Why the DLP is a good idea

By Hafidz Baharom

The Dual Language Programme (DLP) gives students – more assuredly, parents – the choice of whether they are taught in English or Bahasa Melayu (BM).

It is not available at all schools.

On one side, some believe you will create a society in which those who learnt in English may be better off than those who learnt in BM.

Which I think is odd. If teaching in English provides better results, then why would parents choose otherwise?

Does this basically mean that there is a quarter of the population out there who would prefer everyone be dumb together rather than some become smarter out of choice?

It’s a crude way to put it, sure, but that’s what we are looking at.

Will this programme widen the urban and rural divide? Most definitely. The reason being that when we actually had rural schools enrolled in the PPSMI as part of a nationwide policy, some parents didn’t want it.

Thus again, I raise the question. If now the DLP gives that choice, It should make everyone happy. Those who believe in the sovereignty of Bahasa Melayu can do so by having their kids choose such, while those who believe there is a need for subjects to be taught in English now have the choice to do so as well.

But at the same time, it will create an additional burden on teachers. In this sense, there are a few things that can be done.

Firstly, open up hiring for English speaking teachers locally. Anyone with a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) level English accreditation should be considered, even if it is for a part-time post.

Secondly, hire trainers to teach English to teachers who wish to teach in English. Make it an option with an additional allowance attached in lieu of a salary hike for a few years after.

You can even rope in the British Council for this one.

Thirdly, a proactive move, is to ensure that all TESL graduates pass the IELTS or TOEFL exam.

Yes, learning English won’t be easy for the teachers, so incentives must be in place. Either that, or allow those outside the system to contribute for nominal fees on a part time basis allowing them to have other jobs.

The above of course is the proverbial #2kerja scenario. Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan would approve.

The DLP is the compromise made because of the abolishing of the Teaching of Science and Maths in English Programme (PPSMI).

It makes the medium of instruction it a decision by parents – and hopefully involving the students themselves – to decide on the language used in the national education system without the increased nominal fee of thousands of ringgit in private schools which do so.

And allowing that choice is always a good thing. We cannot expect for teachers altogether to get a hold of using the English medium, nor do we expect to just let go of BM altogether as our official language.

In the end, it leaves the choice up to the parents and hopefully the students themselves to determine their fate. But personally I will say this – it is a win-win situation for all. Teachers with better English certification will be able to apply for a job in private schools, students will excel in our tertiary education

If there was one thing wrong with this, it is the fact that we aren’t offering it nationwide. But perhaps it is also the question of availability of resources – primarily teachers. Do we have enough teachers with an affinity for the English language?

Do we have unemployed graduates, or even retired teachers, willing to go and teach in English? Does the government through the ministry of education have funds for these suggestions, to hire part time teachers in an already bloated civil service, or even to train current teachers in English?

These questions are not easily answered because our government is currently in austerity mode and cutting spending, but it is important for us to consider.

With the passing of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) by our parliament just last week, this means that we are now joining a more globalised, liberal and open job market where English proficiency is in demand.

I personally hate that it was approved, but it is now time for us to cope with what the government has done. And one of those things is the need to buck up on our English for both those currently in the education system and those who are already looking to join the workforce.

Obviously, nobody can touch the sovereignty of Bahasa Melayu, since its status is enshrined in our Federal Constitution, thus leading me to believe that whatever opposition the DLP has is either politically motivated to win votes as Nurul Izzah has done, or just fear-mongering to stop anyone from becoming better equipped in dealing with a global job market.

But for now with education becoming a major issue in Malaysia, having a DLP is a stepping stone to revive our standing in the English language.

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