This is not a new issue. It has been a hot issue lately since our fresh graduates especially Malays are unable to find jobs due to their incompetency in conversing in English. The fact that we have been learning English for 13 years is a huge puzzle even to our DPM. Some academicians have written some articles on newspapers about this issue. They shared their views on how to rectify this problem.
I'm just an English teacher who has been teaching undergraduates for more than 5 years in USM and 2 years in an international English centre in KL. I admit that I'm not so knowledgeable in teaching English nor am I an expert. BUT based on my own experience in learning English in normal daily school and 2 years in a residential school, I can share my own conclusion on what have gone so wrong.
Here is my own conclusion:
- 13 years of learning but only 40 minutes, 3 days per week. (is it more now?)
- the teacher can only discuss mostly comprehension questions in 30 minutes, 10 minutes for other things not related to the subject. (checking attendance etc)
- for writing essays, the teacher will spoon feed students on which topics that might come out in the exam. (be it UPSR, PMR or SPM)
- not enough practice on conversation in class.
- most students view English like other subjects that can be scored if they memorized, do more practice or study more on past years' exam paper.
- students depend so much on teachers that they don't have their own initiative to learn English and master the language using other methods.
- we focus too much on English grammar per say that we are afraid to converse in English just because we don't want to make any mistakes.
- not enough support from parents, peers and the society for people who want to master English.
Thus, we need to change our attitude towards learning English first. In fact, learning any language requires a lot effort and hard work from us before we can use it. How many of us really know about BM? How many of us can really converse in perfect BM without any mistakes in grammar? Why haven't we worry so much about that?