Let me begin by saying, I am thankful to the Deputy Prime Minister who is also the Education Minister for addressing this very critical question "Why Bad English?" in NST 7th Aug 2011. He has also offered reasons for this problem. One of them is " Is it because the teachers are incompetent" ? It would be too simplistic to put the blame on teachers. So let's go to the root problem about teachers.

  • How are they selected?
  • How are they trained?
  • How are they evaluated?
  • How do they evaluate their students?
  • How do they teach and finally?
  • What do they teach?

And the answers to all these questions lie in the hands of our policy makers and implementers

So the solution is right at our doorstep.

1. Select teachers who have a very good command of the language. IELTS 7 would be a good benchmark of teachers. Make it attractive for those with good English Language skills to become English Language teachers. May I add that the answer is not to import teachers from UK , USA or Australia. I am confident we can tap our local talents and train.

2. Ensure their grammar is beyond reproach. Teach learners the rules and exceptions and do not comprise accuracy.

3. Evaluate the teachers without fear or favour. Increase the bar and it is OK if a few don't get through their TESL degree. They can repeat the semester. Otherwise these so called graduates of TESL will do great harm to our education system.

4 Let students know that they need to speak in English as well as write. There should not be a situation that students write well but are not able to speak.

5. Include new techniques in the delivery mode. Teaching is only done when students learn. Otherwise the teacher has failed.

6. Revamp the syllabi. The macro curriculum may be fine but the micro units need to be made meaningful to the learners.

Am I asking for the impossible. Certainly not. English in Malaysia used to be the envy of the English speaking world

Shall we get there again, please.


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