Please, Don’t Turn Our Children Into Guinea Pigs

Art Harun

Some years ago, my friend interviewed a local graduate for pupilage. The interviewee spoke flawless Bahasa Malaysia. He carried himself well and answered all my friend’s questions confidently.

Until, of course, my friend started speaking English. He asked the interviewee, “Why did you read law?” The interviewee looked into my friend’s eyes for a moment and appeared to be in deep thought. Finally he said, “Because I want pass my exam.”

Let’s face it. The standard of spoken and written English among our students nowadays is abysmal. I belong to the last batch of students in government schools from the “English stream”. That means we studied Maths and Science in English and took the “Lower Certificate of Education” in Form 3; the “Malaysian Certificate of Education” in Form 5 and the “Higher School Certificate” in Form 6. Even then, as I entered the university, I realised that my level of English proficiency was inadequate. My English was nowhere as good as the standard of English of students from urban areas and well-to-do families.