PETALING JAYA: An educational lobbyist said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was spot on when he recently stressed that proficiency in the English language needs to be improved.

Anwar also said while this needs to be done among students from 2024, their mastery of Bahasa Melayu should not be compromised either.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairperson Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said the English language must be taken seriously if the country is to progress economically with the rest of the world.

She said Malaysia has the “Upholding the Malay Language and Strengthening the English Language” policy and there are two important programmes for English, which are the Highly Immersive Programme (HIP) and Dual Language Programme (DLP).

“We want to see DLP reviewed and reinforced as we noticed numerous conditions have been put in place to discourage parents from opting for it,” she said, adding that parents who prefer DLP for their children face intimidation from schools.

She also said this goes against the statement made by the prime minister and that the success of HIP depends on the inclination of school leaders. Noor Azimah suggested secondary schools nationwide be turned into English medium schools to produce English language teachers from the B40 group.

“Entice school leavers with a scholarship abroad and an attractive contract to teach English.”

National Association of Private Educational Institutions secretary-general Dr Teh Choon Jin said he agrees with Anwar’s statement.

He said while maintaining the position of Bahasa Melayu as the national language, it is also important to master English as it is the language of power and economic development.

“We must not forget the English language serves as a lingua franca in the global arena. A lot of research publications, including scientific and technological findings, are published in the language.”

Teh also said it is important for Malaysians to be proficient in English apart from Bahasa Melayu, adding that in 2016, DLP was introduced as a key component of the “Upholding the Malay Language and Strengthening the English Language” policy, which allowed selected schools to teach Science and Mathematics in English.

He added that while more schools should adopt DLP, there is a shortage of trained teachers to teach Science and Mathematics in English.

“Expanding the adoption of DLP is crucial for meeting the preferences of parents who seek schools providing this bilingual approach.”

Teh said addressing the dearth of qualified English teachers will be pivotal in ensuring the success and sustainability of the programme, adding that schools can play a role by encouraging students to read English books to improve their command of the language.

He also said activities that encourage the use of English can be implemented, such as a dedicated day in a week for English usage.

“While Malaysians can converse in English, we should go beyond this and be proficient in the language,” he said, adding that schools should take the initiative to supplement the learning of English with online classes or digital learning materials to address the gap in English proficiency among students.

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