How to overcome lack of English proficiency

FMT’s Nurul Azwa Aris reports an activist says the best thing to do is to bring back English medium schools.


The Parent Action Group for Education (Page) has called for the revival of English medium schools in the country, saying there is no better way of improving the command of the English language among Malaysians.

Commenting on Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s complaint about poor English-language skills among civil servants, Page leader Noor Azimah Rahim told FMT she would suggest that the government start the revival in Sabah, Sarawak and Johor. She claimed that there would be little resistance against English schools in the three states.

The government could then pick students from such schools and send them for training as English teachers, she added.

Tengku Razaleigh, in a recent interview with FMT, said he was embarrassed to find that a lot of civil servants could not even write a simple letter in English.

Azimah suggested that applicants for jobs in the civil service be required to have a high score in English language proficiency.

She recalled that the phasing out of English medium schools in Malaysia began after May 1969 and she blamed the education minister of the time, Abdul Rahman Ya’kub. She claimed that he made the decision without the endorsement of the cabinet.

“Proficiency in the English language was allowed to deteriorate and now several generations have lost the ability to converse in it, let alone write,” she said, adding that this had been detrimental to the nation.

“We have to face the fact that Malay medium schools are unable to produce fine English language teachers,” she said.

“A society that values and places a high regard on the teaching profession will be the successful one. We had it once. It’s time to get back to that.”