I REFER to "Teachers must admit weaknesses and improve" (NST, Sept 20). I agree with the writer that the 70 per cent of English teachers who are not qualified to teach English must admit to their poor command of the language and take steps to improve their proficiency.
It is alarming that two-thirds of English teachers have been classified as "incapable or unfit" to teach English, and had failed the Cambridge Proficiency Test (CPT).
Parents, as well as other stakeholders, especially employers, are concerned with the poor standard of English among school-leavers if students continue to be taught by unqualified teachers.
Although the first batch of 5,000 English teachers have undergone training and the next batch of 9,000 will begin next month, the questions often asked are: are they proficient enough to teach after the training and how many have passed the CPT after the training?
These teachers should be self-reliant, buck up and not wait and rely entirely on the Education Ministry to train them until they are fit to teach. Teachers who have been yearning to improve their English proficiency must take the initiative to improve their command of the language so that they can teach effectively.
English teachers need to have a strong command of the language to teach students who may raise questions on grammar in any unit of the syllabus. Unlike other subjects, which are topical in nature, English is more modular, with lessons consisting of reading, writing, listening and speaking. Grammar is integrated into each component.
Even with training by universities and retraining by the ministry, some teachers still lack the confidence to teach. This can be attributed to their lack of proficiency, among others. Most worrisome is the number of teachers who have the "dependency mentality", as they always depend on the ministry to equip them with knowledge and skills.
Unqualified English teachers may need to seek out private language centres and invest money, time and effort to raise their English proficiency. Alternatively, they can get help from retired teachers, who, I believe, are willing to lend a hand. In fact, many retired teachers volunteer at welfare homes, children's homes and religious centres. Pay them an allowance, if necessary.
These days, students can easily access the Internet to obtain knowledge. By pressing a few buttons, teachers can google "self-learning English".
There are 358 million websites offering free English tutorials, workshops and seminars. There are also webinars (online seminars) that are offered free of charge.
For many struggling English teachers, raising their proficiency is not an option.
They are duty-bound to prepare students to pass the English subject, which will be a compulsory pass for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination in 2016.
Thomas Kok, principal, Ipoh Learning & Training Institute, Perak. New Straits Times Online Letters to the Editor 21 September 2013