Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin expressed his worry over the poor command of English of Malaysian students recently. The concern is timely and understandable as English plays a very important role academically, economically and globally. Furthermore, English is widely used in the Internet world .
I would like to put forward some suggestions on how to improve the standard of English of Malaysian students.
1) A commission which includes English linguists, English teachers and students should be set up by Education Ministry to look into the problems students face in learning the language and come up with suggestions to on how to enhance students’ proficiency in English..
2)English linguists and teachers and students of various races who are bilingual in their own mother tongues and English should also be invited to join the commission because they probably know the problems and struggles faced by students in mastering the language.
3) English teachers should be properly trained on how to enhance the English proficiency of students. Preceptors play a guiding role in inspiring, encouraging and confidence building. Students should not only be told the importance of English but also the way to improve their standard of English.
4) Make students active learner, instead of passive learner of English. Current Deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong was an active learner of English where he guided the tourists visiting Malacca in English when he was a student and became the best debater in an English debating competition a few years later.
5) Set up English Language Centre in primary and secondary schools to promote the language, and the teachers in charge should devise and review the strategies and of teaching English in interesting ways to students. Ignite students’ quest to learn English, make them love English instead of hating it, make them appreciate the beauty of English.
6) So, how do we sow the seed of loving English in the hearts of students? Here are ideas which some English teachers might have already applied.
i) Education Ministry can consider creating computer games that can help them to master English while enjoying the games.
ii) Upload the news presented by students onto Youtube iii) Establish an English newspaper which is comprehensible to pupils, to which the pupils can also contribute their writings.
iii) Have an English SMS typing competition
iv )Education Ministry can produce English radio and television programmes that are really appealing to students.
v) Have school hold ‘Speak English Week’ to encourage students to speak English without feeling shy.
vi) Encourage students to write their diary in English daily or weekly.
7) IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) has to be taught. I was shocked to learn that the Chinese primary school of my hometown does not teach its pupils the IPA. I am not certain whether other schools teach their students IPA or not as I do not have the statistics. It is the most basic thing an English teacher cam pass down to his/her students, or else, the students can only write but not know how to pronounce the words they have learnt.
8) English grammar has to be taught systemically to students as grammar is the soul of English. It is proposed that an English grammar book be written for Malaysian students. Teachers should at least spend one and half hour a week on English grammar.
9) Students should be encouraged to read as widely as possible. They need prodding to read English reading materials as early as possible as reading is crucial for a student to improve his/her English proficiency. English story books which are as simple as possible should be provided in school libraries to build up students’ confidence in learning English.
10) If students were to find many difficult words in the books they read, they may lose interest and confidence in mastering English.
11)More funds should be allocated to secondary schools to buy more English newspapers like ‘The Star” ,and other periodicals“ , and have these reading materials made available to poor students and other students at large.