[lg policy] Malaysia: Ridding compulsory pass was big mistake

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri May 29 15:05:19 UTC 2015

Ridding compulsory pass in English was big mistake
 Published on: Friday, May 29, 2015

  *Kota Kinabalu:* The government should maintain English not just as a
compulsory subject to take but also compulsory to pass so that people will
take it seriously, said a language policy expert.

Prof Datuk Dr Saran Kaur Gill said if English was not compulsory to pass
many people would not take it seriously, especially in the rural areas
where they cannot see the impact and value of it.

"It's different maybe for the urban areas and for those who come from
middle-income environments, the parents would push the children but not
those who don't have the awareness.

"This is why every time, every step of the way, when you look at the
history of language policy in Malaysia, you cannot deal with one without
the other," said Gill who is Professor of Macro-Sociolinguistics (Language
Policy and Planning) at the School of Language Studies and Linguistics at
the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities in Universiti Kebangsaan
Malaysia (UKM).

Discussing her work on language policy and view on the country's transition
in the medium of instruction (English to Bahasa Malaysia), she said one
cannot deal with the role of English in Malaysia without dealing with the
role of Bahasa Melayu.

"You see we are a colonial country. Like most colonial countries, the
medium of instruction, the set-up of the educational system was largely in

"Then, when you attain independence, there is a strong feeling for many
nations to want to exert their sense of nationalism and one of the main
ways that is exerted is through developing your national language, which
usually is the language of the dominant ethnic group, Bahasa Melayu," she

In the process to establish the national language, it had to compete with
English, which is a strong international language.

"That is why the government had to reduce its (English) role.

You know many people cannot understand why they did that but that is the
main reason," said Gill who had authored several books with the latest
entitled Language Policy Challenges in Multi-Ethnic Malaysia.

"It moved from the medium of instruction to become a language subject which
was not even compulsory to pass – just compulsory to take (and) it has just
become compulsory to pass again.

"Therein lay the biggest mistake the government made.

It's okay if you want to reduce the profile of English and reduce it to a
subject but you have to still maintain that it should be compulsory," she

Meanwhile, in KUALA LUMPUR, improving education in science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics (Stem) subjects by all governments is one of
the five recommendations made at the International Science, Technology and
Innovation Centre for South-South Cooperation (ISTIC)-Unesco International
Forum and Seminar on the United Nations' (UN) Post-2015 Development Agenda.

ISTIC Governing Board chairman Datuk Dr Lee Yee Cheong said the other four
recommendations were education ministries should implement small scale but
high quality pilot project on proven hands on inquiry-based methods of
science teaching and more time be given for science subjects to enable
teachers to carry-out inquiry-based science approaches.

He said schools should be given greater autonomy in choosing textbooks and
science curriculum, and Stem teachers should have access to continuous
professional development on delivery methods to encourage enquiry thinking.

The recommendation was made with reference to the United Nations
Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDG) No.4, which is to ensure inclusive
and equitable quality education and promote life-long learning
opportunities, he said.

A total of 350 delegates from 33 countries participated in the three-day
forum and seminar.


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