US agrees to send volunteer English teachers

By Lim Ai Lee, The Star

WASHINGTON: Volunteer teachers from the United States will soon be heading round the globe to teach English in Malaysia.

The US government has agreed to Malaysia’s proposal to revive its Peace Corps programme after a 21-year lapse and will send their teachers over once a mechanism has been worked out.

The move, in the wake of improved relations between both countries, will help alleviate the shortage of English teachers in Malaysia and improve proficiency of the language.

“If possible, we want to start (the programme) this year,” said Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin after a meeting with US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton on Friday.

With the nod from the US government, Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, said his Ministry could now draw up details on the implementation of the programme and present it to the Cabinet.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak first made the proposal to revive the programme when he met US President Barack Obama in September last year.

The Peace Corps, which was very popular in the 1960s, is an American volunteer programme which provides technical assistance and helps people outside the United States to understand their culture and expose Americans to the cultures of other countries.

Najib had said Malaysia was prepared to partly sponsor the programme of bringing in qualified teachers to teach English.

Clinton extended a warm welcome to Muhyiddin during their meeting on Friday, describing it as an “excellent meeting”, just like their last one in Kuala Lumpur in November.

“It is very exciting for the breadth and depth of our relationship to be on such a positive track, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with the Government and people of Malaysia for a better future,” she remarked after the meeting at the Department of State.

Speaking to journalists later, Muhyiddin said Clinton was impressed with Malaysia’s achievements and felt it could be a role model for other developing countries.

She had cited three criteria that Malaysia met for a model country – having a democratic and effective government as well as economic growth.

Muhyiddin also updated Clinton on Malaysia’s participation in the Trans Pacific Partnership which he regarded as a 21st century agreement that would further boost trade for the eight member countries.