KUALA LUMPUR - Lose English and lose the competitive edge.
Newly appointed Deputy Education Minister Chong Sin Woon said in order to compete globally, Malaysia must embrace English.
"While it is true that English is not the most widely spoken language in the world (that honour falls to Mandarin), no other language is used more frequently by different speakers to share their ideas with one another than English," he said when launching the Erican International English Language Teaching (ELT) Conference 2015.
Chong, who is also MCA Youth chairman, said statistics showed that around two billion people worldwide used English on a daily basis, with the number expected to rise.
"English is a bridging language for business. Also, it is estimated that roughly half of the content available on the World Wide Web is in English," he added.
He said without an understanding of the language, one would lose access to half the information available on the Internet.
"However, it also means that if we persevere and master English, then we will suddenly gain access to this huge abundance of information which we would not be able to use otherwise," added Chong.
"Malaysia once enjoyed a distinct advantage in this region due to our high proficiency of the English language. This competitive advantage is now being threatened.
"We must, therefore, do everything we can to elevate the standards of English in this country," he said.
Chong also hoped to gain the support of teachers in order to improve the standard of education in Malaysia.
He said English teachers played an important role in teaching the language to Malaysian youth.
"Teachers, we depend on you," he said.
Erican Education Group chief executive officer Datuk Eric Chong congratulated the teachers who attended the conference.
"This shows how serious the teachers are to improve themselves," he said, adding that their "courage is commendable".
The conference is a corporate social responsibility project jointly organised by MCA Youth, the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (Melta) and Erican International College.
Themed "Creative pedagogies in English language education: Empowering learners for the real world", this was Chong's first official function as Deputy Education Minister.
The conference was attended by about 600 English language teachers from around the country.
The one-day conference saw teachers learning new teaching methods from renowned local and international ELT experts.