By : Shenton Thomas De Silva
JOHOR BARU: Efforts to raise flagging English language proficiency levels in Malaysia are being hampered by children’s poor reading habits as well as the cultural factor.
That is according to an English Language lecturer from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, who cited the two stumbling blocks as sources of frustration for many English teachers in the country.
Abdullah Mohd Nawi, from UTM’s Faculty of Education, even went so far as to say that English books may soon be phased out in the country within the next ten years.
“Students nowadays will not read any literature that does not directly feature in their exams.
“If they do pick up a book, it is either a comic book or manga.
“The sad truth is that students do not read any of the good and substantial reading materials available,” said Abdullah.
Asked whether the poor reading habit among Malaysians was a cultural phenomenon or a symptom of the education system, Abdullah cited the former.
“Studies have shown that Malaysia has one of the best education systems in our region.
“So, as far as I am concerned, the poor reading habit is a cultural factor,” said Abdullah who is also publicity and promotion head for the Sixth Language for Specific Purposes (LSP) International Seminar 2008.
It was held at the Persada Convention Centre in Johor yesterday.
The seminar was attended by more than 100 local and international teachers and presenters.
The purpose of the seminar was to address the issue of how English could be effectively used in specific fields .
On the education system, Abdullah said that in spite of the holistic learning and development approach advocated for students by the Education Ministry, the school system was still an exam-oriented one which placed no emphasis on additional reading, apart from school books.
“I believe that we can benefit from the American education system (which fosters holistic learning),” he said.
On the question of whether Malaysia would become a more proficient English-speaking society in 10 years, Abdullah expressed cautious optimism.
“My hope is that we will develop into a nation that is wholly bilingual.”