From Moaz Nair
English is without a doubt the most important language in the digital age.
Many of the top global economies are English-speaking nations — the US, Canada, Australia, India and the UK. These days, even Korea, Japan, China and Eastern European countries are quickly adapting to the use of English.
The digital world is impacting and influencing every aspect of our lives, from the pursuit of knowledge, social activities, the economy, artificial intelligence, security to government policies. The internet and social networks have become an integral part of modern society.
The digital age brings about a knowledge-based economy which allows countries and companies to adopt changes to generate growth.
It is also through digitalisation that communication and business transactions are made easier, cheaper and faster as it can be done across long distances via the internet.
Mastery of English
Digital technology has changed the business world and the way people use and exchange information. This is where the world needs to speak the same language.
Advancements in technology have enabled people to link up via networked computers. Companies and technology sectors around the world today depend on the ability to communicate ideas and team up with their business contemporaries. A mastery of English will intensify knowledge sharing, build rapport and enable people to grow their ideas.
Just as technology is constantly evolving due to new discoveries and applications, the English language is also growing in tandem through the development of new scientific terminology.
The digital age has seen the emergence of new business models which use a common language. As such, the country needs to catch up by making students, teachers and instructors brush up on their English language.
The government’s recent emphasis on digitalisation can only be enhanced through the proper teaching of STEM subjects (science, mathematics, information technology and communication, and design and technology).
But has the government also looked into making current our outdated school curriculum? Are our teachers equipped with sufficient digital knowledge? Are they competent enough to teach the STEM subjects in the English language?
The ministry has to look into these areas to ensure the success of its digitalisation strategy failing which students will not be able to grasp the digitisation skills to be sufficiently competitive in the global market.
Teach STEM subjects in English
The internet contributes to education by allowing students a unique access to knowledge. The days when students were restricted to the old mode of classroom teaching have long since passed.
The internet has made copious amounts of information available in English both for guided and self-learning. School curricula must adapt to these changes and teachers must be trained to facilitate the learning process.
Digital literacy skills allow students to find, use and create information online in a productive and useful way. Proficiency in the English language will help students grasp the STEM subjects with ease. English has to be the primary language of instruction for these subjects.
Having a good command of English and an understanding of digital literacy will allow students to use technology effectively.
For this reason, all students starting from the primary level have to be given the opportunity to learn STEM subjects in English.
The Dual Language Programme (DLP) introduced by the ministry should be enhanced, not scrapped. It was introduced with the clear objective of producing Malaysians who can understand and communicate in the English language and enable students to learn the STEM subjects in either English or Malay.
Let’s be honest. Making English the medium of instruction for STEM subjects is unlikely to impact a student’s command of his first language.
Every school in the country must be given the option to learn STEM subjects in English. Over time, every school and higher institution in the country must teach them in English.
Moaz Nair is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.