English Today

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Language Proficiency

This week's question is related to Assignment 2 and I believe that we would benefit from everyone's contribution. The article can be downloaded from the morpheus site.

Now,this is for the benefit of those who have not read the article.
The article is on Malaysian Undergraduate's language proficiency. It discusses the state of English language among university students and how it is affecting their job performance. It should be seen as an insightful article that addresses a number of gaps.I am more interested in a comment passed by one of the respondents in the study which I would like you to discuss.
"...Law, engineering, scinece, or other core subjects are far more important to students than English. They can still pass the course even if they don't know English. The sad thing is that they know English is important but nothing is done."

1. How true are the above comments based on what you have studied so far?
2. Do you think it is possible to do well in a mainstream course at the university without really "knowing" English?
3. Based on the analysis of scientific texts in the class, do you think it is possible for less proficient students to make it through the program and perform in their workplace?
4. "... they know that English is important but nothing is done". Well, what can be done?

Discuss some of the above issues with reference to the context in which the article appears and the readings that you are doing. Also, do ensure that what you say is backed by findings from other readings. Do highlight the sources so that your fellow friends can look at the articles themselves.

Also, try to look at the issue with an open mind rather than defend your past as a teacher or learner. Avoid repeating what you have already said in the previous post. Think beyond learner needs. I want you to focus on syllabus design and employer needs.

53 comments:

  1. Hi there,
    Sad but true, i agree with the statement given. I try my best to answer all 4 questions based on my understanding so far.

    1. The statement given is true. The students know they need to master the language yet they don't know the correct way to enhance their language proficiency. They know their needs but then they are no people (lecturers, teachers, educators) can teach them accoring to their needs.

    2. For this question it is a bit tricky. Knowing English here maybe refers to understanding basic English but not in their field or know English in their field but do not care the correct way (grammatical or what so ever related to English). So in my opinion they caqn pass their exam the important thing in every exam asked is about things that related to their field although the English is ungramatical or what so ever. Maybe we look at it as important to use correct English but for them as long as their knowledge and background knowledge can help them to survive they will survive without using correct English.

    3. For this question, i think for them English is only way of communication and the important thing is their performances in their ability and field. Thy qualified in their field and still can perform better but maybe in their spoken or written English they can be terrible at it. for me it all depend on the powerful man - the manager to determined either they can be successful or not in their field. As i say before maybe in their field (praticality) they can perform and in their written or spoken they will be problem arised.

    4. This question for my answer is related to the first question. The students know their needs but who will teach them? That is the question here. There are no real ESP classes out there that can provide enough for all these students and learners. So maybe at university level something can be done to help this poor learners.

    By the way madam, sorry to ask, aren't this medicine, engineering students come from 1st class students who scored almost perfect A in their public examination. So for that record they seem be like a 'good' student who do not need any help in their English either in written or spoken. Even some of them, i guess, better than some of us English teachers. So what do you think about it madam?

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  2. Grace
    It is sad (may be not so sad for the undergraduates concerned since they knew well of their condition yet they do not want to do anything about it) but we have to admit that this is the scenario in the Malaysian education realm at this juncture. My concern is, gripped with the fact that a large percentage of intakes of the local universities have band three and below in their MUET, how much can we expect the students to improve in their English language during their three or four years in the higher learning institution? Not unless the universities can come up with a magically superb programme that can groom them within such short a time.

    Our problem partly lies on the inconsistency of English language emphasis in the education system. We (the society) could not make up our mind whether to go all out for English. For example, there is the ‘rivalry’ between our national language and the English language. In certain courses, students have the freedom to convey responses in Bahasa Malaysia (BM) or English, be it verbal or / and in written form, even though the course takers are expected to use English in their future work place. With such environment, I guess majority of the students will opt for BM because that is the language we have been using most or all of our school days. It is also in this sense one can still do well without ‘knowing’ English as long we have the content knowledge.

    In relation to that, Bachman and Palmer (1996) opinioned that knowing English implies a person is competent in the language knowledge as well as strategically competent in communication. To know a language is beyond the notion of understand the face value of a text. It involves what Hymes (1985) categorized as the accuracy of the system of language, phycholinguistically and sociolinguistically appropriate. If this is the case, then, we have the reason to worry about our students who do well in their studies but fail to obtain a good command of English. The likelihood is they will not be able to deliver their job excellently in their future work place. English is of paramount prominent in the ever competitive job market.

    If we ponder on it we can see that we had to some extent sacrifice English proficiency in favour of raising the status quo of our beloved national language (it takes some guts to view it this way). But if we are radical enough (in a positive sense) in bringing in changes, this need not be the case. We can have both provided we maintain an open mind and be diligent. Let’s uphold our national language in every aspect of our daily life and at the same time demanding good if not excellent English for the sake of nation development. There is nothing to lose. Emphasise on general English from primary level and move on to English of more specific fields. Insist on fielding trained English teachers to teach the English subject instead of ‘everybody can teach English’.

