The A to Z of English - Debunk DLP myths

I WAS happy to read that the Dual Language Programme (DLP) will be expanded to all schools under the Second Wave (2013- 2025) of the Malaysia Education Blueprint as announced by Deputy Education Minister Chong Sin Woon.

It has been reported that in preparation for this major step by the ministry to improve English proficiency of school leavers and graduates, teachers have been undergoing training for the past two years.

The DLP, which kicked off in January, was initially open to 300 schools. It works on the premise that classroom teaching and learning will be in both Bahasa Malaysia and English with the choice left to the schools.

After a long time we are seeing a trialled initiative being expanded without going to the butchers too soon and we hope to see some measurable and observable outcomes.

However, following the announcement Chinese schools protested saying such a move might ruin the emphasis placed on the primary language used in the school.

It is often said it is only when we stop fearing, we can begin to live, experiment and explore and in this context, unfounded fears seem to have gripped some groups tight enough to have squeezed out strong disapproval to adopting the DLP.

The Chinese organisations that petitioned against the DLP being adopted in Chinese schools need re-education. Perhaps a more profound source of information needs to be made available to them to demystify misconceptions.

What is sorely missing is probably the Education Ministry not having sufficiently engaged with the stakeholders, students, parents, teachers and the community.

From what I read, there is huge uprising from apprehension that the DLP will erode the importance of mother tongue in Chinese schools and this was exactly the anxiety shared by Malay groups some months ago.

Dong Zong (United Chinese School Committees Association) urged the Chinese community to reject the DLP to prevent the erosion of the characteristics of Chinese national-type schools.

The relevant communities need to be educated that essentially, the DLP is a way to ensure that non-English-speaking students, or students who are not yet proficient in English, are given equitable opportunities to succeed in and complete their education.

While schools and teachers may use a variety of dual-language strategies, each with its own instructional goals, the programme is designed to develop English fluency, content knowledge, and academic language – the knowledge, skills, and cultural proficiencies needed to succeed academically as well as in life.

The DLP varies in structure and implementation but the common goal for students is to develop bilingualism and bi-literacy, based on high levels of proficiency in two languages

A key element in realising the goal is the “additive bilingual” purpose, whereby all students learn a new language while continuing to develop academically and linguistically in their home/national language.

In this context, the myths associated with DLP must be debunked quickly before they spread and become entrenched.

If we look at the root issue, mother tongue or national language proficiency has never been a concern. English proficiency or the lack of it has stayed in focus with the intensity sustained for as long as I can remember. Let us accept that when one becomes proficient in English, his or her confidence soars, opportunities show up and global exposure follows.

All of these may not be achievable if we work on the basis of compromise.

“The English language is nobody’s special property. It is the property of the imagination; it is the property of the language itself.”

The writer believes that the Malaysian education system will reach greater heights with a strong antidote to revolutionise just about everything. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com