When Malaysia’s Ministry of Education launched its preliminary Education Blueprint, proposals were made to improve the quality of teacher training and ensure student proficiency in Bahasa Malaysia and English by 2025. Not a month later, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak announced that English teachers will have to pass an English Proficiency Test within two years or else be removed from their position. All 70,000 teachers will also need to pass the Cambridge Placement Test by 2015.
Teacher’s who don’t make the grade will be required to partake in an eight-week training program, involving a combination of personal training and online instruction. The vacancies must be filled either by retired teachers or qualified teachers already teaching other subjects.
And teacher’s aren’t the only ones under the gun. Primary school children will be tested twice a year to assure that 70% of secondary school children pass a compulsory English language test by 2025. Soon, year 1 children will take an initial test that will determine their placement in future English courses.
The strict assessment plans come following a profiling of English teachers and students. Major findings indicated that two-thirds of English teachers don’t meet proficiency levels, while two in three students fail to grasp the basics in English language.
Then, it appears that raising standards for teaching and learning is a step in the right direction–only the Ministry’s approach is questionable. An overemphasis on grades can do more to stifle the learning environment by extinguishing opportunities for creativity and independent thought. Ironically, lessons plans end up catering to assessment needs, instead of children’s growth and development.
One English language teacher, Terry Yap, noted, “Our system is too examination-oriented that people have forgotten that English is actually a practical knowledge that is useful beyond our school years.”
In this day and age, we have to believe that there are more effective ways to test language proficiency.
Creative Commons Love: Roslan Tangah aka “Rasso” on Flickr