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The plan to upgrade Malaysia's education system should include upgrading the teaching of English

Press Comment
Dr Tan Seng Giaw

(Kuala Lumpur, Friday): , The Indians in India continue to use English as the official language and the Chinese in China have English lessons for the masses. Scandinavians, Belgians, Dutch and others often speak English fluently.

While we have to master our mother tongue, we must be proficient in other languages especially English.

In our polyglot society, we ask the Government to treat schools of all streams fairly. We encourage the mastery of many languages. We found it unacceptable that the Government systematically expunged English from 1970. By the early 80s, English schools were eradicated. The DAP was vilified for championing the preservation of English in addition to mother tongue.

To call a spade a spade, I remember Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad spoke in Parliament in the 80s on the importance of English. Nevertheless, for various reasons, he was caught up in the system that only stressed Bahasa Malaysia. Perhaps, he should let us know what was he up against then.

Yesterday, Tun Mahathir rehashed his view on English at the Ninth MSC International Advisory Panel meeting, by saying:

"There is a need for English to be completely mastered because the instructions are no longer going to be simple.

"It is unfortunate perhaps for the language nationalists but that is the reality today. They must not blight the future generations by objecting to the mastery and usage of the English language. They must not obstruct Malaysia's progress and development."

Some of the 18 public universities are dithering on the conversion from BM to English in the teaching of Maths and science. Students who learn English Maths and Science at Sixth Form are in practical dilemma when they enrol in universities that are not ready to offer English Maths and Science.

We need better methods, better teachers and lecturers in the teaching of English and other subjects using English as the medium such as Maths and Science.


* Tan Seng Giaw, DAP National Deputy Chairman and MP for Kepong

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