[lg policy] Malaysia: Support for move to make English credit compulsory for SPM

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jun 10 17:09:51 UTC 2009

Support for move to make English credit compulsory for SPM
Meena L. Ramadas

PETALING JAYA (June 9, 2009) : The Education Ministry’s initiative to
make a pass in English compulsory for students to obtain their Sijil
Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) has been enthusiastically supported by
several quarters.  The National Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) and
the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) said the move
must, however, be accompanied by good groundwork for policy efficacy.

"It is a good move that will ensure a good future for students.
However, positive action to create a good foundation is needed," said
National PTA chairman Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Ali Hassan. "It is already a
core subject and it is a knowledge-based, global language. So, the
language must be mastered by the young."

The ministry is now drafting a proposal while getting public feedback
concerning the move to make a pass in English as a compulsory
requirement to attain the SPM certificate. "We welcome the statement.
But, there needs to be good preparation before policy change and this
involves good groundwork and separation," said NUTP secretary-general
Loke Yim Pheng. Both parties agreed that improving English language
proficiency among teachers is the vital step towards the policy

"First, the standard of English among teachers must be improved.
Students must also have a good foundation in grammar and vocabulary.
This way, it will be easier for students to master English," said
Loke. Mohd Ali urged the government to provide better facilities and
infrastructure such as English labs and supporting materials like
enriching textbooks, software implementation and also computer

He suggested a change of leadership in schools to ensure only
principals of high caliber are employed to lead schools. Schools
should also offer incentives to teachers who teach Mathematics and
Science in English and practice supplement activities such carrying
out drama and debating in English. The English language has decreased
in quality over the years in schools due to the fact that passing
English was no longer made compulsory to obtain the SPM certificate.
Students were taught communicative English, thus grammar was not

Over time, the present teachers in schools only have basic level
English skills which is unsatisfactory. The impending teachers that
now enter teacher training institutes are also taught communicative
English. Teachers are now inept to teach the language and many
students lack the necessary skills to comprehend the language. "The
teachers in schools aren’t proficient enough in English to be
teaching. They also don’t have the right attitude. There is no urge to
master the English language," said former school teacher and
Universiti Malaya lecturer Asiah Mohd Sharif.

The ministry had implemented the policy to teach Science and
Mathematics in English in an effort to increase the English
proficiency level among school students. However, this policy is being
criticised by some quarters who are pro-Bahasa Malaysia.
"Actually, they (the ministry) should make it compulsory to pass
English at Standard Six (UPSR) or Form Three (PMR) because learning
English is a cumulative process," said Asiah. However, she noted, not
all schools have good teachers, especially the rural schools.


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