Malaysia: The global language--Let's Hear It

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Jan 25 22:30:20 UTC 2009

The global language--Let's Hear It

I WAS one of the lucky students who benefited from the teaching of
Science and Mathematics in English. Now that I am doing a
pre-university course at a private college, I realise how useful
English has been for me as all my text books and reference books are
in the language. One of my college seniors who had studied in a local
school before the policy change described his first year in college as
"miserable" as he was unable to grasp all that was said during his
lectures which were conducted in English. Many in his batch and those
before, had said that it was "an ordeal" to remember and spell
scientific terms like "photosynthesis" in English.

It was during these times that the students wished they were fluent in
English. I strongly feel that we should not take a step backward and
have a situation where students have to start looking at the Internet,
or poring over the dictionary to check the meaning of basic English
terms and phrases.
Look at our public universities today. They are nowhere near the
standard they were in nearly three decades ago. None of our
universities are ranked in the world's top 200, and this is a far cry
compared to neighbouring Singapore, and the rest of Asia where the
standard is much higher.

The low English proficiency among university undergraduates is perhaps
one of the reasons why Malaysian universities don't excel as well as
the others in the region. The students are unable to learn and apply
new concepts and theories with their limited vocabulary which has an
effect on a university's overall performance. More worrying is the
high rate of unemployment among fresh graduates. Under such
circumstances, would it not be better for Education Ministry officials
to stick to the current policy? While there are complaints about
teaching methods, further training can be given to the teachers to
hone their skills.

We should also move forward by doing away with bilingual question
papers for both Maths and Science during major examinations as
teachers and students will then have no choice but to use only
English. While positive results may not come immediately, we would
surely reach the desired level of proficiency in time to come. To the
nay-sayers of the current policy, please wake up and accept this
change. We should not have an education system that will only create
jaguh kampung (village champions) who will be afraid to embrace the
challenges of a competitive world.

And to those who feel the survival of the mother tongue is a major
concern, then emphasise the teaching of these languages to every
individual as a separate subject in schools. It is not a wise move to
stop the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English.


Segamat, Johor
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