By Philip Yong Kee Chung (www.philipyong.net)
Dear Tan Sri,
I am writing this letter with regard to your question thrown to the public for discussion; the question on whether a pass in the English language should be made mandatory to pass the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM).
Before I pursued my higher education at a private institution, for the whole of my schooling life I was enrolled in a local public school. Therefore, with my eleven (11) years of experience in public institutions, I think I am qualified to give my point of view of what I would call a highly significant issue.
Whenever I had an English language examination in school, I would score with flying colours and I was indeed very proud of myself. But that was until I pursued my higher education at a private institution. When I was told that I was required to take the subject in college, I was very reluctant to do so, thinking that my proficiency in the language is above standard. I was furious but had to comply in the end. During my very first lesson, I finally understood why the institution insisted on us taking the subject. In simple words, the standard of English in public schools is definitely not on par with those in private institutions. Therefore, the first thing your Ministry should do is to review the standard of the language taught in public institutions.
In my opinion, I do not think that the English Language is hard to master. If we go by the Malay proverb, ‘Melentur buluh biarlah dari rebungnya’, I believe it is achievable. In this state of reality, we should never teach our children to avoid the problem but should instead teach them to tackle the problem. If their proficiency in the language is not up to par then their parents or even the government should do something to help improve it and not just lower the standard of language in the public institutions.
I would say that I am fortunate to be born into an English-speaking family. If not, I seriously think that my proficiency of the language would be much worse than how it is today. Although I agree that this is the role of the parents, the government is also accountable for this issue. Until this very moment, I do not agree that a pass in English should be made mandatory to pass SPM for the fact that the level of English of many Malaysians are still not up to standard even for the very easy SPM. The government should first tackle the root of the problem which again is the proficiency of the English language of the citizens of Malaysia.
My point of view may seem very common but I believe it is what many ordinary Malaysians share. Until today, many of the issues mentioned above have been raised but still no action taken. Even if there were action taken, I do not think those actions were of much help. Let me raise a point that we are a developing country. If, as a developing country, our citizens’ proficiency of the English Language is not up to par with developed countries then how will we actually be able to achieve Tun Dr Mahathir’s Vision 2020?
Last but not least, I sincerely hope that your ministry will look into these matters seriously. I thank you for your patience in reading this letter. My sincere apologies if I had made any mistakes in my above writings. Thank you.