Sunday, September 6, 2009

Importance of English

Dear All,

The local economist are voicing their concerns that Malaysia is not producing human capital that is of the right quality -- people who are critical & creative; to be innovative and to face the challenges that is needed in a globalised economy. In fact, there's a brain drain. Many of the top talents in many fields are leaving our shores and helping other nations to develop and prosper. We read of such Malaysians in The STAR who made it big and contributing to the economy of foreign countries .

One of the critical factors is our system of education which is still based on rote-learning and the lack of emphasis in the English language. My fear is we may not achieve Vision 2020 even if we are given another 50 years!

As an English teacher, our roles is becoming more important now as Science and Mathematics will not be taught in the English language in the near future.

Rodney Tan


Education is the key to innovation and competitiveness.

Prof Datuk Mohamed Ariff ... ‘Education is an investment in human capital.’

“To succeed, you will soon learn, as I did, the importance of a solid foundation in the basics of education – literacy, both verbal and numerical, and communication skills”

THE target has been set: Vision 2020 is the destination. The map is ready, and the machineries are being put in place. Question: Who will drive us there?

In the pursuit of economic success, the value of human capital cannot be left out of the equation. Human capital is the DNA of the economy. A country’s success begins and ends with people. Already, the world is competing for “skills” to put the right people at the right place to drive their economies.
But the question is ... does Malaysia have this key ingredient to drive its economy?
According to the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research executive director Datuk Dr Mohammed Ariff Abdul Kareem, human capital is a scarce commodity in the country.
“We have acute shortage of professionals because our education system is not and has not been producing skills and talents that fit into the mainstream of modern business,” he says.
Indeed, the human-capital base is nurtured from the early ages through all levels in the education system. But one of the major concerns plaguing the Malaysian education system is that it has not changed very much from one that is based on rote-learning to one that promotes critical thinking.
Radical change needed
“Our education system is archaic … it does not keep pace with what the nation needs. So, there should be a complete overhaul of our education system, not just cosmetic changes,” Ariff argues.
“We may have beautiful plans, but if our education system does not keep pace, nothing moves,” he adds.
It is undeniable that the Government has invested quite heavily in the country’s education system, considering the fact that it has been allocating more than 20% of its yearly budget in education and training. For instance, in Budget 2009, the budget allocation for education and training was RM47.7bil. The amount accounted for 23% of the total budget allocation that year.
The huge sum aside, director-general of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, Dr Mahani Zainal Abidin, believes it is more important to analyse whether the monies have been efficiently channelled to the right areas where needed to improve the system.
Economists believe that policymakers need to be more radical in their approach to improve the structure of the education system, so that it can produce “thinking” students, who are competitive and have good communication skills.
And to produce quality students, the country needs to get the best brains into the teaching profession for all school levels, experts say. In this case, a better reward scheme for teachers has to be formulated to attract the right talents into the noble profession.
“Education is an investment in human capital,” explains Mahani.
“Hence, improving the system is an urgent requirement to boost the nation’s competitiveness and move its economy up the value chain,” she adds.

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam concurs. He says: “There is no point in moving into a new economic model if we do not have high-quality human capital that can compete with their peers overseas.”

Language issue

Last month, at the International Conference on Education for All, the Perak Regent Raja Dr Nazrin Shah stressed the importance of the English language in today’s economy. He said proficiency in the language – the lingua franca of world commerce and finance – would enable one to enjoy many advantages in the global workplace.
“We are in no position to be competitive without the language ... our people must be equipped and master the language to be successful,” former Bank Negara adviser Tunku Abdul Aziz Ibrahim says.

The concern is the lackadaisical attitude towards the importance of English language in the present-day education system in Malaysia, compared to other countries in the region.
Take China. According to its National Bureau of Statistics, English language has become one of the backbones of China’s vocational training market now, with more than 50,000 institutes teaching the language. The total English training market value exceeded 22 billion yuan last year, and it is expected to reach 30 billion yuan in 2010.

Brain drain

Although brain drain has long been a worldwide phenomenon due to greater international labour mobility, it is an issue that Malaysia has to deal with seriously.
“We have lost a lot of talented people who are now contributing significantly to the development of other countries,” Tunku Aziz points out, adding that the problem will likely continue to plague the nation unless fundamental changes such as equal opportunities and meritocracy take place in the system.
In this international battle for brains, economists believe that Malaysia cannot afford to lose if it aspires to be a successful nation. They argue that there is an urgent need to review the reward and compensation system to provide greater incentives to draw local talents back, and to attract foreign expertise into the country.
In short, Malaysia needs to get its “software” right to run.


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