THE new academic year soon begins for primary and secondary schools. Elections are also around the corner. School-going children number approximately 4.7 million while their parents are an important vote bank.
Wave 2 of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (MEB) states that as far as the English language is concerned, an approach to enhance its proficiency is required. Thus as initiated by the Economic Council and led by the prime minister last year, two radical programmes – Highly Immersive Programme (HIP) and Dual Language Programme (DLP) – were budgeted for, piloted successfully and then gradually implemented.
There are 1,593 schools that have implemented DLP by the end of the year. We are told that HIP will be fully operational in all schools next year. However the DLP is facing a hiccup as an ongoing legal suit by several parties of a Tamil school against the Ministry of Education is hampering its progress.
One legal suit should not jeopardise the aspirations of the majority of parents who have high hopes for the future of their children. Parents do not have the resources to send their children to private or international schools where fees are exorbitant merely to enjoy more exposure to the English language.
National schools are parents’ first choice where the national language is emphasised yet importance is given to the English language through the HIP and DLP.
Parents of children in Tamil schools, too, understand the importance of DLP because of the seamless transition that will occur at secondary school and into tertiary.
The MEB 2016 annual report showed DLP benefited the students in strengthening their English language ability. A baseline study was jointly conducted by the English Language Training Centre of the Ministry of Education and Cambridge English, an affiliate of the Cambridge University. It was to determine whether or not students’ English language proficiency and teachers’ ability in English language teaching is at par or actually exceeded international standards.
The study was conducted within the partial DLP schools where 890 students were being taught DLP and 518 were not. What was most interesting was that, in the first year of the DLP implementation, it was already apparent that DLP helped rural students achieve better English language proficiency.
DLP was conducted for students in standards 1 and 4 in 2016. At the end of primary level (standard 6), students are targeted to achieve B2 level, which is the upper immediate proficiency.
The study showed that 15% of rural students with exposure to DLP reached B1 level (intermediate proficiency), only 2% of rural students without DLP reached this level. On the other end of the spectrum, 25% of non DLP rural students fell below A1 (basic proficiency targeted at end of preschool) compared to only 4% of DLP students.
The minister of education along with the director-general of the Ministry of Education should instead see the bigger picture of producing global citizens who will bring the nation forward to greater heights. They should continue to pursue DLP by approving more schools that have applied to conduct the programme which is gaining strength and has seen success during the past two years. The results speak for itself. Let us not get distracted by politics and opponents of DLP who use it to pursue their selfish agenda. DLP is an option after all.
The importance of the English language cannot be more emphasised. A recent article flagged by the World Economic Forum entitled “The Link Between English and Economics” by Christopher McCormick, published in collaboration with the Harvard Business Review, “shows a direct correlation between the English skills of a population and the economic performance of the country. Indicators like gross national income and gross domestic product go up.
In its latest edition of the EF English Proficiency Index, the largest ranking of English skills by country, we found that in almost every one of the 60 countries and territories surveyed, a rise in English proficiency was connected with a rise in per capita income.
And on an individual level, recruiters and HR managers around the world report that job seekers with exceptional English compared to their country’s level earned 30-50% higher salaries.”
We urge the prime minister, members of the Economic Council, the minister of education, and the director-general of the Ministry of Education to consider the positive long term impact of DLP and to endorse more DLP schools and give assistance where necessary to witness the transformation of English language proficiency among our children, further powering the nation’s economic growth.
Any resistance to DLP, or what may be termed as yet another infamous flip-flop, will be a major failure of the Ministry of Education to implement the world-renowned MEB in its totality.
* Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim is Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.