ENGLISH AT UNIVERSITIES: Best to sort out problem at school level
THE new teaching and learning system to be introduced in public universities to help undergraduates in their employability and marketability affected by their lack of competence in English is a timely move, but sadly would not bring about the desired results.
Learning a language is much easier, faster and effective at a younger age. The damage should have been repaired at the primary and secondary levels. Trying to repair it at the tertiary level would not achieve the desired goals.
At the tertiary level, it would be a herculean effort to improve a student's language proficiency as he or she would not have a basic grounding in the English language at the primary and secondary levels.
Furthermore, the new language system would burden undergraduates, who have to focus on their different disciplines of study.
A practical and effective approach would be to concentrate on the problem at the school level.
The teaching of English has seen much innovation and creativity in the classroom. Novel approaches and diverse techniques have been utilised to bring fun and interest into the classroom.
Foreign tutors from the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada have been brought in to help teach English in low performing schools in remote areas.
English lessons and contact hours for English in schools have been increased.
Everything has been done to improve the standard of English language in this country. All the efforts by the teachers, however, have not helped the students much in their English language learning. Why?
Students, especially those in rural areas, do not see the relevance and significance of learning the English language.
To make students learn the subject seriously, the English language subject must be made a compulsory pass subject in the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah, Penilaian Menengah Rendah and Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examinations.
The Education Ministry should also bring back English medium schools. The Parent Action Group for Education and other non-governmental organisations have been advocating this.
The ministry has to look into these options seriously, which involve drastic measures to improve English language proficiency to a higher level.
It needs political will and intervention to transform policies to raise the status of English language in this country. All other measures would be knee-jerk reactions and exercises in futility.