Government To Offer Free English Classes For Adults From Lower Income Groups Next Year

The classes are open to students, working adults and anyone interested to improve their English language skills.

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The importance of English language in Malaysia have been up for debates for a long time, with most expressing their concern over the declining English standards in the country.

Responding to the issue, the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) conducted a survey last month on the importance of English in public schools.

PEMANDU's survey on the importance of English proficiency among Malaysians

Image via PEMANDU

According to Malay Mail Online, 95.7 per cent of the respondents agreed on the importance of increasing the English language in public schools to increase proficiency in English among Malaysians.

The head of PEMANDU, Datuk Idris Jala informed that 90 percent out of the 190, 000 respondents of the survey,wanted more subjects to be taught in English, according to a report by Bloomberg Business on 29 October.

Budget 2016 saw a sum of RM38.5 million being allocated for the Dual Language Program and the Highly Immersive Program aimed at upholding Bahasa Malaysia and strengthening the English language

PM Najib Razak during the Budget 2016 announcement on 24 October

Image via Asia One

PM Najib Razak explained that the Dual Language Program (DLP) will implement the teaching of Science, Mathematics and Information Technology (IT) in both English and Bahasa Malaysia.

Following promises to continue working on increasing the levels of English proficiency in Malaysia, the government, today, announced that free English classes will be conducted from early 2016 for adults

The free English classes would be held in Urban Transformation Centers (UTC) and community centers around the country. But, trial classes will be held starting February 2016 in Pantai Dalam and Sentul. The venue and timing of the classes will be confirmed later by the ministry.

Treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah said that the classes are aimed are lower-income groups living in highly concentrated areas in Malaysia

Secretary-General of Treasury, Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Siregar Abdullah

Image via The Malay Mail Online

“English is deteriorating in the country and it needs to be enhanced. This is especially true for those with low income who are left out and want to improve their command of the language,” he said.

The Finance Ministry has allocated RM10 million for the project under the National Blue Ocean Strategy.

The government is looking at getting the assistance of retired teachers and members of non-governmental organisations to conduct the free English classes next year

Image via British Council

The retired teachers and NGO members would be given an allowance by the government, should they participate in this initiative.

“But first, we need to find out how many people want to attend the classes. Only then can we determine the number of classes and the amount of people in one class,” he said.

The Treasury would work with the Education Ministry on finding the retired teachers. Details of the curriculum will also need to be worked out.

He said the idea had come about at a meeting between the Prime Minister, Najib Razak, officials of the Treasury, and corporate figures earlier this year.

Meanwhile, when interviewed about their thoughts on the free English classes, most retired teachers had their concerns on whether the students would take the classes seriously as it will be conducted for free

According to a report by Malay Mail Online, retired English teacher, Shandha Kesava Pillay, 64, expressed her excitement to teach again after 10 years but stressed on the importance of ensuring that the government must find ways to make sure that the students attend the classes properly.

Aside from that, Shandha also thinks that married women who are interested to attend the classes might have trouble attending them as it might coincide with their other family duties.

“If you give something for free, there won’t be commitment from the students. In schools, we offer free additional classes, but students do not attend. They pay so much for tuition and as such will not miss a single lesson,” she said.

Dropping suggestions to make the free classes better, former teacher, Iris D'Cruz stressed that the students must not be allowed to converse in their mother tongues, as it would help the students make the effort to transform their thoughts into sentences in English

“They should do away with the chalk-and-talk teaching method where the teacher just talks and the students listen.

“Interactive games and activities, which make the students the focus, should be implemented. The teacher should only be a guide,” said D’Cruz.

She said classes should also be monitored by government representatives to make sure teachers use the set module.

“If they do well, certificates should be given as it would encourage them to speak English at home and at work,” she said.

The sudden move to conduct English classes for adults, came after an alarming report by the World Bank, in 2013, that brought to light the the fact that the Malaysian education system is far behind compared to its Asian neighbouring countries

“It’s all about building schools but not about changing the curriculum,” Bridget Welsh, a senior research associate at National Taiwan University’s Center for East Asia Democratic Studies, said about Najib’s spending plan next year.

If you are wondering what was PEMANDU's survey on English all about, read this:

While the debate on the importance of the English language continues, certain members of the Malaysian society think that abolishing vernacular schools is the key to fostering unity and harmony among Malaysians: