“We did not see the problems we are facing today because we were filled with a sense of patriotism, and so we concentrated on the use of Bahasa Malaysia.
“This is, in itself, not wrong. We should be proud of our mother tongue and of our national language,” she said at the 21st Melta International Conference today.
“We could not see that learning a second language has nothing to do with our love for our country,” she said.
Raja Zarith, who is also Universiti Teknologi Malaysia chancellor, added that Malaysians had not foreseen a world driven by technology, and more importantly, that English would become the most spoken language in the aggressive work arena.
“With English being an important language of knowledge and global competition now, the need to arrest this decline has never been more urgent.
“The students are not at fault; we should use whatever expertise we have with proper funding to create a new generation of students who will confidently speak English.”
Education Ministry deputy director-general Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof said that although surveys show 56% of employers cite poor command of English among fresh graduates as a rejection factor, the ministry had worked to improve the teaching and learning of the language.
“Steps taken include appointing two language teachers for classes with a high enrolment and introducing language arts in teaching and learning methods.
“Careful thought has been given to the implementation of language policies within the education system to help teachers be more innovative,” he said in his keynote address today.
Melta president Assoc Prof Dr Ganakumaran Subramaniam said the two-day conference, themed “Reframing English Language Education: New Environments, New Needs, New Solutions”, complemented the government’s aspirations to transform the national education system.
“Education transformation to attain global standards cannot happen without taking the importance of the English Language into account.
“We hope ventures by Pemandu and the Education Ministry will consider engaging English Language training experts and organisations for intellectual expertise and product support,” he said, adding that this would develop in Malaysians a greater sense of commitment to addressing national education needs.
More than 500 delegates and presenters attended the two-day conference which ends tomorrow.