Images of the circular dated July 31, 2017 issued by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Research.
KUCHING: Bandar Kuching MP and Kota Sentosa assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen has branded the state government’s move in asking all 82 elected representatives to adopt a school to improve the level of proficiency in the English language as ‘the most ridiculous of policies’
Chong, also state Democratic Action Party (DAP) chairman, said such suggestion would not work. He also viewed it as an admission of the failure on the part of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government that its education policies have failed to improve the level of English proficiency among students.
He said the Ministry of Education (MoE) has been receiving the largest bulk of the annual allocation amongst other ministries since 2015.
“In 2015, MoE received RM40.84 billion out of the total RM273.93 billion in federal budget. In 2016, MoE received RM41.35 billion out of the total RM267.22 billion. This year, MoE receives RM43.98 billion out of the total RM262.80 billion.
“MoE has all the funds to carry out all sorts of studies and implement programmes to improve the level of proficiency in the English language in schools.
“Yet, the state government is now asking elected representatives to formulate ‘creative programmes’ to help encourage students to use the English language. Where have the hundreds of millions of ringgit in allocations gone?” he said in a recent statement.
Chong said the Education Minister had replied to him in Parliament that the government allocated a total of RM173.5 million last year for various programmes to improve the English proficiency among school students.
Of the figure, RM135 million was meant to implement the ‘Memartabatkan Bahasa Malaysia dan Memperkasa Bahasa Inggeris’ (MBMMBI) programme that included transforming the English language curriculum, strengthening English language teachers, engaging experts, consultants and contract teachers, and also participation of students outside class, he said.
Chong added that the remaining RM38.5 million was for implementing the English Highly Immersive Programme (HIP) at all schools and the Dual Language Programme (DLP) at certain schools.
“What has become of this allocation of RM173.5 million and what was the result of the numerous policies such as MBMMBI, HIP and DLP that were implemented specifically for the improvement of the English language among school students?”
Chong pointed out that more than 90 per cent of elected representatives did not even have any teaching experience.
“The government has spent hundreds of millions – even billions – of ringgit to engage experts in education, consultants and training teachers; yet, they have failed to improve the standard of English at school. What makes the state government so certain that the elected representatives can do a better job than these experts and educators?
“At the end of the day, different elected representatives will devise different programmes, thinking that theirs are the best; the students and teachers become the ‘guinea pigs’.”
Chong went further to say that the current education policy ‘is already bad enough’ and that the state government’s ‘ridiculous’ suggestion might make matters even worse.
He noted that the state government had mentioned about similar initiatives having been successfully implemented at SK Ulu Lubai and SK Ba Kelalan.
Given such success story, he said it would be more practical and efficient to adopt the same initiative across the board for all schools.
“Why does the government not disclose the initiatives and programmes applied at these two schools, but asks the elected representatives to try to devise some creative programmes (instead)?”
Chong said a circular dated July 31 issued by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Research stated that the initiative was to complement the HIP.
“This is exactly the same programme stated in the parliamentary answer given to me, which the government allocated RM38.5 million to implement.
“When the government spent RM38.5 million on the programme but did not get the desired effect, the state government is now asking elected representatives to devise ‘creative and interesting programmes’ to make it a success without any funding at all. This simply does not make any sense.”
According to Chong, there are over 1,200 primary schools and 190 government secondary schools in Sarawak – against the state’s 82 elected representatives.
“No matter how one is to implement the programme, more than 90 per cent of the schools would be left out.
“As such, the ministry’s suggestion is simply very irresponsible and outright illogical. How can one discriminate one school against the other? What will be the criteria for selection?”
Chong said the government had 1.6 million civil servants, of whom about 25 per cent are under the MoE.
He felt it was illogical for the state government to turn to the 82 elected representatives – the majority of whom are total strangers to education matters – when the more than 400,000-strong teachers and officers under MoE had failed to do the job.
As such, Chong proposed for the government to revive the English schools of the past and use English as the medium of instruction at school to improve the proficiency in English for the future generations.
“The proposed usage of the English language outside class, while all subjects are taught in Bahasa Malaysia, is simply not workable because it is human nature to use the language that one is most comfortable with.
“Even in the State Legislative Assembly, elected representatives tend to use Bahasa Malaysia, which is their first language, in debates.
“If even mature adults and elected representatives have such tendency, it would be most unrealistic to ask schoolstudents to speak English when all their subjects in class are taught in Bahasa Malaysia,” said Chong.