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OUMH 1303 : ENGLISH FOR ORAL COMMUNICATION TOPIC : THE IMPORTANCE OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE IN MALAYSIA INTRODUCTION : The English

Language in Malaysia is the second language in the nation. Even though it is second, it is encouraged for all the people to learn English. That is why.. the subject of English is a must learn subject in the curriculum of education for primary and secondary schools all over Malaysia. In the teacher training college, there is a TESL (Teaching English as Secong Language) programme for 3 year course. These shows that English is quite an important subject to learn and teach to all Malaysians. Even our exPrime Minister introduced the ETEMS programme ( English Teaching in Mathematics and Sciences) that costs highly to equip the schools with LCD,laptop and coursewares for the pupils to master the English. Malaysia spends a quarter of its annual budget each year on education and training. It guarantees every child a place in any public school up to the upper secondary level, and it is also striving to ensure that 35% of secondary school graduates are able to pursue tertiary education. This is to ensure that it will become a developed nation by 2020. Owing to the new world reality brought about by rapid globalisation and the exponential growth of English-based knowledge in the recent years, the Malaysian education system has undergone further fundamental reforms which see English gaining more and more importance and legitimacy as the language of instruction and learning of all educational institutions particularly in the fields of science, technology, commerce and industry. English language has now become the cornerstone of Malaysias quest for the kind of human capital which is regarded as the harbinger of Malaysias next phase of transformation into a knowledge economy. Unofficially, Malaysia is a bilingual country where English and Malay co-exist like inseparable twins.

The Usage and Roles of the English Language in Malaysia English is used extensively in Malaysia, a legacy carried over from the British colonial rule. English is used in practically all aspects of daily life - be they commercial or social settings, or formal and informal situations. English is extensively used in business transactions, in advertisements, in the entertainment industry and even in simple everyday conversation among family members, friends or strangers.

Although English is commonly used, Malaysians have recently found themselves grappling with the issue of English language proficiency. As a member of a world which is experiencing increasing globalization with the exploitation of the Internet and exposure to the Information Age, Malaysia can no longer ignore the need to be IT literate in order to achieve success and international stature in today's dustry and business. This inadvertently calls for literacy in the English language since English is the lingua franca of the Internet. Owing to its place of importance in the new knowledge economy, English, as a second language, continues to be a compulsory subject taught at all levels in every Malaysian school. The syllabus structured by the Ministry of Education is functional in its content and communicative in its instructional approach, the philosophy being to train Malaysians from young to develop the relevant English language skills deemed vital for personal and professional development and advancement in a global economy. Apart from public schools where English is taught as a compulsory subject, language centers found in all major cities and towns in Malaysia offer English language courses that cater to individual needs of people, whether personal or professional. There are, therefore, classes which offer English for academic purposes to help students in their academic courses conducted in English, and classes which offer English for specific purposes to help those who need English for career enhancement or development.

Bringing English to the Fore Malay students leader stresses the importance of the language in facing future challenges by Azman Ujang @ The Sun Analysis

aa The 400,000-strong Federation of Peninsular Malaysia Malay Students (GPMS), the oldest such organization in the country, wants the mastering of the English language among students to be placed high on the national agenda. To achieve this, its president Datuk Suhaimi Ibrahim reiterates the GPMS call for the revival of English-medium schools, from the pre-school level, to provide a strong foundation for students to master the language. Suhaimi says what is needed at present is the politic will from the national leadership and the people to correct what he calls a mistake of history. In an interview, he says this mistake of history has caused the national education system to fail in providing appropriate opportunities for students to master the English language. He urges groups to adopt a rational attitude and not blindly label any effort to enhance the use of English in the country as un patriotic and non-nationalistic. He says he has traveled all over the country and met students and parents and that they are generally disappointed with the present situation. English, so vital as a language of knowledge, has been sidelined by the education system because the country does not have enough English language teachers, particularly in the rural areas. Apart from students, the 52-year-old GPMS membership includes teachers, lecturers and the youth from various professions. As most of the Malay students are from the rural areas, a large number of them are weak in English. This situation should be corrected, Suhaimi says. If this not done earnestly from now on, I fear that Malaysia will not become a country of excellence at the global level in the future. Suhaimi says the country need not start a debate on the importance of English but should mobilize all efforts to correct the weaknesses in the present education system which does not teach the language properly. The following are Suhaimis views on the issue:

