UNTIL today, we are still grappling with the the issue of English language proficiency.
Various measures have been taken, like corporations sponsoring English newspapers for schools and bringing in foreign native English-speaking teachers, the latest being Indian teachers from India. But all have come to nought.
For as long as the national school (sekolah kebangsaan) system does not have a conducive English environment like international schools, not even Albert Einstein or Ralph Waldo Emerson can work miracles for the students.
That is the reality we have to accept. Since the Government has stated that Bahasa Malaysia shall be the medium of instruction in line with the National Education Policy, those in power should not lament or ridicule the products of national schools having poor English.
We should not compare these unfortunate school children with the children of our diplomats or the rich who are privileged to study in international schools. As the saying goes, you reap what you sow.
A lady friend of mine teaches English at a secondary school. She told me of her frustration at making students open their mouths to read aloud and speak in English.
Sometimes she has to use Bahasa Malaysia to teach English to make the students understand.
She graduated from Universiti Malaya in English Literature.
My wife’s niece, a product of international schools in Tokyo and Romania, and who graduated from London, resigned as an English teacher after teaching at a national school in Penang because she found it very stressful not being able to communicate with the students.
She said it was like talking Greek to the students.
She is now a senior executive in the private sector.
Will the introduction of English Literature at secondary schools help the students improve their English and be 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 may never know, there will be more students who will quote Shakespeare when they go for job interviews!
Old timers, many from poor families who were fortunate enough to study at English-medium schools in the 50s, 60s and early 70s, 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 school.
Meanwhile, let’s not laugh at the present generation when asked, “How are you?” and the reply is, “I’m in the well.”
HASSAN TALIB Gombak, Selangor The STAR Home News Opinion Friday January 4, 2013