SUBANG JAYA, May 24 — An Umno senator expressed his personal support tonight to bring back English-medium schools to improve proficiency in the language.
Khairul Azwan Harun who is also Umno Youth deputy chief said the idea was sound, but added that there likely needed to be several policy adjustments to allow it in the current education system.
"Personally I support the initiative to have more English-medium schools in the country. But, I don't know if the current policy will allow for this. There needs to be some policy adjustments," he said during a National Transformation 2050 (TN50) dialogue here.
He was responding to Parent Action Group for Education chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim who said having English-medium schools will help train better English teachers who in turn can improve the current standards in the country.
"We have failed our kids in teaching English. We have to pick up slack in schools, which is unfortunate
"What is our solution to this? Should we revisit the idea of English-medium schools to produce better teachers?" she asked.
Khairul Azwan said the main problem with Malaysians is that they were "shy" to speak in English and this can be avoided if they step out of their comfort zone and mix English with their native language.
"The problem with Malaysians is that we are very shy. We don't want be laughed at. We want to be perfect. We are afraid of committing mistakes.
"We should try and start somewhere. There is nothing wrong in encouraging the younger generation to use English together with our native tongue," he added.
TV producer Ally Iskandar meanwhile suggested that more pop culture-based English language programmes be introduced to help Malaysians embrace the language better.
"We have to think about how to make English as part of pop culture in social media. Let it be a culture and you realise you would want to learn English more and more," he said during the session.
Project Fearless' Nurul Ashiqin on the other hand said that English proficiency in the country should not be "politicised" and instead be encouraged even if speakers are not well versed in grammar.
"English shouldn't be viewed as an identity threat. You can't take away the Malaysian in us.
"Some say English will erode the national identity. Some politicians are going strong on that notion to gain popularity. My personal belief is that you should not politicise education," she stressed.
It is not just the duty of Malaysian educators to improve the country's English proficiency; the surrounding community plays an important role as well.
Myreaders programme coordinator Charis Ding said methods to empower communities to improve English in their areas should be emphasised on to ensure that even rural areas have access to good education.
"The only way to do this is to work with communities, empower children through communities by providing sustainable and structured reading programmes. It takes a community to raise a child," she said.
The round table tonight was organised by Teach for Malaysia as part of its engagement process for the TN50 programme.