Successful implementation of English is key
Posted by page-azimah on December 26 2015 23:47:53
Room for improvement
By ROZANA SANI - 11 December 2015 @ 2:35 PM

The 50-strong participant at the discussion included representatives from the Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE), the National Union of the Teaching Profession Malaysia, the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association as well as individuals.
Extended News


KUALA LUMPUR: To say students in Malaysian schools are severely challenged where English proficiency is concerned may sound like a sweeping statement. But existing data seem to prove otherwise.

In the 2013 English Lab under the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) conducted by the Performance Management & Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) of the Prime Minister's Department, 1,191 secondary schools were identified to have SPM English failure rates exceeding 23 per cent with problems particularly acute in the state of Sabah, Kelantan, Terengganu and Kedah.

PEMANDU also cited that English is students' weakest core subject in national assessments: 25 per cent of candidates failing at the UPSR (Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah) level, 23 per cent at PMR level (now called Form Three Assessment - PT3), and 22 per cent at SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia or the Malaysian Certificate of Education).

The same report also highlighted that Malaysian students perform poorly in international English exams with 50 per cent of candidates failing the 1119. This was revealed by Tengku Azian Shahriman, Director of Education and SRI (strategic reform initiative) Human Capital Development at PEMANDU, during a discussion among stakeholders on ways to improve the proficiency of English language in schools which was held in Putrajaya and hosted by Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan earlier this month.

"The poor performance continue from one level to the next in schools and come to a head at tertiary level. 62 per cent of the Malaysian University English Test (MUET) exam candidates achieve only bands 1 and 2 making them fall under the categories of "limited user" and "very limited user" of English. And their inability to use the language effectively is reflected by the fact that 48 per cent of employers reject students due to poor English," she said.

Data from the Malaysian Examination Board showed an almost consistent failure rate for English in the SPM exams since 2011. In 2011, 23.2 per cent failed the subject, 22.9 per cent in 2012, 20.0 per cent in 2013 and 22.7 per cent in 2014. It was this trend in data, among others, and the fact that 450,000 candidates sit for SPM annually that led to the postponement of making English a compulsory pass subject in the SPM examination in 2016, which was announced in August.

Malaysian Examination Board director Datin Nawal Salleh said the implication of going on with the plan of having English as a compulsory pass in SPM in the present situation is serious. "If we implement the policy, the number of students not being able to receive SPM certificates would be too high (with an estimate of 25 per cent failure in English based on the Exam Board's simulation). We cannot disadvantage them.. students who can get good credit in other subjects but fail in English cannot get their SPM certificate to continue their studies.

Repeat exam for SPM only takes place in June with results out in August. So, let's say a candidate failed his English paper in 2016 and had a resit in June, they will be denied the opportunity to further their studies which will be delayed for a year," she said.

Kamalanathan acknowledged the fact that the implementation of a compulsory pass in English for SPM cannot be postponed indefinitely and that the policy has to be implemented sooner rather than later. "This engagement with stakeholders on this matter will not be the last," he said, referring to the participants of the discussion.

"We wanted them to know why and what is being done right now, what are the initiatives taking place to ensure that this policy is being implemented. And I wanted to give them the assurance that this policy will surely be implemented. We just need a little bit more time to put a little perspective into place," he said.

The 50-strong participant at the discussion included representatives from the Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE), the National Union of the Teaching Profession Malaysia, the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association as well as individuals.

Kamalanathan said PEMANDU, the Malaysian Examination Board and Education Ministry's English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC) will sit down and discuss the input gathered from the participants of the discussion. "The entire system is all on the loop. I will meet the stakeholders here today in three or four months to give them a definite time for the must pass in English to take place," he said, emphasising that once implemented, there is no room to reverse the decision.

Get Learning Curve for more discussion on the issue of English language proficiency in schools - in the Dec 13, 2015 print edition of the New Sunday Times.

Read More : http://www.nst.com.my/news/2015/12/116794/room-improvement

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