Veteran educators: Making English a compulsory pass subject, reducing teachers’ workload will restore faith in national schools

Teachers need support to stop education poverty.

Ahead of Teachers’ Day tomorrow, two former educators say better quality teachers will restore faith in national schools, while making English a compulsory passing subject will help students once they leave.

Datuk George Joseph, who helped train teachers at training colleges from 1968-1989, said the Education Ministry must look into improving the standard of teachers.

He said based on the feedback from parents and teachers, many were not happy with the quality of the national schools.

Part of the reason is that teachers are bogged down with too much paperwork. He also suggested making English a compulsory passing subject.

He said addressing these two issues would contribute towards the Education Ministry’s School Transformation Programme 2025 initiative to improve the quality of students and schools.

Joseph said he opted for early retirement when he reached 50, as he was disenchanted by the quality of students at a teachers’ training college in Kuala Lumpur.

“At that time, many students who entered teachers’ colleges did so as a ‘last resort’, after failing to find other jobs,” said Joseph, who is also a former FIFA referee.

“Teaching is a passion that requires commitment, as we help shape future generations. We should do it only if we can give 100 per cent.

“These days, teachers are bogged down with too much paperwork. A teacher’s job is to teach – impart knowledge and shape a student’s future.”

While acknowledging the challenges teachers faced in the modern world, Joseph said their job was to make young lives better.

“If I had just one wish, it would be for teachers to concentrate on teaching. Another would be for English to be a compulsory passing subject,” said Joseph, who continued ‘teaching’ when he was the Football Association of Malaysia’s Director of Referees.

“English opened many doors in my career as a teacher and referee. I travelled the world and met many famous people because of it.

“We need to ensure our future generations speak it well, as it will help them when they leave school.”

Joseph said his three grandchildren were also learning Mandarin, as it has become a language of commerce.

“It is always good to know more languages. Of course, we should not neglect the national language, but making English a compulsory passing subject is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Meanwhile, another veteran educator, A. Velurajan, agreed that the Education Ministry should look at improving the standards of teaching.

Velurajan, who taught English and Bahasa Melayu at the Methodist Boys School in Sentul for nearly 40 years, said some teachers were not proficient in English.

He said more and more parents were sending their children to international schools, as they have no faith in national schools.

“Of course, only those who can afford it will do so, but what about parents who are struggling financially?” he asked.

“That is one reason why they send their kids to vernacular schools. They know the teaching methodology is different from national schools.

Asked about his wish for Teachers’ Day, Velurajan said it was for more students to mix freely with other races.

“When I was growing up, students of many races mixed easily, but that is no longer the case,” said Velurajan.

“We should also incorporate more lessons about unity in schools. I would like to see more non-Bumiputera teachers holding higher positions in schools and in the Education Ministry.”