Atrocious English in workbooks

Atrocious English in workbooks
PHOTO: The Straits Times

PETALING JAYA - Several Science and Mathematics workbooks for students preparing for public examinations are littered with bad grammar.

One glaring example is a Science reference book for Form Three students.

Ironically, the cover noted that the contents included actual questions from last year's Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3 test papers, which were used with the permission of the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate.

The workbooks were also plagued by jumbled tenses and wrong prepositions, raising questions about quality checks done on these publications.

Manager Mohd Sharizan Walat at the workbooks' publication house confirmed that the questions were taken directly from the exam papers.

"We took them 100% from the actual papers. We just arranged them for our workbooks before publishing," he said.

Asked about the many errors, he said there should not be any because the questions were exact copies of those that appeared in the 2014 test papers.

"We checked several times. The questions and the suggested answers are duplicated exactly from the test scripts by the examinations syndicate. There shouldn't be errors," he said.

Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan said these private publications did not come under the ministry.

He said the ministry did not give a licence to private publications for reference books.

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If there were errors in the original exam questions, the parents of students who took the tests would have complained about them, he said.

"Sometimes, the publishers just cut and paste from the exam papers and do not check thoroughly," Kamalanathan said.

He said the ministry could not check on private publishers, and teachers, parents and students were free to choose the workbooks they wanted to use.

An editor at a local publishing company said there was a rigorous process before the workbooks were put on the shelves at retail stores.

"We get the manuscripts from the authors, who are teachers.

"Our responsibility is to ensure clarity and brevity," she said, adding that the language used must be appropriate for the target students' level.

The editor, who majored in English, said she only oversaw ­reference books for that subject and pointed out that "editing" the language was only a small part of the process.

She said editors were hired for both proficiency in language as well as knowledge in particular subjects.

"For example, our Bahasa Melayu editors are graduates in Malay literature from local universities," she said.

She added that a common fault of local authors was their tendency to ramble and the use of colloquialisms.

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