THE furore over the Malaysian University English Test (MUET) from both the National Union of the Teaching Profession and teachers is cause for concern. I would say the Education Ministry is sincere in its effort to address the issue of English teachers’ competency level. However, there are too many flaws or shortcomings in this noble effort.
First, why MUET? Why not APTIS (an English test administered by British Council) which was used to a degree of success some years back to weed out teachers who did not have the desired competency. There were issues no doubt on how it was administered and attempts to manipulate the results by some officers at the district and state education departments, but on the whole it was a comprehensive three- hour international English test covering the four vital components of English language learning.
MUET, on the other hand, is a locally-constructed test. Although, this may not be a problem, the marking of the paper and how the speaking and listening components are going to be assessed may pose contentious issues.
As it stands, MUET markers/assessors are teachers themselves. And it is common knowledge that these assessors/markers are not specifically selected. Most of the time, they are volunteers or are forced to mark/assess just because they are teaching Form Six English. I know for one because I was teaching Form Six and became a marker/assessor (not necessarily by choice)
This brings us to the question of marking validity. Just because a teacher no longer teaches in a Form Six school by choice, he no longer becomes a marker/assessor, and to add insult to injury, he now has to sit for the MUET as well and be assessed by someone who may not possess the desired competency.
Second, the logistics of administering the test to over a 100,000 English teachers is mind-boggling. Apart of desirability of the markers/assessors, there are issues of venue, time, and teacher availability. As it is, teachers are attending countless courses throughout the teaching year, so one can imagine the chaotic situation in schools as more of them are leaving teaching classes to sit for the test.
Third, requiring every English teacher to sit for MUET is akin to saying that all of them are incompetent and not proficient in English. This is tantamount to a mockery of all the university degrees (local and foreign) awarded to them.
There are no doubt genuine cases of English teachers found wanting or not proficient, but to require all and sundry to sit for the MUET to weed out these incompetent ones is absurd and a waste of time and money.
The ministry on excuse of budgetary constraints, wants the teachers to pay RM100 each to sit for the test. This is yet another insult to injury for teachers who are competent and do not require the test.
Lim Seng Leong