Teach English the right way, not ‘gasak ajak’

Sarawak school

One of the many things I pride myself as a Sarawakian is the state’s emphasis on the use of English.

Here, English is quite widely used even in the government sector. In fact, Sarawak adopted English as the official language of the state administration, apart from Bahasa Malaysia a few years back.

Recently, it was announced that Sarawak will be the first state to implement the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English in primary schools next year, a step forward to improve the standard of English among young students.

Its state Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Datuk Seri Michael Manyin had said this programme was introduced so that students would be more competitive and confident to speak up and express themselves in English. Chinese vernacular schools, however, would be exempted from teaching the two subjects in English.

Teachers will be trained before the programme begins. But for a start, Manyin had reportedly said that teachers should be confident in using the language to teach the two subjects. He had said to use “Sarawak English” if need be and to “gasak ajak” (just go for it).

Manyin’s effort to get the ball rolling in a move to create more fluent communication in English alongside Bahasa Malaysia should be applauded.

Why not? As long as the pupils understand and learn the lessons right? After all, we have to start somewhere.


The point of teaching the subjects in English is to improve the students’ proficiency in the language, and not further complicate it with how ‘rojak’ our languages have become.

If we were to start somewhere, we should never compromise on standards. Perhaps, making sure the teachers themselves are competent before allowing them to teach it in English.

While I agree that we have to start somewhere and that perhaps we can forget using Queen’s English but simple and proper English should be adhered to.

Fight for Change 2019

Hence, training and support for teachers should be of utmost important to ensure standards are not compromised.

With the use of English in these subjects, both teachers and students will be gain a greater command of the language and enhance communication across the globe.

After all, English is one of the most widely used languages in the world. And if we are to argue that we are not ready, we would never be able to take that first step.

Like it or not, speaking proper English will change the way people interact with you, including getting employment and career advancement.

Hence, I applaud Manyin’s push towards English proficiency our youths but let’s keep the English proper and simple instead of just “gasak ajak”.

Manyin later clarified his “gasak ajak” remark meant that the teachers need not worry too much using Queen’s English but to try to speak English the best they can.

Primary school teachers will be trained to teach mathematics and science in English to ensure standards are not compromised.

I am glad that sense has prevailed and teachers will not just “wing it” when the programme is implemented.

Otherwise, the students would be learning things like: “There is a biak (young kid) who has 10 manok (chicken). The biak’s friend has five manok. How many manoks do they have all together?”

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13. Main image by Jabatan Pendidikan Negeri Sarawak.

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