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Improve English proficiency now
FocusM team | 06 Oct 2017 00:30
Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah recently called for serious intervention to improve English among the younger generation.  

Raja Zarith, who is the royal patron of the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association, joins the chorus of calls by prominent Malaysians calling for English proficiency. But their efforts seem to be falling on deaf ears.
 
Employers still lament they are unable to find graduates who are proficient in English. Many graduates also can’t pursue post-graduate studies abroad due to this. 

English is the language of the international business world and also the most widely used language of the internet. Yet improving proficiency in it does not appear to be a priority in Malaysia. 

To date, only Johor and Sarawak have worked towards improving English proficiency. An online survey conducted by the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) showed 90% of 190,000 respondents supported improving English proficiency. 

But such survey results don’t mean anything unless there is political will to take action. All we see are the occasional announcements by the authorities to improve the standard of English among students and teachers. These initiatives  fade over time with no results to show. 

For instance, the government introduced the Uphold Bahasa Malaysia and Strengthen the English Language policy in primary schools in 2011. To what extent has it succeeded?

The latest initiative is importing English textbooks to be used in schools from next year. It is part of the government’s move to implement the new Common European Framework of Reference for Languages aligned curriculum. 

If the students or teachers are not proficient in English in the first place, what can we expect to achieve by teaching those subjects in English? It was reported that 70% of the teachers who sat for the English Language Cambridge Placement Test performed poorly. 

At present, the use of English in schools is confined to English language classes and conversation with teachers. But despite studying the language for at least 11 years in school, many students are unable to master the language.    

In 2014, a World Bank economist lamented that Malaysia’s poor education system was more worrying than its household debt. The lack of proficiency in English is a big part of that. 

If we do not step up our efforts rapidly, we will continue to slip down the education ranks internationally. That would, in turn, adversely affect the economy.