Two years ago, the Trenglish programme (Transforming English in Terengganu) was introduced as a collaborative effort between the state government and state Education Department.
Terengganu is a predominantly Malay state and still rural in so many ways. It has been reported that 84% of its people struggle to speak and write in English.
Focusing on the fact that English is only taught in schools. Students do not converse in English among themselves or while at home.
Petronas, Yayasan Terengganu and the state education department are determined to give it their best shot.
The results are beginning to show as almost 75% of students who signed up for the Trenglish programme passed the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) English paper in 2016.
Unfortunately, the programme is only implemented in 50 schools, which merely makes up about 10% of the 501 schools in the state.
How was it done?
In 2014, the Malaysian-American Commission On Educational Exchange (MACEE), provided scholars an opportunity to teach English in various public schools in Terengganu, Kelantan, Pahang, Perak, Kedah, Perlis, Sabah and Sarawak for a full academic year.
However, getting local graduates to teach has been more effective as American graduates, whose mother tongue is English, have not been able to communicate effectively with their students.
The state has hired graduates in English from local public institutions of higher learning to teach, focusing on Forms 3, 4 and 5 students.
Trenglish employs an interactive and fun approach by teaching English through language camps, mock interviews, drama and even nasyid performances.
Why was Trenglish implemented?
The efforts to improve the standard of English were the result of concern when 27% (5,500) students who sat for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination in Terengganu failed the English Language subject. This was based on statistics by the Terengganu Education Department over the last five years.
What about students in other rural areas?
A new English Language teaching and learning method via online, the Cambridge Accessible Tests (CATs), will be introduced with the focus on rural students.
Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said this pioneer programme would start by the year-end involving about 40 rural primary and secondary schools and expected to be implemented fully in one or two years.
He said the programme was developed with the cooperation of Cambridge Malaysia Education and Development Trust (CMEDT), and a working committee headed by Education director-general Tan Sri Dr Khair Mohamed Yusof would be formed to monitor the implementation of CATs.
“I think this is a very good programme for students, especially those in the rural areas who are less exposed to the English language,” he said.
Mahdzir said the CATs design was developed by CMEDT and ready for use. In fact, he added, English Language teachers had been trained at the English Language Training Centre (ELTC), Education Ministry, to implement the programme.
Meanwhile, ELTC director Dr Mohamed Abu Bakar said CATs functioned as an additional English Language teaching and learning method involving nine levels of mastery at the primary and secondary school levels.
“Students’ English Language proficiency will be tested from one level to another and if they can master all the nine levels, that means their proficiency is very good.
“When students have completed the nine levels of learning in primary school, they will start again from the first level in secondary school,” he said.
He added that the implementation of CATs could raise the number of students passing the English Language in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination from 79.4 per cent in 2016 to the targeted 81 per cent by 2020.
Rurals vs Urbanites
Most urban Malaysians already feel the English standard taught in schools and in examinations is low, with some saying the passing rates are compromised. Like it or not, even if the medium of instruction in public universities is Bahasa Malaysia, the harsh reality is that the reference materials, whether books or online documents, are mostly in English.
source: The Malay Mail, The Star