MANY have expressed concern over the deterioration of the standard of English over the years.
The commentary headlined "Will English pass-grade rule pass over, too?" in the New Straits Times on April 11 has given much food for thought.
I am certain that those in authority are aware of the problem but the critical issue is whether they are able to find an enduring and sustainable solution to the problem.
According to the Barisan Nasional election manifesto, it is committed to "improve the command of Bahasa Malaysia and English among students from the pre-school level, and make English a compulsory Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia pass subject in all schools".
Although there are moves to make our education system less exam-oriented, the fact remains that unless action is taken to make English a must-pass in SPM, students will not give their fullest attention and concentration to study and use English.
Every level-headed Malaysian will agree that teaching, learning and using the English language must never be made into an issue when it is done in the interest of our future generations and for the sake of our nation's progress and future well-being.
As we strive to achieve developed nation status, it is essential to adopt a practical and open-minded approach towards any language that can contribute to Malaysia's progress while remaining firm and steadfast in ensuring that Bahasa Malaysia is the country's national language.
As a Malaysian, I am proud of our national language, which I use daily to communicate not only with officials in government departments and agencies but also with people of various ethnic groups.
It is a common language understood and used by Malaysia's multiracial population.
However, we must also accept the reality that knowledge of one language is insufficient in this modern and technological age. We need to have a command of other languages for progress and development, be it English, Chinese, etc.
We learn and use English as it is an international language for science and technology, business and commerce.
We should strive to be bilingual or even multi-lingual now that most Malaysians, particularly the younger generation, have mastered Bahasa Malaysia.
Malaysians may lose out in the field of information and technology in the new millennium if they are not proficient in English, which is vital if Malaysians are not to be left behind.
The fear of the English language, which some still regard as a legacy of British colonialism, is misplaced and needs to be rectified.
To overcome this, more needs to be done to convince parents and students, particularly those in rural areas, about the importance of learning English as a tool for science, technology, business and commerce as well as progress and modernisation.
We must not regard the learning and mastery of the English language as a threat to our cultural or national identity. It is necessary for our economic survival.
Mastering the English language is about rejuvenating the nation. It is about preparing ourselves as a nation in finding our place in the global economy.
Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, Kuala Lumpur New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 21 April 2013