I REFER to a recent report in the media which says that Malaysia is the best in English proficiency in Asia.
The Swiss company that conducted the survey stated that Malaysia was better than Singapore in terms of English proficiency.
Either the Swiss company is having an April Fool’s joke or simply want to pull our leg!
We cannot actually blame them as they don’t really know the real situation in this country.
An ex-staff of Legoland related to me how impressed she was with Singaporean youths who visited Legoland where proficiency of English is concerned compared to our youths.
She could see the level of confidence and self-esteem the Singaporean youths had whenever she interactacted with them in the course of her duty.
This is not to belittle our youths for we have to accept reality that our youths lack self-esteem resulting in poor command of the English language.
A simple litmus test can bee seen where an English newspaper will hardly be touched in schools compared to a vernacular newspaper.
The Second Minister of Education Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh had admitted that 75% of our English teachers are not fit to teach English. So how can we expect the students to be proficient in English when the teachers themselves are weak in English!
Whenever I see a group of students from international schools at the conveniece store and students from the national schools, I can see a big difference in their faces where self confidence is concerned.
The self confidence in international schools students is built around the school’s culture. Like the national schools in the 1960s, international school students have their own uniform. The school’s attire gives some semblance of pride in the school which make them different from others.
The teacher-student relationship in international schools is one of “partner”, “friend”, “mentor”, where there is open communication and not one way and condescending.
Our national schools which use Bahasa Malaysia can instill self confidence in the students if we are willing to adopt the international schools model.
Perhaps we have to go back to the good old days where every school had their own uniform. Convent Bukit Nenas used to be blue, Assunta Girls’ School was brown, St. Mary was light chequred blue, Victoria Institution was white.
As for teaching methodology, our national schools should have more class discussion rather than teaching. There should be more role play, group discussion, debates and quiz. Where possible, the class should not have more than 35 students.
As English is becoming more important, teachers should always speak English with their students as practised in the 1960s and 1970s.
Of course this is not possible as national school teachers are mostly Malays who naturally speak their mother tongue which include teaching English in Malay!
If the Swiss, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegians, Germans and Danish can speak English, then there is no reason why our national school teachers and students cannot speak English.
What is in their school system that makes them proficient in English? Closer to home, what is it that makes the Singaporean youths more proficient in English than their Malaysian counterparts.
Hassan Talib Gombak The STAR Online Letters to the Editors 14/11/2013