Tuesday, October 15

‘State must improve English language skills of students’

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KUCHING: The state government must lead the way in empowering students of all levels to improve their English language skills.

Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Office (Promotion of Technical Education) Datu Len Talif Salleh said it is vital for students to have strong English language skills in order for Sarawak to cultivate future talents to develop a sustainable ecosystem in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“In general, students need to improve their command of the English language. This situation particularly applies to Bumiputera and rural students. We need to engage, encourage and build their confidence to converse in English.

“There is a need to emphasise on conversing using the English language in this country if we are to address the global audience. Any discussion on STEM must include English so that we can converse in the international language,” he told a press conference after opening Universiti Malaysia Sarawak’s (Unimas) STEM EnCon 2015 yesterday.

Len said students must understand basic English as fluency in Bahasa Malaysia alone would not be enough for international forums.

“English is the universal language, we can’t converse in Bahasa in international forums. If you want to engage the global audience, you must at least understand English but if you can add German or French, Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin, it is much better. Most importantly, English will be the main operating language in our STEM programme,” he explained.

He suggested English be taught at various levels – akin to the teaching of maths and additional maths – to enhance understanding in schools and tertiary institutes.

“This type of approach needs to be looked into by the Education Ministry to raise the standard of English among our younger generation. There is no easier alternative, we have to impose the learning of English in our society.

“Our students must be able to converse in at least basic English. In terms of STEM learning, Sarawak can take the lead on how to strengthen English at all educational levels. Nothing is impossible,” he said.

In regards to Unimas’ engineering conference, he suggested that future programmes relating to STEM in Malaysia should include English and be referred to as STEME.

EnCon 2015 was organised in collaboration with the Sarawak Bumiputera Trust Fund (Tegas) and the state Education Department, with the theme ‘Engaging Industries and Society through Innovative Engineering and Technology’.

In his speech, Len said Technical and Vocational Education Training (Tvet) has been identified as a game changer under the 11th Malaysia Plan to meet the increasing needs of industry for skilled workers.

He said Tegas is focussing on preparing the state’s future workforce, especially for the 1.6 million additional jobs required for the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), with much-needed technical and vocational skills.

“Recently, Tegas and Unimas have agreed on establishing a STEM lab in the Unimas Engineering Faculty. The lab is seen as the core activity centre in promoting STEM and in creating awareness, especially in our community, on the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“It is hoped that the strength of the faculty could be synergised with the objectives of STEM education to support the needs of our society, industry and government organisations,” he added.