English-language teachers: With time, they will become proficient

I refer to the letter “Get the teachers prepared first” (NST, May 6), on the language proficiency of English-language teachers.

Malachi E. Vethamani of Universiti Putra Malaysia expresses concern that there are teachers who have neither the competence nor the confidence to teach the English language and adds that candidates who are not equipped to teach the language have been accepted to meet the need for English-language teachers.

Many of the young English-language teachers are from the Bahasa Malaysia medium of instruction.

Many of these candidates secured good results for the English Language subject in public examinations.

The examination system has written tests and does not test oral competency and proficiency.

A distinction in English Language does not mean that candidates have oral proficiency and competence in their speaking skills.

The selection process for teacher training is an exhaustive process.

Teachers do not have the option of selecting their subject major.

The selection is done by the Education Ministry.

After the selection process, the teacher-training programme itself is an intensive training programme.

It is the role of the teacher training institute to mould them into English-language teachers.

There are many candidates who are proficient and competent in the English language, coming from English-speaking homes, but they do not apply for teacher-training programmes.

Those who apply for the teacher-training programmes, though not competent and confident in teaching the English language, have the basic academic qualification and the desire to be teachers.

It is not fair to compare these young teachers and their English-language proficiency with senior teachers who are from the earlier era when English was the medium of instruction in schools.

Many experienced and good English-language teachers prefer to teach in or near towns and do not want to teach in rural areas.

It is, therefore, not surprising to find untrained English language teachers in such schools.

It would be unfair to expect these English-language teachers to become proficient, confident and competent over-night.

Slowly but surely, they will perform. Let us not be too judgmental of our English-language teachers.

Good teachers are a rare breed. Teaching is a vocation that demands the devotion and dedication of a lifetime.

Many English-language teachers may not be competent and proficient but have the passion and desire to teach.

And with the right attitude, these teachers will become competent, confident and proficient in their English-language teaching.

The New Straits Times, 22 May 2008