Q: A recent GPMS survey shows that the majority of respondents want Englishmedium schools to be revived in this country. Can you explain this? A: I undertook a nationwide programme to meet parents, school principals, teachers and students who frequently complains about the shortage of English language teachers in rural areas. From this it can be seen that English has indeed become a matter of concern to the people, particularly parents in the rural areas, who want their children to master English. Based on this awareness, the GPMS is putting g this across to the public and also to the Education Ministry and it is now up to the ministry to take the necessary measures to meet the public demand. Q: Can this be done only by the ministry or can it be made a national agenda? A: This is not just up to the ministry but should be made a national agenda as the entire world is waking up to this reality. You just name the country, and it is doing the same. This should be a national agenda. Q: People always talk about Japan, which has become so developed using its own language. What is your view? A: We cannot compare with Japan which did not embrace the English language but yet has succeeded. The Japanese are advanced in technology, the economy science and in all fields. Because of this, the international community is beginning to learn Japanese for they have proved that they are strong and advanced. However, we have failed to develop Bahasa Malaysia as a language of knowledge, and even as a language of knowledge, it is only used in this country this is a reality we have to accept. Even in our country, there are two views. In the private sector, the use of English is quite high compared to the public sector. This is the same in public and private institutions of higher learning. The private sector still gives priority to students proficiency in English. In this present situation, competition is tight. Mastering English is a bonus, an additional credit to those seeking jobs.

Q: What is the situation like with the mushrooming of the public institution of higher learning in the country? A: I dont deny that public universities do teach English, but because the students are not as good in the language as those in the private universities, this poses a new challenge to those in public universities. The number of students in public universities who are able to master English is small. Students at private universities are trained to communicate in the language through interaction with non-Malay students and lecturers form overseas. They are exposed at the early stage. What I said earlier does not mean that we take drastic measures. I dont mean that we set up English-stream schools with out taking into account the preparations in terms of teachers, infrastructure and other facilities. Q: There are people who say that by taking this step, it is as if we don't understand history. A: Actually, I say we should learn from history. We should take what is good from history. It is because we understand history that we know English is important, and we can take Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad as an example. Dr Mahathir started learning English from an early age and went to university in Singapore. Is he weak in Bahasa Malaysia? No. Is he less patriotic or nationalistic? No. Q: As leader of a big student organization, you are in a good position to know the feelings of Malay students towards the present education system that does not give priority to mastering English. A: I blame the system. If not for this system, students in the rural areas would have been exposed to learning English at the primary school level. I dare say that even secondary school students are learning English for teachers who can hardly speak good English. This is especially glaring in the rural areas, and this the plight of the rural students. So it is with this awareness that we should put our act together to address this problem.

Q: So how can this problem possibly be overcome? A: We need teachers who can teach multiple subjects in English. Under our present system, we narrow things down to using English only to teach the language. We need to broaden the scope of teaching. Apart form this, the number of English language teachers is getting g smaller compared with the past. Now English language teachers cant teach science or mathematics, because these subjects are taught in Malay. And English language teachers mostly shun the rural areas because they are very much in demand in the urban areas by the private sector. Q: Perhaps the situation in rural areas can improve through the concept of the through the concept of the vision schools that is being introduced now? A: The vision school probably is an important mechanism that can help to realize this. Vision schools must teach subject such as science, technical subjects mathematics and computer studies in English as well. As the same time, there is a need to beef up the teaching of Bahasa Malaysia, but we must be firm in putting English in its proper place. There ought to be a comprehensive plan to produce English language teachers. If we need to spend more money, we should do it to send students overseas to become good English teachers, like in the past. At the SPM level, even if students obtain only Grade Three but if they excel in English, they can be trained as English teachers and be sent to rural schools. Q: But, even in the urban areas, can we say that the standard of English teachers is satisfactory? A: The root to this problem is that those teaching English do not communicate in English. English is made a subject in class but is not practiced. Q: But we cannot blame our students for this. A: Under no circumstance can I blame our present students. I also cannot blame the present government officers or politicians who cannot master English. They have been the victims of the present education policy form the days of their childhood. - Bernama

