Since last January, 300 primary and secondary schools have been selected for the Dual Language Programme (DLP).
With its core purpose of giving students the opportunity to use either English or Malay in Science, Mathematics, Information Technology and Communication, and Design and Technology; the DLP is expected to boost English proficiency in government schools, as well as enhance students’ future employability opportunities.
Along with the implementation of DLP at national primary and secondary schools, there is also the High Immersive Programme (HIP) where English is used widely in an encouraging environment for students to practice their English – implemented earlier this year in all schools throughout the country.
Both the DLP and HIP fall under the 2016 Budget, where RM35 million had been allocated as part of enhancement for the English language as advocated in Wave 2 (2016-2020) of Malaysia’s Education Blueprint 2013-2025, as expansion of the government’s "Memartabatkan Bahasa Melayu, Memperkasakan Bahasa Inggeris" or MBMMBI (Uphold Bahasa Melayu, Strengthen the English Language) programme.
Although DLP is optional, as it is a parents' option, according to the Education Act 1996, apart from other conditions that must be met − need for schools to have adequate resources such as reference material; and infrastructure; the requirement for school principals and teachers to agree; as well as capable and want to implement the programme − the pilot project has received a few objections among various parties.
However, the education ministry has assured the programme will continue steadily as there are demands for DLP. A survey by the government in 2015 revealed that more than 90 per cent of about 190,000 respondents wanted English standards to be improved in local schools.
“Since the programme was implemented, the response I received from the teachers was to get continuous support from us on how they can get the desired pedagogy, especially in English Language as the programme is conducted in that language.
“As such we have set up the English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC) online to help teachers.
“We will continue this programme with the second wave next year. However, it will not be mandatory, but subject to the application from schools,” Education Director-General Datuk Seri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof was reported saying.
To date, 76 Malaysia Conforming Secondary Schools (SMJK) will be using DLP next year, as well as 116 schools in Sarawak and 76 in Sabah respectively, with efforts currently undertaken to further expand the number of primary and secondary schools involved.
But how far will DLP become a lifeline for our students to master the English language, and will the nation finally be at par with other English speaking nations after its implementation? Malaysian Digest finds out from experts.
The Nation Will Not Master The English Language Without Programmes Implemented In Schools
Speaking with chairman of Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE), Datin Nor Azimah Abdul Rahim, shared with Malaysian Digest her viewpoint on the matter as well as her thoughts on the preparation of the programme, right up to its implementation, along with current expectations.
The PAGE chairman highlighted their role in consulting the Government in implementing the programme by having a team formed that consisted of 100 stakeholders who had participated in an intensive one-month programme last year to analyse for any loopholes or weaknesses in the present English teaching system.
She added that the team had sent the completed DLP proposal to the government for execution that was implemented last January. As a result, the 300 schools that have been listed as DLP-implemented schools were the first to accept the offer of implementing English in Maths and Science subjects.
Fast forward to today, according to Noor Azimah, the number of participating primary and secondary schools are expected to be multiplied by a thousand by next year.
She believes in the programme thoroughly and feels with the capabilities of the teachers teaching the mentioned subjects, along with their commitment, it will lead to the succession of the programme as planned.
“Teachers should be able to conduct the subjects in English – the younger teachers are the product of Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik Dalam Bahasa Inggeris (PPSMI) a few years back. Maths and Science subjects (in English) are not alien to them,” she said.
Noor Azimah further emphasised succeeding in the programme would mean mastering in the English language especially the Maths and Science subjects, which could assist in students’ future employability.
“In employment, when you are proficient in core subjects such as Maths and Science, you are more analytical, you tend to have a better chance in securing a job,” she explained.
By implementing DLP, she shared that other ASEAN countries are also looking up to Malaysia in terms of its implementation boosting the English standards in both the schools and in the working world.
In addition, she adds the HIP which was introduced in all schools – has made the schooling environment more conducive for students to practice English outside of a classroom setting.
“Other (ASEAN) countries are looking up to us. They were amazed with our previous progress (PPSMI), but were somehow let down to see it being abolished.
“So with these new programmes, we must make it a success,” she expressed.
When asked on her hopes and aspirations of DLP, she expressed, “As a parent, I think DLP has come a long way and we hope that teachers will not fall back into their comfort zone – revert teaching Maths and Science in Bahasa Malaysia – because we as a nation cannot afford it,” she concludes.
Everyone Involved In DLP Must Act As Advocates Of The Programme
Echoing Noor Azimah’s stance, Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur (IUKL) Department of Linguistic Studies, Head, Pramita Kaur Sidhu, agrees DLP is a necessity and shares with us how students will reap benefits of the programme.
“Personally, I feel that DLP is beneficial to students as it helps students develop their general academic performance in reading, writing, listening and speaking in two different languages.
“It gives an edge to students in the increasingly globalised world we live in today,” she stated.
But would she call the implementation a successful one thus far? Pramita notes that the programme is promising.
“The programme is promising and can prove to be a success if respective authorities design and develop appropriate curriculum materials and resources, as well as implement and provide ongoing support for language immersion for programme administrators, trained teachers, parents and students,” she justified.
However, if the implementation does not go in-sync with its initial plans, she is concerned that it might create an academic disparity and widen the existing gap between rural and urban schools.
She also highlights that people who are involved in the programme act as advocates to create more awareness about it – with parents being the most vital in this regard.
“Malaysian parents who want their school-going children to have better cognitive flexibility and greater acceptance, appreciation and respect for other languages, cultures and races – this is an important element that Malaysians are in need for!,” she exclaimed.
Pramita adds, in this day and age, English and student employability in the future both correlates strongly with one another.
“There is an increasing involvement in the global economy, from international businesses to diplomatic corporations – English is one of the key elements.
“So, with an increased proficiency in English, it will most definitely increase students’ possibility of employment in the future,” she opined.
Aside using English in the classroom through the help of DLP, Pramita also gave her suggestions on how students can participate and immerse themselves more into the language.
“Start a group or an agreement among friends to speak in only English at specific times or on a specific day of the week.
“Also, read English language magazines, blogs, comics, or even novels more frequently,” she suggests, reminding that without practice, nothing can come into perfection.
Lastly, while the success in implementing language programmes would add to new milestones for the nation, Pramita highlights what she thinks is a key ingredient missing in cultivating our nation to become more proficient in the English language.
“Malaysians’ attitude of false stereotyping and fabricated ethnocentrism is what hinders us from mastering the English language,” she stressed.
Based on the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) 2015, Malaysia is ranked 14th out of 70 countries in terms of English proficiency.
This is a great achievement as the only other Asian nation apart from us is Singapore (12th), with Malaysia’s average adult English proficiency being in the High Proficiency band.