KUALA LUMPUR, May 30 — At its current pace, Malaysia will not be competitive globally because its young people have poor English language skills, former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin said.
He added that the thinking and communication skills among university students also left much to be desired and that Malaysia must address these areas now.
“The problem is sometimes thinking and communication. Most of our graduates cannot communicate. This is a problem. When someone questions in English they cannot answer. Whereas knowledge is English,” the former chairman of the now defunct Council of Eminent Person said in an interview with Astro Awani last night.
He noted that these topics are emotionally charged but said that Malaysians must “must set aside this” if they wanted a better future.
“We must think of the future. Where are we going to bring our nation to?
“We don’t want to penalise our future generation. So let’s think. Do we want to compete or not? Compete in education. Put aside sentiments, and think of our future, our children,” Daim added.
Debate over the increasingly poor ability to speak and understand English, particularly among those who attend public education institutions, has risen over the past few years with much blame cast on the education system.
In 2017, local think tank the Institute For Democracy And Economic Affairs highlighted the inability or unwillingness among students at both tertiary and secondary school level to even speak in English, attributing it to a lack of confidence and perception that those who used the language did so to appear superior or elitist.
Yesterday, the Sarawak government announced that its public schools will begin teaching Maths and Science in English to primary Year One pupils starting January next year—becoming the first state in the country to do so.