A GLOBALLY-RECOGNISED framework does not make English curriculum less Malaysian. I refer to the article, “Adopt a Malaysian framework”, by Kamarul Kabilan (NST, May 28).
The writer makes a case for rejecting the Malaysian University English Test to assess the proficiency of English language teachers.
He attempts to make a case against the use of the Common European Framework of Reference, or CEFR.
I find that his arguments are based on false assertions and may derail attempts by the Education Ministry to arrest
the declining standard of English.
CEFR is an international standard for describing language ability. Initially, it was not meant for use in English language education. But this should not be viewed as a flaw or weakness. Since the development of CEFR in a European setting, it has evolved into the areas of language teaching, learning and assessment. CEFR is a research-driven framework, which is drawn upon for English language education in more than 40 countries, including in Asia.
The writer keeps falling back on the argument that we risk drawing on “European cultural values and elements” that are “different from the multicultural context of Malay-sia”.
CEFR does indeed inform the syllabus design for English in the new education curricula, but there is no evidence that the ministry has abandoned the Malaysian philosophy of education by having CEFR inform the syllabus for English in our schools.
The writer and other like-minded academics would probably point out the use of the imported English language textbooks in our schools as evidence that we are choosing “European cultural values
and elements” over local content.
The fact is we need CEFR-aligned textbooks to support the teaching and learning English.
Our textbook writers and teachers need time to build their expertise in developing local content that is CEFR-aligned.
While this process is taking place, we turn to books that are in the international market and train teachers to supplement textbook-based lessons with local-content material.
A quick look at the schemes-of-work designed by the ministry will provide evidence of this balance between textbook based and non-textbook based lessons, which allow our teachers to bring local content to the classroom.
The lack of locally published CEFR-aligned textbooks should not delay the reform in English language education in the country.
If CEFR is a framework that has been tried and tested globally, let us come on board and see how we can make it our own and have it work for us.
Drawing on a well-established framework such as the CEFR provides us with a take- off point to make it our own.
The ministry has invested time and resources to develop a CEFR-aligned curriculum. CEFR does not stand in the way of us taking ownership of English language education in Malaysia.