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Recently news related to the standard of English in Malaysia has been circulating online especially after UPSR results were released. Opinions and Facebook posts have emerged from different parties. Particularly, this one outstanding one.

A public secondary school teacher by the name of Joseph Tan has shared his point of view of the level of English proficiency in Malaysian. For those who have left the education field in Malaysia for many years, you will be shocked to see how much our education system has changed throughout the years.

1. Passing mark for English is 6 out of 100.

“15% of the total students in Malaysia FAILED SPM in 2014 AND MIND YOU, that’s EVEN WITH THE PASSING MARK LOWERED to as low as 25/24 for Sejarah and BM, the compulsory passing subjects. (Only SIX for English FYI).”

Simply put, student only need to score 6 out of 100 to pass English on SPM, which is even lower than Additional Mathematics where you only need 11 to pass the subject.


2. Teachers teach students how to “cheat” and win marks.

“I’d taught them again and again, how to simply copy points to get marks and ways to ‘cheat’ the system in an effort to get at least a few marks for a test which is 11 years too advanced for their level.”

“I felt angry and irritated that my students refused to even follow my simple instructions to copy this and that and use specific words which I guaranteed could get them 20+ (out of 155) marks in the exam. They didn’t need to understand what was before them, they just needed to COPY parts of the questions.”

“Students who barely have the English proficiency of a 4 year old, forced to do papers meant for 16 year olds.”

3. Quality of our students is compromised due to bad surroundings.

“I remembered where my students were coming from. Kampung school, kampung life, virtually NOBODY to practice English with, bad parents, bad teachers, bad school administration, bad childhood education, bad discipline, bad cultural and community influence, poor financial background, divorced parents, and the list goes on.”

“And so they turn to other things to escape from their shitty reality: monkeying around in classes, ponteng class, ponteng school, smoking, wandering around aimlessly on their motorbikes without driving licenses, going on “convoys” with their “members”, doing menial low-paying jobs, and some of them – dropping out of school.”

Image Credit: Coconuts KL
Image Credit: Coconuts KL

4. Nonetheless, there is no one to be blamed but the students themselves.

“You can’t COMPLETELY exonerate a teenager who has robbed a store or killed someone. You can’t COMPLETELY free a child from blame when they have stolen something ESPECIALLY when they KNOW it’s wrong. They KNOW it’s wrong, they KNOW what’s good for them.

Why can’t they choose to attend extra classes? Why can’t they do their homework even when it’s easy and doable? Why can’t they just BOTHER and TRY to read the notes that I laboriously typed out, photostatted AND TRANSLATED for them? Why can’t they stop being monkeys in class even when they know that what they are doing is wrong? Why do they make stupid annoying bird noises in the middle of a lesson? Why do they chat freely DURING EXAMS without giving a sh*t about others and the teacher in the class?”

Occasionally the media reports actions and initiatives that are taken in order to improve English among Malaysian students, however the attribution is only focused on teachers and improving the school environment. Our education system will continue failing if we don’t do anything about the root of the problem.

That being said, here are the 5 things we can do suggested by Joseph to help improve our education system.

Image Credit: 100% Project
Image Credit: 100% Project

1. Donate in any way possible.

“DONATE in any way you can: money, time, resources, volunteer work, furniture, etc. There are many good sincere teachers out there who lack the resources to fund their community projects. Here is one website I trust which helps to connect willing donators to trustworthy teachers in need. 100% of the donations go towards the students or the projects.”

2. Be more involved in education, physically.

“Voice out your opinion on what you think should be done in schools.  Give suggestions on how you think the system can be improved. Don’t just rant on Facebook. Write a formal letter to the authorities detailing your suggestions and criticisms. Take part in community projects. Spend your Saturdays giving free tuition or visiting a volunteer centre for underprivileged children.”

Teach For Malaysia is an independent, not-for-profit organisation with a mission to end education inequity in Malaysia.
Teach For Malaysia is an independent, not-for-profit organisation with a mission to end education inequity in Malaysia.

3.  For the parents, please discipline your own children.

“Many students in my school are the products of FAILED PARENTING and I can clearly see which students have been PROPERLY DISCIPLINED and which have NOT. Punish mistakes and discipline your children. Teach them respect and teach them manners.”

4. Demand transparency of information.

When it comes to the announcement of government examinations, we rarely see the number of failures reported by the media.

“Why are the number of SPM failures not published in the main media? Why are the passing marks for SPM not readily available to the public? What are the statistics of illiteracy in Malaysia? How are the marks calculated for SPM? How is an SPM paper actually like? Can we trust it to be of the SAME STANDARD as other top countries?”

5. Demand for a government that is highly concerned about education.

“A government that doesn’t say stupid shit like: “If you don’t like our country’s national education system, you can send your children overseas” (or something along those lines), while the ministers themselves send their children to international schools.”

You can read Joseph Tan’s full Facebook post here:

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)