    It is high time ESP be materialized and implemented in all faculties in local universities. This move will not only rectify the lack of English proficiency among undergraduates, it also serves as a launching pad for a better balance of excellencies in both subject matter and delivery.

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  3. Great Job. I notice that the class is learning fast. Accurate and appropriate analysis.

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  4. Hello,

    Found this blog by accident and was surprised to note it's for UNIMAS TESL students. The discussion could have been extended in Moodle forum as it allows better "discussion space". Comments via blog can be rather "uncomfortable" to be read especially when you have a lot people repeating the same facts, creating "long-winded" comments.

    In response to Jason's comment, getting full A's in your SPM or STPM or Band 4 and above in your MUET doesn't gurantee you to be a good user of English. ESP isn't just about creating students with high proficiency, it's more towards delivering what they needs in their specific areas of study. A doctor can speak well on medical issues, but when you put him in a social science area, he might be speaking like a Form 5 students. The balance between Carrier Content and Real Content should be there.

    Anyway, kudos to both the instructor and students for the great work.

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  5. Hi everyone..
    Before I answer the question posted, first I would like to comment on the issue that our friend Jason posted. I agree with him that students of engineering, law, medical, and science courses are usually those who are very good in every subject that they taken in school and get many A’s in their SPM and STPM. And for that reason they can apply for the courses. I know few friends who study in those course and I admit that their English either in spoken or writing are very good and much better than we who are study in the field of English language teacher.

    “They [law, engineering, science, etc students] can still pass the course even if they don't know English”. I agree with this statement. Even though at the first point I said these students are usually good students, but there also some of them have problem in English. I believe they manage to survive and do well at the university with basic knowledge about English language. That is because the courses only require them to use the language to understand the lectures and do the assignment (which more to formula and fact). However, at the workplace I think these students might face difficulty to perform will because they need English language in order to social and make business with clients. So what can be done to help this people? I suggest the workplace organization and institution should work together to set ESP course for the employees who have this problem.

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  6. 1. English is a compulsory subject in all primary and secondary schools curriculum in line with its status as Second Language in Malaysia ( Huraian Sukatan Pelajaran KBSM, 2000 ). In addition, the teaching of English provides wide usage of the language in daily situation and employment. The acquire knowledge of English provides paths for students to pursue higher education where English is medium of instructon.

    Students who are taking the mentioned courses had acquired knowledge of English. Moreover, these courses had required its student to be proficient in English as English is a medium of instruction in these courses.Thus, I disagree that students still can pass these courses even if they dont know English. If that so, what're the purposes of we learn English? and how can these students manage to pass their respective courses despite that they have acquired knowledge of English? In addition, why our MOE ( Ministry of Education ) had greatly emphasised the importance of learning English? How can these students to compete globally as their expertise are mch required in developing our nation?

    There are references and scholars from abroad and use English to deliver the information needed for them. Obviously, students need to be proficient in English and translated references into Bahasa Malaysia are limited. Moreover, the knowledge of English provides the learning content from subject diciplines and current issues.

    As these students are in various field of studies, therefore they are exposed to the usage of English language pertaining to their studies. In such situation, they had applied their acquired knowledge of English in their course studies.Obviously, they know English Language.

    In view of this,English language and mainstream courses are going well together. Students need their knowledge of English in order to perform well in their courses. In addition, their proficiency in English along with their expertise in their respective courses enable them to have wide interaction and employment in both domestically and internationally.

    2. It is impossible to do well in the mainstream courses at the university without really "knowing" English. English Language ( Tan Eng Bee , 2009 ) is actually a plus point to prepare our students to face the world at large when they enter a marketplace. In addition, students who are doing well in the mainstream course at the university without really 'knowing' English will not be able them to compete globally and in negotiation with varieties pf party domestically and internationally. Therefore, these students will be left far-behind in human capital development despite that they are expertise in their mainstream course.

    English is the universal language on which is used extensively in the conduct of global business, international forums and negotiations ( Tan Eng Bee, 2009). He elaborates that three Asian economic giants, mainly China, Japan and South Korea have placed great importance in the learning and teaching of English. Schools and universities in these countries are taking steps to teach English as they know the importance of the language in this globalised world. Students, regardless courses aretaken in universities should make optimum use and benefits from acquiring knowledge of English.

    The use of English Language are applicable in their fields of study. This is the situation where students apply their knowledge of English in reading and writing skills particulaly. Listening and speaking skills are also applicable for interaction and communication purposes.

    Meanwhile, in Tokyo, researches who cannot use proper English in their theses or in discussion at international conferences are not recognised as intellectuals and their findings may be undervalued ( The Daily Yomluri, 2003, January cited in Isarji, Ainol, Mohamed Sahari & Mohd Azmi, 2007). The above situation describe the consequences for not "knowing" the English Language and it is a huge price to pay due to our lakaidaisical attitudes.

