KUALA LUMPUR: Some schoolchildren in Kelantan are being taught to pronounce the word ‘cucumber’ as “Chu Chum Ber”.
They are also being told by their teachers that hibiscus should be pronounced “Hee Bis Coose”.
This was the startling claim made by a Dewan Negara senator today in relation to the supposedly poor standard of English teachers in Kelantan schools.
Senator Khairiah Mohamed said the problem is only the tip of the iceberg as students are exposed to countless grammatical errors.
She said the problem arose as the state has failed to attract qualified English teachers.
“Many schools in Tanah Merah are forced to fill in the English teaching positions with unqualified teachers in that subject.
"They do not have enough English teachers and as such, assign any teacher to teach English," she said during a question-and-answer session at the Senate.
The move, she said, has caused confusion among students whom might have otherwise been capable of pronouncing English words correctly.
Khairiah urged the government to view the matter seriously and take immediate action.
In response, Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan said the government was aware of the issue and has taken immediate steps to overcome the problem.
"We are aware that such problems exist. We have taken immediate steps to tackle it," he said.
One of the measures, he said, was to train 13,000 teachers to teach English in schools which are experiencing a shortage of qualified teachers.
"The programme will continue and we will see better quality of English taught in schools," he said.
He said retired teachers have also been approached for the task. However, he said these retiree teachers prefer to teach in areas in which they currently reside.
"We are also seeking the help of housewives who are proficient in English to help teach the subject.”
To overcome the shortage of teachers, Kamalanathan said the ministry has introduced virtual learning programmes and provide additional learning materials to schools.