31 January 2012

Pakcik reminisces (Pt 23b) - Response to Awang Goneng

Pakcik’s previous entry drew a number of comments. The one from Awang Goneng (copied below) touched on points very pertinent to learning of English language.

Way to go Abang Ngah! I am happy to hear about your planned collaboration with a local university. The problem nowadays is not the quantity of teaching but the quality. Our children have lost their language skills but there are more opportunities for language learning around them. People say there's too much Malay nowadays, but there's too much English too. More and more government departments are writing in English, more people in public are speaking in English and there are many, many television programmes in English. Language learning isn't just vocabulary building or learning the mechanics of grammar. It is more than that. Children should read and love reading. They should listen and love listening. In short, they should love the language they are learning. Literature is kicked by the wayside nowadays and language is pushed into slots. English for Science, English for this English for that. Teaching English as English seems to be a futile exercise. Give them back the love of literature, the sounds of words.”


While Awang Goneng laments briefly over the teaching and usage of English language I am using this avenue to express my concern on the same subject:

i ) - Would the few hundred teachers imported from America be of help to the likes of the poor rural children who attend classes at Almanar?

ii ) - Assuming our teachers have been suitably trained to teach English as a means to communicate and a tool to search for knowledge, are they at liberty to use their skill to the full or are they being restricted to doggedly and blindly follow what the demigods of education upstairs have outlined?

iii ) - Have the heads of schools been trained to MANAGE an organisation rather than to teach; and if so have they got the leeway to exercise discretion to suit the problems faced in their varied environments?

iv) - Seeing what has been the excessive emphasis on RECORDs of straight ‘A’ at state as well as at school level, should we not, for a change, see highlights of the number and percentage of pupils achieving nothing beyond ‘D’ and ‘E’? Not long ago, the percentage of the group of pupils in this low category at one school reached as high as 30% in one PMR exam. That is very telling isn’t it?

v) – Does the introduction of a subject like EST ( English for Science and Technology) reflect deficiency in our English as a subject?

vi) – Instead of hard copies, blackboard and chalks, must we encourage the use of computing technology to the extent that a teacher can leave the pupils on their own in class?

vii) – Are the text books used for teaching English up to standard? Is it acceptable, for instance, that poems and short stories by Malaysians are translated into English and used as parts of introduction to English literature? Are we making our children learn English literature or learn to be proud of ‘Malaysia boleh’?

I have these questions playing in my head from time to time for so many years when I keep seeing with despair at the attainment of many kampong children coming for help at Almanar.

I will not forget what Awang Goneng once mentioned to Pakcik how the problem of poor children at the bottom classes in schools of a neighbouring country was tackled. The method was so successful that teachers would scramble to teach bottom classes! But we are too proud to be a ‘copycat’. With Malaysia Boleh we should not be surprised when Malaysian engineers are soon required to reinvent the wheel!


To Awang Goneng.

Mi, I may have been unnecessarily critical. I may have raised some eyebrows among my readers. But in the environments I happen to live in, on top of growing old, I have my frustrations.

Thank you for your comments.

Abang Ngah

Berkhidmat kerana Tuhan untuk kemanusiaan


kaykuala said...

Dear Pak Cik.
I endorse fully the sentiments expressed. The immediate step is love for reading. If each pupil in school can have a book (any book) under their armpits all the time and read at every opportunity (while waiting for the bus,for instance)it'll be a grand start. Those writing in the blogs often said that having a Denise Robins, or Enid Blyton around them when growing up make for their good writings these days. Just my 2 cent's worth!

P/S There's a little school in the interior of Sarawak which did the impossible by winning accolades in English in the state within a couple of years. How? Everyone forced to speak in English not just reading in English.

Anonymous said...

Salam Pakcik,

One of the imported Americans is assigned to our school for the next ten months. (they are not trained teachers but fresh graduates from various fields). Basically, they are here not to teach but more to facilitate activities so that students will have different perceptions towards learning English. Their approaches will be different from ours which is 'exam-oriented'. I am hoping the one assigned to our school can make some changes in the students' attitude. I am keeping an open mind because after being with these young people for the past few days, they seem so eager to do their part in helping our students.


ninotaziz said...

Most probably I have said this before but I cannot thank my English teacher enough for encouraging my love for poetry and English and general knowledge. Mrs Khaw Choon Ean should share with others her methods of teaching English (My Geography and History teachers too!) We had rotated library boxes, songsheets with blanks to be filled up, movies, videos, poetry and oh so much more. Anyway, English classes were so much fun and I now hear that my classmates then like C-f-S and others using such fun methods to teach English to the disadvantaged rural students.

But reading comes long before school. So we need more attractive and user friendly libraries - plus book prices must come down!

Al-Manar said...

Dear Hank,

I think many readers agree that effective teaching would rtequire innovative approach, more so where the situation involves slow learners and those who lack motivation. This in turn reqires that teachers are themslves have the knowledge in the ssubjects they bare teaching and they are not bbound by the famous 'formats' and limitations.

Creating interest is a skill which I pewrsonally do not possess, hence I am facing some problems with new batches iof malingering children.

Al-Manar said...


I am sure the graduate posted at your school can contribute towards a positive attitude toweards learning. They may not be better than an experienced local teacher in teaching the language itself.

I would like to hear the positive results in due course.

Al-Manar said...


Mrs KCE is a typical example of the sort of teacher we need as I mentioned in my comments to Cikgu Rozuta above. Mrs KCE might have retired by now. They are hundreds of such teachers around. Inviting them and giving them suitable incentives would would very like attract them to be of serviceto the country. Old teachers have that quality. We do not need AMERICANS to show us this, if we truly believe in 'Malaysia Boleh'.

ninotaziz said...