    However, there are some hitches along the way. Studenst are unable to see the importance of knowing English and roles of the language pertaining to their mainstrem courses. Consequently, students focus more on their courses and sideline their knowledge of English Language. Martin ( 2000 cited in Isarji, Ainol, Mohamed Sahari and Mohd Azmi, 2007) stated that proficiency in the English Language is alrming low and cuts across the race and that students from primary to tertiary level back a knowledge of rudiments of English Language.

    In view of this, it is important for students to know the English Language and not for the sack of passing ther respectives course of their studies. Kindly reminder, making repots for instance is part of their job requirement apart from interview attendance. This is where benefits from acquring the knowledge of English Language.

    3. It is impossible for students who are less proficient to make it through the program abd perform in their workplace.

    Regardless what courses are students taken, listening, speaking, reading and writing skills are part of their language proficiency. Due to their less proficient in English Language, they are unable to perform well in the program and workplace.

    Nik Abdul Rashid ( 1981 , cited in Isarji, Ainol, Mohamed Sahari and Mohd Azmi, 2007 )states that they have not been successflly exposed to speaking or writing during their secondary school days. Ling ( 2000 , cited in Isarji, Ainol, Mohamed sahari and Mohd Azmi, 2007 ) agrees with Nik Abdul Rashid where the standard os English among Malaysian students were appaling and that they did not have a sufficent grasp of the English Language.

    Isarji Hj Sarudin, Ainol Madziah Zubari , Mohamed SahariNordin and Moh Azmi Omar ( 2007 ) discover that the university students are lacking of reading sub-skills especially the reading comprehension skills needed to select relevant texts to incorporate into academic writing reports. On the contrary, the university graduates had general reading skills to perform effectively at the workplace. However, they lack of reading culture as to ensure them to be well-prepared to represent their clients.

    Isarji Haji Sarudin, Ainol Madziah Zubairi, Mohamed Sahari Nordin and Mohd Azmi Omar ( 2007 ) discover that Malaysian university students and graduates were the modest users of English in listening and this level of ability is perceived as sufficient for comprehension in English in non-academic settings, particularly listening to entertaiment purposes. However, they feel that level is inadequate for the effective comprehension of information delivered in lectures conducted totally in English.

    Their research also indicate that Malaysian university students were limited users of English writing skill. The situation turns out to be students' hitches as they need to prepar written reports and write minutes of meetings.

    Due to their lack of English language proficiency , students had encountered difficulties in expressing their thoughts in English. In addition, their lack of language proficiency , they are unale to socialise and meet others in communicating English Language.

    These students with less proficiency in English despite that they are taking science courses in universities need to take English Language course as to enable them to improve their English Language and widely exposed to language skills. In presenting their scientific analysis, they require knowledge of making writing reports where English Language is used.

    In view of this, Bahasa Malaysia is our national language and had been greatly emphasised by the government. However, English Language is a universal language and our Second Language should not been taken lightly. Our students need to be proficient in these languages. Most important of all, our identity as Malaysian remain undisturb.


    4. Here are some recommendations on what should be done towards English Language :

    a.English Language curriculum and syllabus should be reviewed from time to time. Overall, the learners' needs is taken into account in designing and reviewing the English Language curriculum and syllabus.This includes the learners' language proficiencies.

    b. English Day program should be introduced as to develop their students' interest of the English Language, learning in particular. The objectives should meet and focus on language prificencies. Financial is allocated for such programm as to ensure the program is conducted and the allocation is audited.

    c.English Language program like English Language Enhancement Program and English for Pre-Employment Program should be introduced in developing university students in English Language proficiency.

    d. English Language courses in helping teachers in developing creative ways of teaching and equip themselves with the latest teaching pedagogy.

    e. English Languague should be made a compulsory to pass in PMR, SPM and STPM examinations. It will assist students to be more focus on learning the English Language in classroom settings.

    In view of this, concern parties should take immediate and serious steps in developing English Language proficiency among the students.

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Kindly refrain from posting essays on the blog. It is difficult to remain focused when you bring in host of issues that contain additional issues themselves.

    Also, it helps no one when we continue to defend and cite various researchers because for every research that one cites, it is possible to produce another research that states the exact opposite. So, it is always better to look at the recommendations and suggestions and move on from there.
    Lets work towards a solution from another perspective rather continuously defend the English language classroom.

    As stated in the readings, " The illiterate of the 21st. Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn."

