Baru wants learning English by radio broadcasts back in schools

Baru Bian

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KUCHING: Ba Kelalan assemblyman, Baru Bian, is proposing the Sarawak government to consider reintroducing teaching English by radio broadcasts in schools as a move to improve English proficiency.

He said they should also consider rehiring retired English teachers and inviting volunteer English teachers from foreign non-governmental organisations like the Peace Corps or Fulbright programme as he gave his ‘aye’ to help improve the proficiency of English in schools within his constituency.

“I was happy to receive the circular two weeks ago from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Research encouraging elected representatives to assist in measures to improve the level of proficiency in the English language in schools within our constituencies.

“This commendable initiative deserves the support of all elected representatives,” Baru, who is also the state PKR chief, said today.

“I have spoken about this issue a few times in DUN (state legislative assembly) asking the government to take measures to improve the standard of English in schools, but never received any satisfactory reply from the government.

“It is therefore encouraging that the minister is now addressing this matter and showing his concern that the level of English proficiency be raised.”

Baru however, was disappointed no budget would be allocated to the elected representatives in helping the drive.

He however, hoped some allocations could be made to the schools for this purpose.

Baru said it must also be recognised at the outset that for this initiative to work, the principals, teachers and members of the parents-teachers associations (PTAs) “must be involved and committed”.

He recalled when he was a primary school in Long Semadoh, there was already a practice of speaking English in school.

He said if a pupil was caught speaking in their native Lun Bawang, he or she was “rewarded” with a clothes-peg on the earlobe.

The pupil would then have to find someone else who was speaking Lun Bawang to transfer the peg.

“I am not saying that this should be implemented. It is merely an example of the initiative shown by the teachers to encourage the speaking of English.

“I think that once there is commitment and determination in all parties involved, implementation will be easier.

“Attitudes and mind-sets play a key role here.”

Baru also said at the same time, the ministry must ensure that teachers are proficient in the English language as they are the ones who will have a major role to play in this initiative.

“Those who are less fluent must be encouraged to take steps to improve themselves and the ministry should provide the means for them to do so.”

The opposition lawmaker said he, with the assistance of some supporters, had since he was elected in 201 been regularly distributing English language storybooks to the schools in his constituency.

“I have been extremely gratified by the response. In some boarding schools, there is a specified reading hour each day when all the students gather at the reading corner to read.

“The importance of reading cannot be overemphasised, and I would say that it is equally important as speaking English.”

“Books are where we learn our vocabulary and where we are exposed to ideas and learning.

“The horizon is expanded for those who have a good grasp of the English language, and we must all do our part to ensure that our younger generation are given all the help to acquire such proficiency.” –