Make English Ours


aa I say we should learn from history. We should take what is good from history. It is because we understand history that we know English is important, and we can take Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad as an example. Dr Mahathir started learning English from an early age and went to university in Singapore. Is he weak in Bahasa Malaysia? No. Is he I was no prophet but knew the decline in English usage and competence would happen. When I saw how Malay was thrust on the education system in the 70's and how criticism of its overemphasis to the detriment of English was a sensitive issue and regarded as an act of disloyalty, I knew one day a future generation would pay the price for its relegation and neglect. I am, therefore, not surprised the level of English proficiency among younger Malaysians today has dropped drastically and that has been felt at home and abroad. The warning bells were sounded some time ago but nothing was done because of political expediency. It is time to act before we lose a cultural heritage that has economic and cultural ramifications for all Malaysians. I suppose during the time when Malay was being pushed the feelings of Malay nationalism were different then. I am not suggesting feelings of Malay nationalism have waned, but I think after 30 years of the NEP that have led to the rise of a strong Malay middle class who are well educated and well traveled, and are less touchy about English as a Colonial hangover, may make changes easier. When I was in secondary school in the 60s and English was the medium of instruction, most of us were forced to learn the language. Our future depended on English because anyone who failed the compulsory subject failed the crucial MCE and HSC exams. Without the paper qualifications one met a dead end insofar as further education was concerned. There were by-products of an English schooling. It fostered a sense of esprit de corps among the students from diverse races and forged true national unity. Today when I meet my old Malay or Indian school friends, I forget their race and see them as individuals who shared a common past. True unity is a matter of the heart, and perhaps English being a neutral language was a natural catalyst. It created a level playing field and a new frontier of discovery for young and inquisitive minds. It taught us things we would never have known through our mother tongues. It was like a boat that carried us together in our journey of learning and life itself. As a result, it bonded us, who were from different racial, religious and economic backgrounds. No doubt, my schools traditions and its teachers had a lot to do with our sound education but the language helped shape the school itself. Today, the need for Vision Schools, lamentations in letters to newspapers and speeches by national leaders of the lack of a cohesive and united Malaysian society tell us we did something right in the past, and I

less am sure the role of English in the school system was it. patriotic or nationalisti Language, like custom is a peculiar thing. It originates from a particular c? No. country but can be adopted by other people. Many former British colonies have adopted and adapted English into their societies successfully. ~ Datuk Singapore is a perfect example. In fact, she has made four foreign Suhaimi languages her own. When people have nothing in common, a common Ibrahim language is often a good unifying factor. Without delving into the pros and Federation cons of British colonialism in Malaysia, I opine English is the best thing the of British have left us. But English must no longer be seen as a British thing Peninsular and our ability in the language as a whole must be prized as an intangible Malaysia Malaysian asset almost like a national treasure. We are proud of our Malay rubber tree, which the British brought over from Brazil and had no problem Students making it our own. We could do the same with the language they brought (GPMS) us. When I went to university in a Western country, I discovered students from Malaysia and Singapore had an advantage over those from other parts of Asia and the Pacific because of their command of English. Surprisingly, I noticed many Malaysians were able to spell and write better than some local students who could speak better English naturally but were not taught grammar in school. As a result, many native English speakers could not spell and write properly. There is value in keeping the tradition of good The English teaching, which the teachers of a past era seemed to know and national practised. Whether in the East or West, with few exceptions, language education students will only be as good as the teachers. system should To regain our mastery of both spoken and written English, and our lost review its place under the English-speaking worlds sun, we need to have a new medium of mindset about English. I hope this can be reflected by changes to existing instruction education policies and individual actions. policy. For effective First, we need to drop the prejudice against English. It is the language of acquisition international business and knowledge the language of first priority. My and children growing up in Australia do not know my mother tongue, but it will transmissio not stop them getting a job and pursuing a career, where it matters most. In n of future, I hope they will learn Mandarin and Malay, not only for official, knowledge, commercial and cultural purposes but to better understand other people. I advocate Some years ago, if one is honest, one must admit there was a knee-jerk review reaction to English because of the past yoke of colonialism. Hence, Malay based on as the official language superseded it. Any lingering paranoia against language English warrants removal. best suited in each Second, we must make a decision to learn the language despite difficulties specific and setbacks. It means thinking in the language and using it as often as

field. If English serves the teachers and students best in the fields of science, mathematic s, engineering , medicine, information technology, economics and business, lets make it the medium of instruction. For other fields, we should allow for choice in the medium of instruction, respecting the students other language skills.

