Monday, December 15, 2014

Poor English proficiency: Why is Muhyiddin baffled and surprised?

 (Top right): Muhyiddin
15/12/2014 - 14:00      

Sonia Ramachandran

PETALING JAYA: English is the lingua franca of the world and having a good command of it, especially as the world becomes increasingly borderless and with most literature available on the Internet being in English, would put one in good stead on the world stage.
But if the teaching hours of the subject is halved in schools, how can you blame graduates for having a poor command of the said language, especially since English is not the language most Malaysians speak at home?
Which is why Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairperson Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim is surprised that Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister, is reportedly “baffled” over the continued poor command of English among students.
Noor Azimah said students would have shown a marked improvement in English proficiency today had the PPSMI (the Teaching of Science and Mathematics in English) policy not been abolished in 2009.
“You can see that students from schools that had pursued PPSMI are at an advantage in universities. In fact, university lecturers themselves have shared this with us.
“Now with a higher Malaysian University English Test (MUET) score for entrance into public universities, students from schools which abolished PPSMI are now suffering due to the lack of vision on the part of the principals who on their own opted for Bahasa Malaysia without consulting parents and students,” she said.
After 2009, the PPSMI policy was in its “soft-landing” stage, which meant that the last batch of students in Year One in 2010 would have the “option” of learning Science and Mathematics in English until they reach Form Five in 2020.
This is apparently according to a Nov 4, 2011 circular issued by the Education Ministry.
It is understood however that school principals were the ones making the final decision on the medium of instruction that would be used, with no input from students or parents.
“With PPSMI, the students were supposed to learn scientific English and at the same time converse in the language during lessons. When you take that away from them, of course they will suffer as they are unable to practice the language anymore.
“Under PPSMI, 40 per cent of the subject lessons were taught in English. With the abolition of the policy, exposure to English in lessons is only 20 per cent. If it’s cut in half, how can it be better?” asked Noor Azimah.
Muhyiddin had reportedly said that there is “something not right” when students are still struggling with English when they enter universities as they should have been able to master basic English during their time in school.
“When they enter university, English should no longer be a problem and the focus should be on up-scaling, polishing and improving their command of the language,” Muhyiddin was quoted as saying.
The minister said he did not know the root cause of the problem as the students spend up to 19 years learning English, adding that it could be due to the quality of teachers and interest of students.
Muhyiddin said Bahasa Malaysia should not be blamed for the standard of English in the country.
Noor Azimah had this to say: “I am surprised that the minister is surprised. Had he done his mathematics (with English exposure cut in half), he would have known the outcome would be disastrous.”
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