Teachers need help to improve their English

Nowadays, parents with school-going children often complain about the glaring errors found in English examination papers.

While not condoning the errors and mindful of their serious implications, I believe that the teachers who make such errors do not even know their mistakes.

They set exam questions in English just like they do in Bahasa Malaysia, or in Chinese or Tamil.

They perform as they know how and that is the level of their understanding and proficiency in the English language.

They have certificates from the Education Ministry to prove it and so, can we rightfully fault the teachers?

Let’s look at the reality on the ground.

Many teachers are trying hard.

It is through no fault of theirs that they went through a Bahasa Malaysia or vernacular medium of schooling in primary followed by a Bahasa Malaysia medium of instruction from secondary till university.

And now, they are expected to write in flawless English.

The ministry may claim that these teachers have attended English training courses.

But a short course cannot remedy years of neglect, especially so in the mastering of a foreign language.

Much more is needed to be done and more time is needed.

Also, the dubious grading system for English papers at different levels of our public exams has given rise to their false confidence.

There can be two main causes for their weakness, resulting in the errors in the exam papers they set: a poor command of grammar and the tendency to “think local and write global”.

In other words, they think in Bahasa Malaysia or Chinese or Tamil, translate it and then write it in English.

In this context, I fail to understand the ministry’s decision to recruit some 300 English teachers from Britain to help alleviate the problems faced by our teachers.

Certainly, these teachers can teach good grammar but I have serious doubt about their ability to understand how we Malaysians think and write our brand of English.

On the other hand, our retired English teachers will definitely do a better job.

They know how we think and they can also teach good grammar.

They are the teachers to employ and I believe many are more than willing.

As for learning phonics (one main reason for bringing in these native speakers of the language), let’s get real.

We will never sound like the British and we don’t have to!

Our teachers are crying out for help to improve their English.

by Liong Kam Chong, Seremban.

Read more @ http://www.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/5/31/focus/6362504&sec=focus

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