‘Last resort’: Educators, parents in Malaysia frown on Anwar’s call for Singapore


Dr Isahak Haron, a retired professor of pedagogical studies, pointed out that Malaysia uses European-based CEFR English textbooks from Britain that contain illustrations of Western children and activities, including elements such as the four seasons.

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is an international standard for describing language ability. It uses a six-point scale, from A1 for beginners up to C2 for those who have mastered a language.

“These European-based English textbooks mean there is less of a local context; some of the content and activities are not quite relevant for Malaysia,” he told CNA.

Dr Isahak believes that good teaching material, including those in English textbooks, should contain appropriate content for pupils of different backgrounds and levels of oral and reading.

Lessons for Year 1, or Primary 1, students who learn English as a second or foreign language should also begin with learning material that they can cope with, he said.

The material should then be gradually stepped up based on pupils’ progress so that those with different abilities can work on English proficiency at their own pace.

“English becomes a difficult subject when pupils cannot cope with the beginner level of skills and material taught, using for example standardised textbooks prescribed from the top,” he added.

“So far, I think the pedagogical approach used is not based on pupils’ readiness and rate of learning, but based on the imposition of certain programmes that most pupils cannot cope meaningfully with.”

Education Minister Fadhlina Sidek said in December last year that a new school curriculum starting in 2027 could address Malaysia’s flailing PISA scores with its renewed focus on reading, writing and counting for Primary 1 and 2 students.

The curriculum will also make learning experiences “entertaining”, with more flexible methods of school-based assessments, she was quoted by local media as saying.

“The focus is no longer on task results alone. In this way, the teaching and learning process will be more flexible, fun and meaningful for teachers and students,” she said.

LET TEACHERS FOCUS ON TEACHING

With that said, Ms Alia at MCII stressed that educators need “ample time and space” to effectively teach English in a country where it is not a native language yet critical, especially as differentiated methods of teaching demand creativity.

“However, unnecessary school programmes and an overabundant syllabus are among the dilemmas that might limit opportunities for teachers to express their creativity and demonstrate innovativeness in teaching,” she said.

“In Malaysia, our education system is very much centralised, therefore, does not allow much room for autonomy, limiting the ability for educators to tailor their teaching methods and curricula to better meet the specific needs of their students.”

While the planning of personalised lessons and teaching materials for weaker students requires time, most of this is spent on non-teaching responsibilities like administrative duties, the teacher in Sabah said.

And while the MOE tries to deploy teachers in schools based on their manpower needs, she said it is “not all smooth sailing”, noting that some classes might not have a particular subject teacher for a long time due to a mismatch in supply and demand.

The NUTP previously highlighted a shortage of more than 20,000 teachers nationwide, mainly due to a lack of hiring to replace those who retired.

English and Malay language teachers were reported to have formed the bulk of those who opted for early retirement over the past few years, citing factors like increased workload and difficulty adapting to the use of technology.



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