PETALING JAYA: Experts have recommended increasing the hours for English lessons to be taught in school and boosting the quality of its teachers to help realise Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s goal of improving students’ mastery of the English language.
T Marimuthu told FMT the current 200 minutes a week allotted for the English syllabus is not enough study time if the government’s goal is to improve mastery of the language.
Marimuthu, of Asia e-University, suggested more time for English lessons to improve students’ exposure to the language, accompanied by a dual language programme for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“The government should look into it. Many parents want their children to study (STEM subjects) in English,” he said, adding that English is the prime medium of communication in this area.
On Nov 23, Anwar emphasised the need for the national education system to improve students’ mastery of English starting next year.
“A child of Malaysia must master Bahasa Malaysia. At the same time, all our children, especially at national schools, must be given focus so that their mastery of English is much better than it is now, so that they can at least be bilingual,” he said.
Marimuthu said it is also important to enhance the quality of teaching by providing adequate training for teachers.
“Teachers must be given training in how to teach English as a second language. Teaching English as a second language is specialist training,” he said.
Yunus Yasin, president of the Association of Science Technology and Innovation, said learning English alone will not improve students’ mastery of the language.
He said there should be more events or activities in schools to encourage students to speak English.
“English speaking week or English speaking day is far better than having thicker English textbooks,” Yunus told FMT.
He said encouraging students to speak English in dedicated activities would enable them to “think in English”, ultimately improving their proficiency.
However, the education ministry must make more effort to foster an environment for interracial interaction.
He said the segregation commonly observed in schools, where students often stay within their own racial groups, poses a challenge to achieving English proficiency.
In such settings, students tend to communicate more in their mother tongue, impeding the development of English language skills.
Both Marimuthu and Yunus said the ministry should avoid increasing passing marks and making English a mandatory credit for SPM.