possible. Practice makes perfect. Twenty years ago my wife and I learned Tamil because I was helping the poor in an Indian squatter settlement. But we have forgotten much of what we learned because we no longer practise it due to our changed circumstances. But we had to make a decision to learn which got us started. At the moment my priority is to learn Mandarin. It will help me appreciate my ethnic roots and reach out to fellow Chinese. Those poor in English must make a decision to better themselves in the language. Third, we need to encourage a multi-lingual Malaysia. We do not need to teach all the languages in school but we should provide the opportunity for people to learn languages inexpensively. If we all learned each others language, it would help us understand each other better and may bring us closer as a nation. Malaysians do not need convincing on this point, as many are already multi-lingual. I have an Indian friend who speaks better Cantonese than me. I had to learn Cantonese when I lived in Kuala Lumpur. When we are multi-lingual we are better equipped to interface with those who are different and our language skills are valuable assets. Fourth, adopt English as our own. After all, the Australians, New Zealanders, Americans, Indians and other former subjects of the British Empire have done it successfully. We need to stop thinking of English as something foreign when it has been with us for so long, certainly much longer than Macdonalds, A & W and KFC, which have become popular Malaysian icons. When Westerners ask me, Where did you learn to speak and write English? I answer, In school, and then I ask, tongue-incheek, what about you? English is now a universal language and belongs to everyone. The Americans and Australians, for example, have successfully adapted the language to their own circumstances and cultures. We can, too. The presence of more Asians on international and US television has erased Asian stereotypes in peoples minds.

Fifth, promote and be proud of our spoken Malaysian English. We do not all want to sound like ABC or BBC announcers, but we should all learn to speak the English that other people can understand. Whether we sound English or American or Chinese or Indian or Malay or like our favourite pop star is not the point. If we stick to the good rules of grammar and oral ~ Foong English, I am sure the sound produced will be acceptable by most people Wai Fong and in time evolve into a standard Malaysian spoken English. Badly spoken Pahlawan Volunteers English is when the grammar is wrong and the words are wrongly FULL pronounced. We cant avoid accents from the influence of our mother STORY tongues and our environment but if we speak good English, the edge of heavy accents can be smoothened and if they remain they are peculiarly cute, just like Jackie Chans broken English. When an Australian asks me,

How are you to die, when they mean today? I reply, I dont know? Do you? If they who say, The rine in Spine falls minely on the pline are called native English speakers, Im sure Malaysians can claim the same right, too. Finally, we need to change our purview of Malaysians who express themselves through the arts in English. We should support locals who do this. I know several Malaysian musicians who are very good but never got the breaks and recognition because of a limited English market in the cuntry. There are many Malaysian writers who can write good English. Sadly, they are under-recognized because few Malaysians buy and read books. It is time we promote local English writers and artists. Of course, we also need to encourage reading and improve the markets for local efforts. It is one way to encourage Malaysians to express themselves in English and feel confident about it. If Malaysians regard their own creators and performers as mediocre, why shouldnt the rest of the world? The creative and performing arts are a good and effective way of improving and promoting language. There is a wealth to be tapped in our cultures, insights and experiences but Malaysians need to be original, and feel confident about expressing their ideas in English, not just for a local but an international audience. World famous acts like Coco Lee and Vanessa Mae are proof Asians are super talented but need help in marketing their talents. As I get older I realize there is so much in our history that can be converted into works of art eg. novels, musicals, plays, songs etc. but we are not seeing a lot of that and continue to endure stuff from the West, some of which are poor commercial efforts or are not good for our culture. As I live in a Western country, Western talent and ideas surround me. I feel they could be enriched with some Asian influence. We must not think that doing anything in English or using Western forms of expression is aping the West. It is a gratuitous comparison. Unless Malaysians can express themselves well in English, they will be psychologically and culturally disadvantaged when competing in an English-speaking world dominated by the Orang Putih. English-speaking societies are generally ignorant of foreign languages and blas about Asian culture but their loss is our gain. As Dr Mahathir aptly said, Dont think they will learn Malay to understand us. My point: Make English ours because it is an integral part of our culture, our history and us. And when people get the chance to see us, hear us, and read about us they may understand us. If we ascribe to English the priority and importance it eserves, we can expect to see more Malaysians excel in the language again. For the sake of the nation, we should. Steve Oh, who now resides in Australia, believes every Malaysian has a

duty to work constructively to help eradicate poverty, corruption and injustice so that the quality of life of every Malaysian will improve.

