By DR ARNOLD PUYOK
STATEMENT: The Society Empowerment and Economic Development of Sabah (SEEDS) supports the call by Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, to re-establish English-medium government schools in Sabah.
Such a move will not only enhance Sabah’s human capital but prepares the state to compete globally particularly in the business and economic sectors.
2. While the federal government should be lauded for its efforts in enhancing the level of English proficiency among students, allowing the state to make English as the medium of instruction in government schools will allow Sabah to plan its human capital development based on the state’s unique history, culture and geographical position. This is also in line with the current initiatives to devolve powers to Sabah.
3. The English language, as it is widely acknowledged, is a lingua franca of the world and mastery in it is essential for Sabah that is already globally known for its tourism industry.
4. Sabah is also expected to benefit economically from the two billion English speakers coming from countries with English as their official language. The English language is Sabahans’ “passport to the world”.
5. In the learning domain, students who can understand English have slight advantage over those who can’t as most top films and books in the Internet are produced and published in English.
The mastery in the English language is important to prepare our students for the job market. There are many studies showing that one of the reasons why our students are jobless is because their inability to write and speak in English.
6. It is possible for English to be elevated as the main medium of instruction in government schools without affecting the use of Bahasa Malaysia, the official language of the country. The Philippines and Singapore, for instance, have managed to cultivate students’ national identity even though English is used as medium of instruction in schools.
7. However, the move to re-establish English-medium government schools must be done after a comprehensive study involving key stakeholders with experience and dedication to improving the overall quality of the education system in Sabah.
Such a move must also be done in tandem with the aspiration of the national education policy to unite the culturally diverse Malaysian people and to increase their sense of belonging to the country.
8. While there is strong correlation between mastery in English and students’ marketability, it is important for policymakers to look into other aspects which are essential to thrive in the market economy such as emotional intelligence and technical know-how.
- SEEDS Senior Fellow Dr Arnold Puyok, is a senior lecturer at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, who has more than 15 years’ experience in teaching at public higher learning institutions. SEEDS, is a non-governmental think tank dedicated to the ideal of creating a modern, moderate and progressive society through research and outreach programmes.