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Malaysia moves to improve students’ standard of English

KUALA LUMPUR — The Malaysian government emphasised the learning of English under a new education blueprint launched yesterday, while considering extending the school week by 10 hours.

KUALA LUMPUR — The Malaysian government emphasised the learning of English under a new education blueprint launched yesterday, while considering extending the school week by 10 hours.

There will be more time allocated for English as a subject in schools to increase students’ proficiency in the language. The move is to prepare students for 2016, the year from which it is compulsory to pass English for SPM secondary examinations, the Education Minister said.

Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), or the Malaysian Certificate of Education, is a national examination taken by fifth-year secondary school students.

Education Minister Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin told reporters yesterday: “We’re currently looking into the possibility of extending students’ ‘contact time’ for English, and whether it would be viable to start this in single-session schools.

“Perhaps we could extend the school day by one or two hours. I think parents will not mind their children staying in school a bit longer, instead of being involved in unproductive activities.

“For example, if we extend the school day by just two hours, that’s an extra 10 hours a week.

“Compared with many developed countries, our school hours are not that long,” added Mr Muhyiddin, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, after launching the finalised version of the National Education Blueprint 2013-2025. However, he did not specify a time frame for such an extension of hours.

Earlier in his speech, Mr Muhyiddin also said that while the ministry would continue to strengthen the role of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language, equal emphasis would be given to English so as to “produce a global generation”.

English-language education lobbyists have pushed for the return of English-language education as an option, following the reversal of a previous policy of teaching Science and Mathematics in the language in 2010. The measure, seen as a bid to arrest the decline in the standard of English, could rile some Malay nationalists, local media reported.

The Education Ministry also confirmed yesterday that vernacular schools would continue to exist under the new National Education Blueprint launched yesterday, allaying the fears of Chinese and Tamil educationists.

Mr Muhyiddin said the right of Chinese and Tamil schools to use mother-tongue languages as a medium of instruction is guaranteed under the Education Act 1996.

The topic of education and race remains sensitive in the country as Malay groups consistently blame the existence of vernacular schools for racial polarisation.

Mr Muhyiddin told reporters the ministry had been meeting with Chinese groups about the allocation of additional lessons in the Malay language in vernacular schools.

The preliminary report of the blueprint was launched by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak last September. Aimed at producing students with attributes such as bilingual proficiency and thinking skills, the initiatives will be implemented in three stages from this year to 2025.

Mr Muhyiddin said yesterday the ministry will publicly present an annual report on the progress of the blueprint implementation. AGENCIES

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