A call has been made to federal Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek to table an amendment to the Education Act 1996 to ensure every Malaysian student is proficient in both Bahasa Malaysia (BM) and English.
In voicing this out, Deputy Minister I for Education, Innovation and Talent Development Sarawak Datuk Dr Annuar Rapaee says whenever there is a change in the federal government or Education Minister, the priority and policies also change.
“We do not wish to see this happening again for the good of our younger generation.
“Therefore, I hope the education minister would table the amendment to the Education Act in Parliament to make it compulsory for all Malaysian students to be multilingual, with mastery in both BM and English, as well as in their own mother tongue.
“So, if they (ministry) are really serious in giving priority to improving the level of English, they should table it in Parliament as part of the amendment to the current Education Act.
“Otherwise, it would remain only a policy and the public would see it as a mere ‘lip service’ or ‘sweet talk’ of the day,” he said in statement, made in response to Fadhlina’s recent announcement that her ministry was giving priority towards improving the quality of English.
Fadhlina reportedly said that while elevating the standard of BM remained a key priority, there was also a need to improve English proficiency especially in terms of the quality of its teaching.
“We do not need to wait for the 2027 school curriculum to begin mastering English ― mastering English and (improving) English quality begin now,” Fadhlina was quoted as saying.
Nonetheless, Dr Annuar regarded Fadhlina’s announcement as a step forward in facilitating the devolution of some power in education decision-making rights to Sarawak.
“Section 17 of the Education Act 1996 mandates the use of the national language in all educational institutions except national-type schools, while Section 28 empowers the minister to establish national schools and national-type schools.
“Now, they (the ministry) realise the importance of the English language because of Sarawak’s unwavering stand on emphasising the use of English.
“For example, the Sarawak government has already given assurance that the Dual-Language Programme (DLP), which uses English as medium in the teaching of Mathematics and Science, will continue.
“Furthermore, the establishment of five Yayasan Sarawak international schools ― the noble initiative of Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg ― is also a step forward in further strengthening the use of English by using the Cambridge University-based syllabus,” he said.
Towards this end, Dr Annuar expressed delight with the ministry’s change in its stance on the importance of English and on its strategy to improve English among English-option teachers, where almost 50 per cent were not in the excellent proficiency of C1 and C2 (proficient user).
“In view of this, the Education Ministry should quickly train more English-option teachers and ensure that the teachers teaching English are of master’s degree level.
“Only then will this policy be impactful,” he said.
Dr Annuar also called upon all Malaysians to support the Education Ministry’s announcement.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has welcomed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s speech as well as the Cabinet decision which stipulated that all preschool education systems will be coordinated under the ministry to ensure that the quality of education in the country continues to be dignified.
Its minister, Fadhlina Sidek said this step is in line with the education reform agenda being spearheaded by the MOE, particularly in strengthening the country’s education system.
“The follow-up has been expedited with the involvement of all heads of departments and divisions in the post-MOE Cabinet meeting today,” she said in a statement today.
“The mechanism and timeline for the transition to this new structure will be detailed in the near future together with the ministries involved as well as stakeholders in early childhood education institutions.”
According to Fadhlina, the education reform is very significant in guaranteeing access, quality education as well as early intervention to deal with dropouts at the preschool level.
On January 22, Anwar called for the country’s preschool education system to be reviewed to avoid disparities in the community.
According to Anwar, MOE-run preschools need to provide comprehensive additional facilities to all students, even if it means the government has to be confronted with new expenses.