Go ahead and revamp English, but remember teachers are not slaves

cikgu-teacher-guru-1By FMT Reader

Attempts to revamp our English education have hurt many, especially the teachers and students who are at the bottom of the food chain.

For starters, each school is equipped with only one copy of the teacher’s edition of the new Common European Frame­work of Reference for Languages (CEFR) Pulse 2 English textbook. To have their own copy, teachers must fork out their own money to foot the hefty price of RM150 per book. A concept that is not foreign to our teachers, unfortunately. This is a very interesting move indeed as teachers in each school would need as much help as they can as the textbook is almost word for word a copy of that sold in the UK. From the content of the culturally influenced words, this book is made for a UK audience.

Now, some might argue that English is a lingua franca, a language spoken by many. Surely a couple of confusing words and dialects i.e. rubber/eraser, sneakers/trainers, jumpers/sweaters would not discourage learning. Some might say it is more interesting. Let’s remember that the students are all second-language learners. One could argue that the language items they would need to learn to communicate in an authentic setting would be something that is applicable to them.

It would not be a stretch to have content that is more inclusive to celebrate our heritage and culture. At the very least, the inclusion of Malaysian contexts in which students can incorporate realistic English language usage – i.e. writing application letters for scholarships, requesting information from a corporate body or even simply giving direction to someone who is also a second language speaker of English while they are travelling in Malaysia – are needed.

Apart from this non-inclusive fiasco, English teachers are also expected to incorporate the use of Bahan Bacaan Hebat (BBH) in their lessons, from Form 1-5. Now, this is another gem. BBH is a 20-unit module in the form of PDF kindly prepared by the education ministry. It is great that the government has adopted a green initiative to limit its expenditure by adopting the non-paper route. However, let us be realistic for a bit. How do our children access this 485-page book if it’s in PDF in the classroom? The answer couldn’t be more simple: once again, the burden falls on the shoulders of our teachers. That, and their unyielding resourcefulness.

To spin it in a positive light, we might say that this is an initiative to encourage our teachers to think outside the box. After all, this is the 21st century. Teachers are expected to be not just a Jack of all trades but a master of all. Surely our teachers would become multi-talented. I mean, why wouldn’t they? They are already doing so much. From finding the funds to print these mandatory materials to other clerical work and even extracurricular responsibilities, I think they are at the top of their game.

Simply put, please consider the future of our kids before you implement any changes without extensive study, careful planning, and contingency plans. These kids are not a bunch of lab rats. Teachers are not your slaves.

Sincerely,

A Malaysian.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.