English mastery not needed to achieve Vision 2020, says Idris Jala
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 – Cabinet minister Datuk Seri Idris Jala has dismissed the need for proficiency in the English language to achieve the Vision 2020 goal of becoming a high-income nation.
His view contradicted opinions by AmBank Group chairman Tan Sri Datuk Azman Hashim and the English-language lobby group PAGE, who have said that mastery of the lingua franca was crucial in transforming Malaysia to a knowledge economy.
“You can be a high income economy with the national language,” said Idris (picture) at the CEO Forum organised by the Perdana Leadership Foundation today.
He cited examples like Korea and Japan that became high-income nations without mastering the English language.
“We need to remember that Korea became a high-income nation without using English. Japan went without that too,” said the Performance Management & Delivery Unit (Pemandu) CEO.
Azman, however, warned that failure to master the English language was akin to “handicapping” the country in its bid to increase innovation and competitiveness as it was the dominant language in the world of knowledge.
“We are handicapping ourselves to be innovative and competitive,” Azman had said.
The banker also slammed policy reversals for creating a generation of graduates who lacked proficiency in the language.
The decision to abolish the policy of the teaching of science and mathematics in English — popularly referred to by its Malay acronym, PPSMI — last year was widely seen as a political move to appease Malay language nationalists.
Since then, many have expressed concern that it would cause the standard of English in the country to further deteriorate and hurt the country’s competitiveness.
Idris, however, stressed today that education quality mattered more than the medium of instruction.
“The quality of education is the point,” said the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.
Malaysia dropped two spots in the World Economic Forum (WEF) competitiveness index this year and ranked 26 out of 132 countries.
The ranking of educational institutions in Malaysia has also dived throughout the past years to the point of dropping out of the top 200 universities in the QS World University Rankings this year.
PAGE has urged the private sector to push for the reinstatement of the policy to teach science and mathematics in English, saying that it is crucial for the success of the government’s Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).
Yesterday, PAGE chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim pointed out that the decision to abolish the policy in July 2009 was done before any economic blueprint was in place.
She also noted that the private sector was to drive the ETP and will require a skilled workforce but, like Azman, claimed most local graduates lack English proficiency and knowledge in science, technology and commerce.
The ETP is one of the Najib administration’s initiatives aimed at roughly tripling gross national income in the next 10 years and is based on a slew of private sector-driven projects that would require private funds to the tune of US$266 billion (RM822 billion).