Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Spicy Alternative in Education Reform

I wrote this post in response to this article on The Star. I have no idea what political motives lie beneath this action, therefore my writing is based solely on my personal account as an English teacher.

The Transformasi Pendidikan through Pelan Pembangunan Pendidikan Malaysia starting 2013 outlines the need for better-qualified teachers in our country. Based on the results of the Cambridge Placement Test conducted earlier this year, it was generalized that the number of teachers who are proficient enough to teach English is not enough to cater to the needs of the growing number of students that we have in our schools. These so-called 'incompetent' teachers will be sent on courses starting 2013 to improve their proficiency in English Language. While waiting for these teachers to become 'competent', a shortage of qualified English teachers is foreseen in our schools.

It is undoubted that this shortage requires a drastic action from the government, but I have a few questions in mind when the government decided to import English teachers from India to teach in our schools.

  1. Are these Indian teachers qualified (in terms of both English proficiency and teaching qualifications) to teach English? 
  2. If they are, on what basis and how better-qualified are they compared to our local teachers?
  3. Will they be required to take the Cambridge Placement Test prior to being exported to Malaysia?
  4. What are the measures that will be taken to ensure these teachers' full understanding of  the Malaysian education system and requirement?

I am not criticizing the government's action, but merely questioning whether this decision will ultimately benefit our students in schools. If these teachers are proven to be qualified based on the same standards required for local teachers, I have no issue against having them teaching English in Malaysia provided that they adhere to certain Malaysian standards. First, they have to fully understand the role of English in the Malaysian context as well as our education system which might differ from that of India. Second, they should be paid certain allowances but their salary should not differ greatly from that of our local teachers. They are, after all, non-native speakers like us.

Our Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, suggested this idea to his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh who welcomed it and will instruct the relevant ministry to hold discussions with the (Malaysian) Education Ministry to realize this. According to Najib, Malaysia will receive teachers from India who are fluent in English to teach our students in Malaysia. Hopefully the Malaysian Ministry of Education will set a high standard on "how fluent is fluent" as fluency is rather subjective. Also, some teaching qualifications should also be considered as Najib also highlighted that this action "would enhance the Government's efforts to alleviate the shortage of English teachers and improve proficiency in the language."


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