TEACHERS have always been blamed for the declining standard of English among students. Much has been said about their lack of proficiency, competency and skills in teaching the language.
The letter, "Teachers must do more" (NST, Sept 27), reiterated that more than half of the English teachers in schools are "unfit" to teach the language.
Allow me to show you the other side of the coin.
The government has embarked on several programmes to counter this problem.
For example, teaching assistants were brought in from the United States, Britain, Australia and Canada to teach English in primary and secondary schools. The aim was to expose teachers and students to native speakers of English.
This hiring of foreign teachers does not speak well of our English teachers, who have been selected and trained. It has affected their morale and self-esteem.
It has to be noted that there are two types of English language teachers in schools. Most of our English language teachers have been trained in teachers' training colleges, with English as their major.
There was a serious shortage of English language teachers in schools and so teachers from other fields, who were proficient in English, were given in-service training and "converted" as English option teachers.
Many senior Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil option teachers were roped in to teach English.
Many of them were instructed to attend workshops and courses to upgrade themselves to be effective English language teachers. These teachers were willing to sacrifice their major option to teach English to overcome the shortage of teachers in schools.
Most of the English language teachers today underwent the Bahasa Malaysia medium of instruction in their school days. During their time, all the subjects were taught in Bahasa Malaysia, except for English.
Despite the limited exposure to the language, many of these teachers scored excellent results in their public examinations.
The examination system allowed these candidates to regurgitate language structures and patterns in the written tests.
To be an English language teacher, the candidate has to be competent and proficient in the language. This is assessed based on the candidate's academic qualifications in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia.
Let us not demand perfection and excellence in the teaching and learning of English language.
The English language is not our mother tongue. The language is not widely used in the country.
How often do we run into an Englishman who speaks perfect English? As for international relations, the variety of English "dialects" has been accepted as the norm.
Good teachers are a rare breed. Let us not be too judgmental about their linguistic abilities. Teaching is a vocation that demands devotion and dedication.
Some of the English language teachers may not be competent and proficient, but they have the passion to teach. Over time, with the right attitude, they will become competent, confident and proficient in their teaching.
Samuel Yesuiah, Seremban, Negri Sembilan New Straits Times Online Opinion Letters to the Editors 04/10/2013