Another royalty calls for English medium schools
Published on: Wednesday, May 20, 2015
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Selangor: The Johor Sultan is not the only royalty who has openly called for the introduction of English medium schools nationwide. Negeri Sembilan Prince Tunku Zain Al-Abidin Muhriz said having English-medium schools would provide an enormous, positive impact to students in particular, and society in general, especially with the advancement of science and technology, which widely uses English as the medium of instruction.The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) founder and head said Malaysia could gradually change from the current system of education.

When asked if Malaysians are ready to change to English-medium instruction, Tunku Abidin said: "Not wholesale, but incrementally, yes."

Despite his support for English-medium schools, he said that he would not necessarily insist that it be the only type of school available to Malaysian children.

"English-medium schools have the potential to bring enormous positive impacts to students and society at large, particularly in technical subjects which rely heavily on the use of English jargons, or in professional sectors in which work is internationally conducted in English," he said.

The Negri Sembilan prince also pointed out that apart from ensuring that all Malaysians can speak Malay, English and at least one other language, it is essential that schools teach our common history, without which there can be no shared destiny.

"It is essential that schools teach … the supremacy of our constitution and the institutions of our nation, and what it means to be a citizen," Tunku Abidin said.

Ideas had, on May 15, called for the government to ramp up the quality of teachers today, urging that underperforming teachers be removed immediately.

This is following the release of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)'s ranking of schools performances across 76 countries in which Malaysia is ranked at 52, well behind some of its neighbours in the region.

Ideas CEO Wan Saiful Wan Jan said that Malaysia should ensure that all 15-year-olds have basic skills in Mathematics, adding that the first step would be to move away from the current education policies and aim at bringing in new approaches to education.

He said that the fact that the government said that even underperforming teachers can remain in the system for up to three years, "it is enough time to destroy the future of thousands of children".

Meanwhile, the fact that Malaysian students are unable to pursue studies in reputable universities overseas, should have been the push factor for strong moves to improve English in schools, former lecturer of the Institute of Teachers' Education Malaysia said.

Expressing disappointment on the state of the English language in schools today, Anthony Gnanapiragasam, 73, who is also a retired teacher, said parents are losing confidence in the education system.

"We need a lot of classroom work, practice and conversations in order to improve in English proficiency.

"Today, parents are losing confidence in the education system and a majority of them cannot afford to send their children to private schools," he said.

Supporting the call of Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, Gnanapiragasam said parents should be given the choice to send their children to study in English-medium public schools.

"The Sultan of Johor is a very progressive person and His Royal Highness can see how English education has impacted the young people in Johor as they cross over the Johor Straits to study in Singapore.

"I am completely for it. But today it is more of a struggle against the political system which has led to the poor state of education in Malaysia," he said.

"If we make a comparison, Malaysians in the 1960s could speak good English and were able to quote from literary works. How many Malaysians can do the same today?"

Despite the government's move to import English native teachers to teach English in the local schools here, the English language has reportedly been students' "core weakest subject" in national assessments.

Gnanapiragasam said the idea of importing foreign teachers to teach English in our schools is "not benefitting" the students much.

"They speak in their strong English accents and our students would not be able to grasp or comprehend what is being taught.

"If our students have difficulty in learning the language from our local teachers, what more foreign teachers? The children are so lost in the classes," he said.

Gnanapiragasam also expressed disappointment at the quality of English teachers in schools today.

"The saddest thing is that there is no competence among the teachers. We do not even have quality English teachers in schools today.

"There are cases where the English teacher would quietly check certain statements with students who are proficient in English before writing the sentences on the board, to ensure that there are no grammar mistakes.

And these are qualified teachers," he said.

Gnanapiragasam added that there have been instances where parents complain that English teachers teach English using Bahasa Malaysia in class.

"How then can the situation improve?"

On May 7, Sultan Ibrahim, had, at the opening of the Johor State Legislative Assembly, suggested that Malaysia emulate Singapore's single-stream education system which uses English as the medium of instruction.

He had also said Singapore's system has proven to be successful for it has helped to unite the races, producing a society that is united as well as competitive to face future challenges.


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