Towards a Pragmatic Language Policy

aa I say we KUALA LUMPUR December 3 2000: Languages used as medium of instruction in Malaysias education system became central issues between the government and at least two should ethnic community groups recently. learn from The Vision School issue raised strong echoes of protest among Chinese nationwide. The history. We Chinese Community vehemently opposes the Vision School project, fearing that the identity should take and character of Chinese primary schools will be changed in the process. Underlining this fear is the suspicion that the government is determined to implement the ultimate objective what is stated in the Education Act 1961 which set the legislative platform to gradually displaced good from mother tongue education, in this case using Chinese as a medium of instruction in the education system. Chinese education in Malaysia dates back 180 years and is largely funded history. It is by the Chinese community from all walks of life. Donations amount to some RM100 million because we a year, made up of small donations from the general public. In another development, the 400,000 strong members of Federation of Peninsular Malaysia history that Malay Students (GPMS), the oldest such organization in the country, wants the return of the English language in the national education system. GPMS wants the revival of Englishwe know medium schools, from the pre-school level, to provide a strong foundation for students to English is master the language. Its president Datuk Suhaimi Ibrahim urged the leadership to exercise political will to correct what he calls a mistake of history. important, and we can Pragmatism is good for all take Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr There is a common thread running through the above two concerns; the anxiety that the competitiveness of Malaysia could further be endangered if a pragmatic language policy is not adopted promptly. understand

It is in the interest of all Malaysians to heed the call of these two groups, and to examine Mahathir closely the implications of our present language policy for the future of Malaysia as a multi cultural community, our place in Asia and the world. Mohamad One Language One Heart as an example. Towards a single national language to unify the diverse races is the argument behind the national language policy. In our societys eagerness to develop and to forge national integration, the government implemented a program in the last two decades to bring Bahasa

Melayu, the national language, onto center stage in all aspects of national life; strengthening its position as the official language, the language of government and the courts, and in the Mahathir process, replaced or replacing English as the key medium of instruction in all institutions of started learning, from primary to universities. learning English from an early age and went to university The past language policy, which Datuk Suhaimi called the mistake of history, caused the national education system to fail in providing appropriate opportunities for students to master Singapore. the English language. in Is he weak in Bahasa Language as a tool This state of affairs is a subject of great concern and anxiety as Malaysians contemplate their place in the world and how they integrate with the global world of business and knowledge. While the national language must be promoted in order to create a common medium for communication among the various racial groups, the enthusiasm in pushing the language into other spheres of national life has brought consequences of serious repercussions on Malaysians competitiveness.

Dr

Malaysia? It is timely that such pragmatism is returning to the thinking of community groups articulated by GPMS. The language of knowledge, the Internet and business in the single global No. Is he economy is English. Without a doubt, Malaysians will be greatly handicapped if we denied ourselves this important tool that enable us to integrate with the rest of the world. less patriotic or The fact that English is still retained as a medium of instruction in some very selected nationalisti institutions of learning in the country such as the Mara Institute of Technology reflects the appreciation of the language as an effective tool of learning. c? No. One of the key conditions for building the knowledge economy is to put in place an ~ Datuk infrastructure to raise the average, those sections of the population with middle and lower skills. We need to provide access, to knowledge and information, and English is the medium Suhaimi and tool that enables such rapid access. The admission by GPMS that Bahasa Melayu is inadequate in its function as a language of Federation knowledge, and its limited application in the world should signal a new beginning for the national language. of Peninsular On one hand, this liberates the nation from the confines of nationalism and patriotism long Malaysia defined by language, and legitimizes the role and position of English, and hopefully Mandarin. On the other hand, Bahasa Melayu as a language would not be burdened and Malay rushed to develop to serve the various needs of the country. Lifting the pressure lid, the Students language could evolve on its natural course as the nation develops. (GPMS) FULL How inclusive and what balance should be achieved in considering the language policies of our young nation? Ibrahim

STORY

Language proficiency and mastery While the study and mastery of Bahasa Melayu should be emphasized in the interest of all Malaysians, distinction must be made between basic proficiency and mastery of a language. The language policy of the country in the last 50 years had produced a distorted perception of the language abilities of Malaysians. Many visitors envied Malaysians for their multi-lingual skills, and some of us may even rejoiced in it, and taut it as one of the strength of our land. Those of us honest enough to admit knows that this as pure appearance.

