IT was interesting to read the letters on English fluency in NST on Oct 9 (“Fluency in English will boost our global stature” and “Make it natural for students to learn the language”).
One writer called for English to be spoken “naturally”, but did not elaborate how it should be done.
How can English be spoken naturally in sekolah kebangsaan?
Maybe one or two schools can do it due to discipline imposed by the headmaster. Usually, this takes place in fully residential schools.
Other than that, it is Bahasa Melayu all the way as the sekolah kebangsaan environment is typically Malay, where most of the students are Malay, despite it being a national school.
Even with the Dual Language Programme in place, I have my doubts.
It may help a bit, but will never produce students who can speak English naturally.
Those who went to English schools in the 1960s can testify that by going only to English-medium schools can one speak English naturally.
Even the most unacademically inclined student, upon completing his Malaysian Certificate Examination, could speak English naturally, unlike today’s graduates of sekolah kebangsaan.
Look at those born with a silver spoon and who are sent to English schools and then continue their education in the United Kingdom. Or just look at our ambassadors’ children who are fortunate enough to study abroad. Not only do they speak English naturally, some of them even speak Spanish and German as their parents were posted there.
Given the present situation, short of reintroducing English-medium schools, what can we do? As an old timer who had studied in English schools, I am afraid nothing much can be done to instil English fluency into students. Maybe the lucky few, who, after completing Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, will be sent abroad, and learn to speak fluent English. Those who end up in local universities will have a difficult time.
The government should consider reintroducing English-medium schools on a small scale using the Cambridge syllabus, if we are dead serious in wanting future generations to speak “naturally” and fluently in English.