Public Varsities Still Struggling with English
Some first year students in our public universities are finding themselves in the sticky situation of having to revert back to the Bahasa Malaysia (BM) medium of instruction in some of the science and maths based subjects they are taking. For example, lecturers in Universiti Malaya (UM) and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) have been reported to conduct their lectures in BM to first year engineering students.
For these students, it must be pretty confusing. They were taught Science and Maths in BM from Form 1 to Form 5. When they went to Form 6, they had to study the two subjects in English for their STPM exam. And now that they have managed to get into our local universities, some of these students had to revert back to BM in the lecture halls because their lecturers were not competent or confident enough to teach in English!
The Sunday Star today reported that a ministry official and former lecturer acknowledged that "some lecturers just have closed minds and are not keen to learn anything new. They are so set in their ways that they do not know how, and do not wish to find out how, they can do things otherwise."
Even the Malaysia Academic Movement president Assoc. Prof. Dr. Wan Abdul Manan Wan Muda was quoted as saying that the lecturers' different levels of proficiency in English made the task of switching to English difficult, if not near impossible. He said, "We are talking about academics who have been teaching in Bahasa Malaysia for the last 20 years. To ask them to suddenly make the switch is going to be difficult" and "Not everyone agrees that lessons should be in English. Those who disagree will just continue to teach in BM."
I am just wondering whether in their haste to re-introduce English as the medium of instruction in Science and Mathematics in our schools, did the Ministry of Education thought of the readiness of our tertiary institutions to also adopt such a radical approach in its efforts to raise the proficiency of English among our graduates. Come to think of it, perhaps the same could also be said of our teachers who are also struggling to teach the 2 subjects in English with their own weak command of the language? I mean, if university lecturers are having a tough time trying to make the switch from BM to English, what about all those non-graduate primary and secondary school teachers? Who then is going to suffer from having to learn the two subjects in "broken" and half-baked English?
Perhaps the proposal by Dong Jiao Zong (DJZ) to scrap teaching English and Mathematics in English and instead to increase the number of hours allocated to teaching the English subject and revamp the English language syllabus is a better solution for all concerned. After all, how could learning Maths & Science in English improve one's grammar and understanding of the fine nuances of the language? Isn't it better to go back to the basics of teaching English as it was taught in the olden days? Actually, if we look at the English language syllabus being taught in Singapore schools, we can have an idea of the sort of stuff we used to have in our schools in the old days.
Just teach English as it should be taught to raise the proficiency level of our students. Have more hours to teach the subject and re-train our teachers to approach the subject in the right manner. When our students have mastered the English subject, they can tackle any other subject in English at the tertiary level without any problem whatsoever. In the meantime, we have to be careful that we do not dig a hole for ourselves and end up on the short end of the stick where our students fail miserably in mastering not only English, but Science and Mathematics as well.