Pakcik, sorry for making my way back here again. Just more things I recall, English was fun also because of all the topics we discussed in English class. Nostradamus, the Bermuda Triangle, the REAL menstrual cycle, Super powers and the end of the world? Not to mention discussing Withering Heights and Anna Karenina.

Some suggestions for young teachers - Dikir Barat in English, translating popular Sudirman songs like Basikal Tua or Hujan, class poetry collection inspired by one word like Crimson, Chocolate or Clouds. Outdoor class to discuss the environment or go green.
Discussion : History Channel documentary on Tan Sri P Ramlee
Discussion : Who was Steve Jobs?
Discussion : what did the Mayans really say about 2012
Discussion : a workshop on Flying Kites
Just tossing ideas!

Ismail aka Pak Mail said...


I have to admit that I am not good in writing English. In my mind I fear what people says about my bad grammars and vocabulary. But, I always envied to people who writes good English.

I am quite an old chap. 50+. And I supposed it is still not too late to keep on learning how to write good English.

Wan Sharif said...

Another heavy stuff for my poor brain. Glad to follow what has been deliberated;)

Al-Manar said...


You were lucky to have gone through one of the country's top secondary schools where you were exposed to classes conducted by experienced teachers who were able to exercise their skills unhindered by 'formats'.

Thank you for the ideas you presented. My hope right now is centred on getting some volunteers to assist me. Insya Allah the current unhappy situation will see some light.

Al-Manar said...


Where we are today, having had a career, English is no longer important. We worry about our young generation. It is inevitable that, in this competitive world, English language is important to them to move ahead.

How many people are there who can write about battle ships and submarines with any degree of authority? I would not know what 5S Certificate is without reading your posting.

Al-Manar said...

Ayah Wang,

When you go about describing your oil wells do you think that is not a heavy stuff to many, my friend? I see quite a few wells around me and they are quite full of water during this wet season. Are these wells anything like yours going right through the sea bottom? And some of your religious notes are truly light staff?

Try to catch up with Ninot and C-f-S and challenge them to take a sampan to Pulau Duyong in this weather and see whether they can stand it. I know I cannot. And I know you can stand up happily doing the joget! Rough sea is nothing to you, right?

Wan Sharif said...

Oops.. You are correct on most of you reply on my comment save for the fact that I am prone to sea sickness..

Al-Manar said...

Ayah Wang,

Sea sickness. Minung aier masing sampar kembong perok.

Aishah said...

Assalamualaikum, sometimes I feel I am not good at any language. I speak my bahasa best in my Kedah dialect and so I do not know how to speak proper Malay. I can write proper Malay with a lot of effort. My speaking and writing English is okay, but I would not say good and up to any defined standard. How to fix the situation in our education system? Practice makes perfect and I would go with Hank, force may be the solution.

naniasda said...

Salam Pakcik,
Your entry this time makes me remember Mrs Kutty and the blue-eyed Miss Sally Andrews from UK...they were my English teachers in the upper secondary school. Just Like ninotaziz's Mrs Khaw, they encouraged me to write better and I can still remember the disappointment on Mrs Kutty's face when I dropped english literature frm the list of subjects for MCE. But now I cringed inwards when I read my kids written english and also blamed myself for not being able to really help them...how do you help someone who has no love for reading???

Al-Manar said...

You are a mystery girl, disappearing and emerging from nowhere. I do not believe you have any problem with languages.

Truly I do not have the special modern teaching skills, singing, play acting etc. I am looking for volunteers to help at Almanar. Sadly people do not do things for free.

I like Hank's old fashioned route, force it all on them.

aliya said...

Dear Pakcik Hassan,
I wish and wish that I had more than 5 periods a week per class.(40 minutes x 5=200 minutes). Take away precious minutes waiting for them to return from the labs/canteen/assembly and I'm usually left with less than 180minutes to teach grammar, reading comprehension, literature, etc and help them pass their English paper. A Herculean task.
As the old textbooks are not up-to-date with the current exam format and literature component, in order to help students, I have to collect money from the class fund to make copies of exam-based exercises for them to practise. The school does not allow teachers to use the photocopiers, citing rising costs of paper and ink.It's ok for rich students but for the poor ones, I often have to fork out my own money.
I believe most English teachers are doing our best for the students but the school administrators also need to assist us. The amount of paper work is mounting. Teachers nowadays have to do more than prepare lesson plans and teach.
It's always easy to call foreigners to come and give ideas to improve English among students. However, we must remember than their school system is very different, their syllabus is different and theirs are not exam-oriented like ours. They don't have parents writing complaint letters to the ministry and the press, as well as students/parents attacking teachers in schools. Even the new Penilaian Berasaskan Sekolah to abolish PMR (beginning this year Form 1) requires teachers to fill in sheets and sheets of forms.
In my opinion, to improve the overall performance of our children, we actually need a total revamp of the school system. Add more periods to English in both primary and secondary schools so that students learn the subject everyday and not just 2-3 times a week.

Al-Manar said...


You are a typically dedicated teacher, one I had in mind when I wrote that posting. You cannon do what you know is best for your children because you are not given that liberty. Your Head will give one hundred and one reasons why you are not allowed to do things your way any more than what he/she
is allowed to.

'...but the school administrators also need to assist us ...'is what you said. My career of thirty years tells me that this is among he most serious symptoms of incompetence in 'management' which I am most concerned over many heads of schools today.

Is doing away PMR exam really a right move? What are the main objectives of PMR exam ? I have my views as much as anyone else has his/her views. You mentioned having to fill in sheets and sheets of forms. Have the 'demigods' in the ministry thought this through? They are just pen pushers, digging a hole to fill another.

Thank you for your in-depth comments. I wish they had come earlier. Please give your values.