Education Minister cum Deputy PM Muhyiddin Yassin has come out with this preposterous proposal i.e. to import 300 English tutors from the United States to teach English in schools at a cost of RM 18 million. I remembered, when I began learning English at primary school, it wasn’t a teacher from England that taught me the language. It was our very own teacher from Malaya that taught me English. That was back in the late 40’s and early 50’s.
Now in the era of the new millennium, Malaysia that is heading towards a develop nation status is importing English tutors, not from traditional England, India or Sri Lanka, but from the US. And don’t Muhyiddin know that with US English tutors, our students will end up more confused with different English spellings? This was something similar to what the Malay language had gone through i.e. Bahasa Melayu, Bahasa Baku and finally Bahasa Malaysia. Mana satu yang betul, saya pun tak tahu.
I was in India attending a staff course and we had students from most of the Commonwealth, Middle Eastern, and European countries. Most spoke and wrote English the British way. The odd US officer on the course was a bit confused at the way our Indian instructors delivered and wrote their instructions. Of course, the Indians wrote perfect English, the way that we were taught by our own teachers at school in the early days. If I could remember, most of my English teachers were Indians right through my secondary class. This was not at all surprising because during pre independent days, English teachers were brought in from India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).
I do not know why Muhyiddin preferred US English tutors? Don’t tell me that Jamaludiin Jarjis, our Ambassador in the US has something to do with this. Why not try bringing in English teachers from India and there will be thousands willing to come here to teach at a much cheaper rate; and certainly a much needed saving for the government. The other benefit is that these Indian teachers can assimilate themselves quite easily with Malaysians because there are many Malaysians of Indian origin, and the food is somewhat similar. Other than that I think, their personal demands will be much less than US tutors.
The idea of importing English language tutors is a sign of desperation and a failure of our education system. This is what happens when we appoint ministers who are not an educationist, and upon their appointment they would be thinking of what policies to make to be left as their ‘legacy’. Normally such policies are good only for the short term and it does not really matter its impact on students on the long term. The use of the Malay language itself is a sterling example.
Speaking of the Malay language, I remembered being a Directing Staff at the Malaysian Armed Forces Staff College (MAFSC) where I was directed to take a syndicate (class) of officers who are less proficient in the English language. These are officers who were ‘victims’ (through no fault of theirs) of the change of our education policy that emphasizes upon the use of Bahasa Malaysia in schools, rather than English.
I was totally unprepared to take on this responsibility; not that I do not know Bahasa Malaysia, but all along the military courses that I had attended were in English. Furthermore, the teaching manuals used at MAFSC were entirely in English, and worse still there were no reference on military terminologies for military tactics in Bahasa Malaysia. There is a saying in the military that ‘military tactics is purely the understanding of military terminologies’. You understand terminologies, you will understand tactics. To end the confusion, the class and I decided to do a mix i.e. to use both English and Bahasa Malaysia.
To Muhyiddin, I have this to say i.e. it would be better for the long term to start getting our very own teachers to teach English. Of course, they need to be properly trained and if we can train them to be experts in the language, their expertise can be gainfully used for a life time. We have actually being left behind in the use and proficiency of the English language compared to our neighbours, and I remembered a retired Malaysian Ambassador say this to me, “ Arshad, I had difficulties in getting my young graduate staff officers to write good and proper English. In the end, I have to do their job”.
Let us now be consistent with our policies, and leaving behind a legacy is not what we want of ministers.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION