Don’t blame us for students’ poor grasp of English, say Sabah, Sarawak teachers

Sabah Teachers’ Union vice-president Susan Attau (fourth from left) with other Sabah and Sarawak teachers’ union representatives at the NUTP English Education Seminar in Kuala Lumpur recently.

KOTA KINABALU: Teachers in Sabah and Sarawak are backing the stand of the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) that it is unfair to only blame teachers for students’ poor English language proficiency.

A joint committee involving four teachers’ unions from both states is also against the education ministry’s directive for English language option teachers to sit for the Malaysian University English Test (MUET).

The committee comprises the Sabah Teachers’ Union (STU), Kesatuan Guru-Guru Kerajaan Sabah (KGKS), Kesatuan Guru Bumiputera Sarawak (KGBS) and Sarawak Teachers’ Union.

Speaking on behalf of the committee, STU vice-president Susan Attau said the four unions, which attended a NUTP English Language seminar on May 19, want to meet Education Minister Maszlee Malik over the issue.

“This is to allay the concerns among English teachers in the country.”

She added that the education ministry should focus on the main issue, which was the shortage of English language option teachers, instead of requiring existing teachers to undergo the MUET, which would question the teachers’ level of proficiency.

Recently, NUTP president Aminuddin Awang said a comprehensive study to determine the cause of poor English Language proficiency among school children was needed instead of continuously blaming teachers for the problem.

Aminuddin said there might be other factors causing the poor grasp of English among schoolchildren, adding that making English language option teachers to sit for the MUET might not be the best solution.

He mentioned that at present it was not compulsory to pass English at the SPM level.

On April 14, education director-general Amin Senin had issued a circular to English language teachers to take the MUET paper.

He said this was to review their level of English proficiency, in line with the requirements set out in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025.

According to the circular, all English language teachers should be at the minimum proficiency level of C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

He had also said that 20,634 teachers had yet to sit for any test to determine their level of English proficiency and, therefore, they were urged to sit for MUET.

Susan said the education ministry must specify exactly who needed to sit for the MUET, adding varying statements had made the matter confusing.

“Do English language option teachers need to sit for this exam? And if the teachers who go for the MUET in November 2019 do not achieve the set level of competency, what will the implications be?

“What follow-up action will be taken by the ministry against them? Will they then be disallowed from teaching English indefinitely?”

Susan also asked whether it was reasonable for English teachers who were university graduates and who had sat for the Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) to also take MUET.

She added the Malaysia Education Blueprint by the ministry did require English teachers to achieve at least C1 proficiency but there was no mention about taking MUET.

She said the blueprint outlined that all 61,000 English teachers would undergo the Cambridge Placement Test (CPT) in two years. Those who fail to reach the specified standard will have to undergo intensive training to raise their competence.

The CPT is to ensure English teachers have skills on a par with international standards.