English proficiency recognised in blueprint

Education movers: Muhyiddin looking at the Education Blueprint at the KL Convention Centre. Looking on are (from left) Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan, ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Madinah Mohamad, Education Minister II Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, Deputy Minister Datuk Mary Yap Kain Ching, education director-general Tan Sri Abdul Ghafar Mahmud and Higher Education Department director-general Datuk Dr Morshidi Sirat.

KUALA LUMPUR - English proficiency is needed for world-class competitiveness and the Government has recognised that in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025.

The number of contact hours of English in the classroom have been increased and the language will become a must-pass subject in the SPM examination by 2016.

Saying that a good command of English was needed for a "global generation", Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said more time would be allocated for teaching the language in schools.

"The (Education) Ministry is looking at increasing the time or 'contact hours' in the classroom, so students will be more exposed and immersed in the language.

"It may be possible to start this (idea) with single-session schools. We are considering this," he said when launching the finalised blueprint here yesterday.

Muhyiddin, who is Education Minister, said later the ministry was considering the viability of extending school hours to make more time for English lessons.

"Perhaps, we could extend by one or two hours. I think parents would not mind their children staying back a bit longer, instead of (the children) being unproductive.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (Page) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim suggested that instead of extending school hours, more subjects could be taught in English.

"Learning English is not only about learning it 'within the subject' but applying it through other subjects," she said.

Meanwhile, following a compromise between the ministry and vernacular education groups, the time allocated for Bahasa Malaysia in these schools will be capped at 240 minutes.

The draft initially proposed 270 minutes while the groups had called for it to be capped at 180 minutes or 210 minutes.

Remove classes for students from vernacular schools will be retained.

On concerns that vernacular education would be sidelined under the blueprint, Muhyiddin said nothing in the blueprint suggested this.

"Pupils from vernacular schools have a lower proficiency in Bahasa Malaysia and we have to help them improve. That is why we want to increase the teaching period for the subject," he said.

To be implemented in three stages over the next 13 years, the blueprint includes improving education quality to match international standards, setting higher standards for the teaching profession, improving ICT usage and increasing the transparency of the ministry.

These initiatives are aimed at producing six key attributes in students: knowledge; thinking skills; leadership skills; bilingual proficiency; ethics and spirituality; and national identity.