich, who are privileged to study at international schools. As the saying goes, you reap what you sow.
A friend of mine teaches English at a secondary school. She told me her frustrations when her students read and speak in English. Sometimes, she has to use Bahasa Malaysia to teach English to make the students understand.
My wife's niece, a product of international schools in Tokyo and Romania, and a London varsity graduate, resigned as an English teacher after teaching at a sekolah kebangsaan in Penang because she found it stressful. She said it was like talking Greek to the students.
Will the introduction of English Literature at secondary schools help students improve their English and become proficient in it? The pessimist will immediately say it is another desperate short-term measure to appease certain people. The optimist will say, give it a try. You never know, there might be more students who will quote Shakespeare when they go for job interviews!
Old timers, many from poor families who are fortunate enough to study at English-medium schools in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s will tell you that language cannot be acquired as a subject. It can be acquired naturally if it is used as a medium of instruction from day one of schooling.
Meanwhile, let's not laugh at the present generation when asked, "How are you?" and they reply, "I'm in the well!".
Hassan Talib, Gombak, Selangor | email@example.com New Straits Times Online Letters to the Editor 28 December 2012