Not long ago, Her Majesty Raja Zarith Sofiah Binti Sultan Idris Shah, Permaisuri Johor, had called for concerted efforts to create opportunities for the young people to study the English Language as she believes serious and urgent intervention was needed because of the dramatic and drastic decline in the proficiency of both written and spoken English among younger Malaysians in general.
Two years ago, the Ministry of Education (MOE) launched the Roadmap for English Language Education in Malaysia spanning 2015 to 2025 to align the standard of English taught in schools and institutions of higher learning with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) — an international standard that focuses on producing learners who can communicate and interact in any language.
CEFR spells out the learning outcomes/skills (e.g. understand, read, write, and communicate) students should attain at every stage of learning. Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, in his 2018 mandate, proposed that the Malaysia English Assessment (MEA) be CEFR-aligned and integrated into the communication component of the iCGPA in public universities.
To accelerate efforts to elevate the standard of English in schools, MOE announced the introduction of foreign textbooks in English Language classes at public schools starting this year as part of its initiative to align the English Language curriculum with CEFR standards. This move involves those from preschool, Years One and Two pupils, and Forms One and Two students.
Although the move received mixed reviews but many others strongly feel it is a necessary move to enhance the English Language proficiency.
“The use of foreign textbooks is cost-efficient and their contents offer a wider acceptance of other cultures and open students’ minds, providing exposure to the use of English Language in both foreign and local context,” said Siti Bahijah Bakhtiar, Senior Assistant Director in the Research Development and Innovation Centre at the Teacher Training Institute of Malaysia in Cyberjaya.
According to Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan, the ministry would buy off-the-shelf books to cater to schools because locally produced textbooks are not able to meet the new CEFR levels. Teachers are being trained and the books were already available in all schools.
However, learning languages involve more than just reading textbooks, and it is imperative to note that language is a skill; the more we practise the better we become.