IT is heartwarming when individuals emphasise the importance of mastering English and teaching of the language in schools and institutions of higher learning.
This time round, as reported in the New Sunday Times recently, Permaisuri Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah said mastering English was important today because business and politics globally were conducted in English.
One of the reasons for placing such great importance in the language is Her Majesty’s experience, such as her ability to communicate and deliver her speeches to English-speaking audience overseas.
She uses English in other engagements with the people, locally and overseas, to full effect and to her advantage.
Not too long ago, the same importance and emphasis of English in the conduct of business and politics internationally was given by the sultan of Johor.
The government, through the Education Ministry, has allocated more teaching periods for
English and producing more teachers to cater for the demand.
The bottom line is whether these teachers or lecturers are competent to teach the language.
Many English graduates teaching in schools and colleges cannot teach, write and speak English proficiently.
In short, we have not seen the results.
Many students, including
those in tertiary education, take a lackadaisical attitude in
learning and improving their English.
One of the reasons could be attributed to the fact English is not a pass subject in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, unlike Bahasa Malaysia.
Reasons offered were that rural students may not be able to compete with urban students due to the unavailability of English teachers and teaching facilities.
Therefore, the importance of mastering English remains an optional decision to boost marketability.
Countries that once sidelined English are beginning to realise they have to emphasise the importance of the language in schools and universities to give an edge to the next generation to compete globally.
China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have woken up to the fact they will lose out in the global economy if their businessmen, politicians and representatives cannot speak or write the language.
These four economic giants took drastic but decisive steps about 40 years ago to ensure students in schools and universities were taught English.
These days, we seldom find expatriates from these four countries who are not able to speak or
write simple communicable English, unlike their elder generation.
We have responded passively and indecisively as what we see today. The teaching and emphasis on English have not gained a foothold in the education system.
Failure to adhere to sound approaches in teaching English,
neglect, half-hearted emphasis and indifference towards mastering English will see our younger generation fail in the market.
Many graduates who fail to master English cannot help their employers.
That is a sad fact that ought to shake the authorities to act decisively for our future generation.
DR TAN ENG BEE
Babies & Casa Montessori International Preschool, Kuala Lumpur