Monday, November 7, 2011

There goes our English

by Fuad Hafis

If you are one of the many RapidKL train commuters in KL, I’m sure you have listened to the recent announcement about the new MyRapid card in the trains. The message was simple – get a new card. But it definitely was not a simple task for the guy who did the announcement, because he can’t even speak proper English. It was full of umms, aahs, and can be considered as a noise pollution. Either RapidKL management did not have a standard script for its staff, or it’s just a side effect of relying too much on subtitles when watching TV.

And surely this has got a lot to do with our education system. Scrapping PPSMI is a bad move. But then again, why just science and mathematics? I mean, why do students get to learn English only through two subjects? Is English not important enough that it is treated as a second-class language? Maybe we should replace it with an all-English education system, like English-medium schools, for example. That would be great, yes? Youngsters can finally speak fluent English, and they can have a better future. I’m not implying that not being able to communicate in English hinders you from having a good life, but yes, hundreds of thousands of graduates out there are unemployable, so you know where I’m heading to, right? There are many job opportunities out there, yet sadly, we suck.

I’m sure all of us have seen people around us, especially youngsters, struggling to communicate in English, and that’s just a sad sight. Let alone sharing jokes that only sounds right in English, but that’s not the point. Wait, that is the point! Not being able to master this language means lack of job opportunity, holds you back socially, and most importantly you won’t be able to learn new things fast enough.

The funny thing is, I don’t think the Education Ministry understands the gravity of the situation. Its latest decision meant that students between Year Three and Form Five next year would be allowed the option of learning science and mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia, English or both languages. This would translate into millions of confused students. Does this mean that teachers can choose which language to use when teaching? And how about exams, do they have to make two sets of question papers too – one for each language? If yes, that means a lot of money. Our tax money. And even that cannot guarantee our kids English proficiency, or in other words, quality education.

That means, the circle of youngsters that will have a brighter future would be the ones brought up in English-speaking families, or the ones sent to private schools. Well, if that’s the price I’m going to pay to ensure my kids get the best education, why not? But certainly not everyone can afford the school fees that cost a bomb. In the end, only the rich can afford quality education, and would further widen the gap between classes. And it all starts with English education. See how much are we affected by one single decision by someone at the top?

So, yes, sometimes we laugh at some advertisements with terrible English and at announcers who can’t even speak properly and confidently. But it’s not their fault. You know who to blame.