The national

education Malaysians in general has some proficiency but lack depth in their language skills. Everyone experiences in various degrees this sorry state of affairs. In a recent trip to Kota Kinabalu, system each time the PA system came up, I got a jolt. So I complained to the air stewardess about the PA system being too loud. While I talked, I pointed to the speaker on the roof of the cabin. I should repeated the complaint five times to the entire crew serving the cabin, but none of them review its understood what PA was! medium of The fact of the matter is, basic proficiency of various languages only get us past the door. It is instruction not an adequate tool to mine the mountains of knowledge or equip us to set sail onto new policy. For geographical and intellectual frontiers. The ability to think, the depth and breadth of thinking, calls for a certain level of language acquisition mastery. If there isnt an adequate vocabulary, in whatever language the thinker chooses, he or she simply cant articulate his or her thoughts, explore the interconnection of ideas, and participate in dialogues or persuade others of ones ideas. Period. Put all these in the context transmissio of Malaysians going global and trying to find a place in the new economy! n of knowledge, I advocate review based on language best suited in each specific field. If English serves the teachers effective

and students best in the fields of science, mathematic s, engineering , medicine, information technology, economics and business, lets make it the Face this reality squarely Through our education system in the last two decades, we have instruction. created one whole generation of people who are extremely weak in their overall language For other skills. fields, we The national education system should review its medium of instruction policy. For effective acquisition and transmission of knowledge, I advocate review based on language best suited should in each specific field. If English serves the teachers and students best in the fields of science, allow for mathematics, engineering, medicine, information technology, economics and business, lets choice in make it the medium of instruction. For other fields, we should allow for choice in the medium of instruction, respecting the students other language skills. the medium of instruction, respecting the Why mother tongue is important? medium of

students If we want to nurture Malaysians who can think, we ought to encourage them to gain mastery of at least one language. Whichever that language is, should be left to individual choice and other free will.

language skills. ~ Foong

Against a specific cultural and environmental backdrop, there exist certain conditions conducive for the learner to easily gain mastery of a particular language. For example, Indians living among Chinese learn to speak Hokkien, Chinese in Kelantan speak excellent Malay and Malays going to neighborhood Chinese schools speak excellent Mandarin.

Besides national unity, the goal of our education system should be to provide the opportunity for our children to excel in at least one language of their choice so that he or she has an Pahlawan effective tool to acquire knowledge and to think. This tool has important bearing on the childs competitiveness, hence the nations competitiveness. Volunteers Wai Fong Cultural DNA and Values A Language also instills a specific set of values in a culture. The Chinese Community in the country treasures a set of cultural values, which they attribute to their resilience and success. To use modern day scientific description, it is widely accepted that there are excellent cultural DNAs in the Chinese language and culture that are valuable to an individual, family, community and a nation. By virtue of Malaysias multicultural character, these values do not belong to the Chinese alone, but to all Malaysians. These are assets of Malaysia, and we should communicate this understanding to all the races. In trying to explain the prosperity and performance of cultural groups all over the world, many scholars and thinkers worldwide agrees that culture matters. Cultural values are best planted into the children between ages 7 and 12. Mother tongue primary schools are vehicles for succession of our ethnic cultures, abolishing them is a lose-lose situation for all. We can therefore appreciate why the Chinese community in the country wants the government to respect their wishes to keep the Chinese primary schools. Excel in at least one A pragmatic language policy in my opinion will look like this: Allow Malay, English, Chinese, Tamil and other ethnic mother tongues (if there is enough demand) as a medium of instruction in primary schools. It is at this stage of the childs development, the cultures and values of a particular community group can be best transmitted, hence preserving our multi-ethnicity, along with the blending and mixing in other spheres of life, shapes the multi-cultural character of this nation. At the primary school level, Malay and English must also be compulsory subjects so that our children receive early grounding in the language. An early start will enable them to advance the language proficiency easily later on, if they decide to pursue them further. Moreover, an early preparation offers our kids choices as to which language they want to excel in as their preferred tool for advancement.

From secondary school onwards, we should use the language best suited as medium of instruction for particular fields of knowledge, replacing the current practice of using Bahasa Melayu for all subjects. Act Now As pointed out by many, the present language policy resulted in problems for one generation, and if we act now, it will take at least 15 to 20 years to train up a generation of teachers proficient in English. Give another 15 to 20 years until a new generation of young people turned up with proficiency, we need at least 40 years! In this e-speed world, there is no time to lose. As Datuk Suhaimi Ibrahim said, we dont need another debate on the importance of English, and I add, the importance of mother tongue. Foong Wai Fong is the author of The New Asian Way and co-founder of Pahlawan Volunteers, a Malaysian voluntary and advocacy group.

BIBLIOGRAPHY : 1. NEW ARTICLES FROM THE GPMS FORUM 2. READING TEXT FROM THE NST- THURSDAY 13 MAY 2006 3. WWW.HHTP// WEB SEARCH ENGLISH IS IMPORTANT 4. MAGAZINES- PENDIDIK KELUARAN JANUARI 2007.