The article by Max de Lotbiniere, ‘Malaysia drops English Language teaching’, focuses on the social aspects of the country which triggered the event. It gives a clear overview of the cause and effect of the issue and weighed the consequences of such action. While majority of the Malaysians thought that the education system, which involved the teaching of Maths and Sciences in English Language, was “a chance for Malaysia to follow the footsteps of economically successful countries”, some felt that it was overpowering the Malay culture. Opposition was voiced, building political pressure against the continuation of the educational policy. There is no doubt that the language is an essential tool for communication internationally, relevant especially in a developing country like Malaysia. However, the deteriorating grades of students and insufficient teaching resources have raised much concern amongst the critics.
A good command of the English Language is necessary for students in Singapore and this does not seem to be a hindrance to achieving good grades. Even though statistics have shown that “students who were taught Mathematics and Sciences in English were not performing as well in the National Exams as the previous cohort”, the fault may not lie in the language but rather, in the process of teaching the language. This may be due to factors such as inefficient teaching methods or the lack of encouragement in using the language, which will take time and effort to resolve. In fact, the slight decline in figures was probably only a temporary transition and does not represent the final result of the implementation of the English-medium education policy.
With reference to the educational system in Singapore, where students are expected to be proficient in both the English Language and their Mother Tongue, it is proven that being bilingual is in fact an advantage. The act of learning another language does not imply the negligence of the Mother Tongue. It is an additional tool to express one’s thoughts with and may not necessarily signify the “undermining of one’s culture”.
Besides that, the English Language has been defined as the international language in which most technical terms are expressed in. These terms are of utmost importance when it comes to bridging the global economy. Not being able to convey certain ideas or knowledge in a commonly used language is disadvantageous as translations of technical language may distort its meaning and cause miscommunication amongst speakers. The solution of “teaching English in separate language classes” may seem ideal, but this also implies that students will only be able to read and write in Basic English. This would be of minimal help in circumstances where there is collaboration between local and international companies. Therefore, the importance of English should not be disregarded if Malaysia wishes to achieve economic success.
In conclusion, the article provides a good overview of reasons as to why Malaysia had to phase out the English-medium education policy. However, personally, I feel that the pros of learning the language outweigh its cons and that more consideration has to be made before carrying out this decision. Students, especially those in rural schools, should be encouraged to learn language. Only then, a workforce of proficient English communicators will be formed, and Malaysia will be able to connect with the rest of the world and achieve economic success.
Lotbinière, M. (2009, July 10). Malaysia drops English language teaching. Retrieved September 1, 2014. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/jul/10/malaysia-tefl [online]