PETALING JAYA - Malaysia is still some way off before it can reach an internationally accepted level of English proficiency, according to the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (Melta).
Referring to Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan's comments that Malaysians' grasp of the English language was better than Singaporeans, Melta president Assoc Prof Dr Ganakumaran Subramaniam said statistics provided in the Malaysian Education Blueprint showed otherwise.
Other documents released by the ministry and government agencies also showed the proficiency level was not there yet, he said.
He disagreed with the English Proficiency Index by Sweden-based EF Education First, which Kamalanathan cited during a conference on Saturday.
Kamalanathan's remarks drew flak on social media, with people accusing the ministry of resorting to inaccurate surveys.
"These type of surveys often have business and marketing agendas. If the ministry wants to know the truth, it should commission an independent and professional organisation to undertake a full-scale study on the quality of English among Malaysians of all levels and age groups," said Dr Ganakumaran.
Universiti Malaya lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Sharmini Patricia Gabriel concurred, saying lecturers had found they could not teach at the level they used to.
"We find that we are not able to teach students critically and creatively like we used to, as their command of the language is limited.
"I have been lecturing since 1990 and I definitely see students coming in with lower proficiency," said Dr Sharmini, who teaches English Literature.
She also doubted Kamalanathan's comparison, saying the approach of both countries towards the language made all the difference.
"Singapore uses English as one of its official languages. Here in Malaysia, it is taught as the second or foreign language. People still look at it as an alien language," she said.