KUALA TERENGGANU - English proficiency among Malaysian students is at a "high level" and soaring, says Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh.
He said the ministry's centralised university unit (UPU), via its online application portal, had conducted a study on the applicants and found that their level of English was improving.
"We also see that although the Government increased the entry level for universities, including the Malaysian University English Test (MUET) results, the students' performance showed improvement.
"MUET will stay while more emphasis will be given to students to perform even better," he said after launching the Zone 2 Higher Education Ministry's "Soaring Upwards" Tour and "Jom Masuk Universiti" at Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin here yesterday.
Idris asked how was it possible for a student from Malaysia to win an international debate competition last year if the level of English was so bad in Malaysia.
He was rebutting claims by certain quarters that many students, despite achieving excellent results in public examinations, had failed to enter local universities as their English results proved to be their downfall.
Many, including top scorers in Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) and Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (STAM), especially in Terengganu, had fared badly in MUET.
"This is just a perception. People's perception ought to be changed.
"The Government has emphasised English in schools and higher learning institutions, and I believe that proficiency in the language will soar even higher," he said.
"There are many countries that admire the level of English in Malaysia. There was a report by a Thai paper saying that the level of English in Malaysia is actually high."
Idris also said certain quarters poured cold water on the country's higher education system without checking the facts.
He noted that there were 114,653 international students in Malaysia and 20,395 of them were doing either a master's or a doctorate.
"This shows the level of education we have in Malaysia. They trust our system, that's why they are here to study," he said.