Najib on English proficiency

In an article in today’s The Sunday Star (18 Mar 2007), Deputy Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak was asked: What do you think can be done to improve the level of English in the country?

“I think we should strengthen our command of both the national language and English. I think all of us have the ability to be proficient in at least two languages.

“I believe the system itself should reward creativity. This means less emphasis on the objective side and more on the ability to write essays and on literature.

“But we need literature teachers, and the teachers who are products of the Malay medium cannot teach English lit. So, before we can introduce lit we need to train the teachers and we need to wait for the next generation of teachers who have gone through the system and are proficient in English.

“I believe that to understand the significance of a language one has to study its literature. I am comfortable in both languages. I don’t think in English when I speak in Bahasa, neither do I think in Bahasa when I speak in English. I do think we need to develop Malaysians who are proficient in both languages. This will take time. Once you change the policy, you have to go through two or three generations before you see the products of the change.”

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