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  9. Let me give you an example before I present my opinion. A week before Chinese New Year, I met with a guy from Faculty of Engineering, UNIMAS and he became one of the participants for my FYP. He asked me a question after answering the questionnaire that was given to him, “How can I improve my English?” he knew that the language is important to him, yet, nothing can be done as he would give up every time after trying a new method.
    So, back to the question, “how true it is?” I would say, it is 100% true. Friends of mine who are studying other courses in other universities did reflect English is important to them as they need it in their fields, yet, the language is just a “vehicle” for them to reach their “destiny”. So, I think as long as someone can get their meanings across, not having good English proficiency is not a problem for them to survive in university. A question to ponder, “Would society accept someone whose English is not good as employees?”
    “What can be done?” well, basically, nothing can be done if the learners themselves do not want to improve their current situation because “The Lord will only help those who help themselves”. So, I would say “never give up”.

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  10. Hallo everyone!My opinion on the questions above are:
    1. I think students need an adequate amount of knowledge about English so that they can perform well in their studies. It would be a struggle for students who do not know or know very little about English in their courses because they do not have or have limited making-meaning resources in order to comprehend the English texts. For example, X who was taught in China using Mandarin as a medium of instruction and excel in his studies will initially struggle to cope in his studies when he migrated to Singapore whereby the medium of instruction is in English because he does not know the language very well. Initially he’ll find it difficult to understand what the teachers said in class and the reading texts because he is unable or comprehend very little of them. If students can do well in their courses without knowing English, then English remedial classes and English generic classes will not exist in our universities. There will be no issues and research conducted on ESL learners and their problems such as the one by Bosher and Smalkoski (2002) and Chew (2005) (in our reading list)

    2. No. University students are expected to learn independently but their learning experiences will be hampered if they do not know English for many of the resources and references are in English.

    3. It is highly possible if they strive and are diligent in improving their English and catch up with their lectures. But I think they would need to take English classes such as English for academic purposes and remedial English that are very specifically aim for students that cater to their specific needs and science courses. An example is the Speaking and Listening in a Health-Care Setting developed by Bosher and Smalkoski (2002) for ESL learners in nursing and healthcare.

    4. Besides the recommendations suggested in the article discussed above, I suggest that English should be made compulsory for all students to pass in public examinations, more time should be allocated for English classes in public schools too and there is a grave need to conduct more in-depth research about Malaysian ESL learners that will help educators to design materials and courses to cater to our own Malaysian ESL learners specific needs.

    Soong G. P.

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  11. 1)It is true they can pass the course but by comparing their performance in the course with students who have a good English proficiency, there will always be a gap. Based on my experience, my friends who have a better English proficiency are able to use their ability in explaining well in the class presentation and exam. In this sense, students who only have the content knowledge will have disadvantage. Take for example, in IT course which is best explained and discussed in English.

    2)It is not possible. Take for example, reference books, materials on the Internet etc are written in English. In order to perform well in the course, students must have a great number of accesses to reference materials. If they do not have the language, it will hinder them from accessing the available materials for their own learning.


    3)It goes back to the environment where the students learn or the employees work. If the environment requires them to use English language, then they will ‘suffer’ to survive. They can perform in the program or workplace, but not to the extent that can be proud of. Even they have the skill to be performed; they still need the language especially to communicate formally or informally with other colleagues.

    4)At some point, the students themselves need to realize the importance of English proficiency in workplace. Not all of the colleagues speak the same language as their mother tongue. There will always a language used a medium of communication in the workplace. If they know that they do not have the language, then, take an opportunity to acquire it whether by enrolling themselves in a language course (there are many English language courses offered in the market – face-to-face learning or distant learning) or hire a private tutor. Obviously, it can help them to improve or acquire the language. Take for example, apart from qualifications (academics) and skills, employees with excellent English proficiency will have a better chance for easier employment and career advancement compared to those who have lack of English proficiency. Here, employees who wish to get promoted find that English proficiency is crucial in workplace or else they left behind.

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  12. hi..before that, i personally agree upon some of what Marsh said...English is important and need to be taken seriously as other critical subjects for example science and mathematics. but, i'm totally disagree that......"international conferences are not recognised as intellectuals and their findings may be undervalued" ( The Daily Yomluri, 2003, January cited in Isarji, Ainol, Mohamed Sahari & Mohd Azmi, 2007)(please refer to Marschinda's comment)....that is just the of bias against people...language is not really important in research but the most important thing is the finding of the research.they work hard for their research and people penalize them and not appreciate their work just because they can't use english...
    in discussing what can be done.....don't blame teachers....don't blame the ministry...it's all depend on how serious students want to improve their englsh..and "never give up---->(quoted from yann)"

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  13. From the article, I found that averagely 25% of the university students are fairly competent in ENG Grammar, Reading and Listening.

    Therefore, my respond to both Q1 & Q2 is that:
    It’s partly true that they can pass the course since paper tests do not require much use of spoken ENG, except in-lecture evaluation, the presentation skills. As the paper tests consists of more than required of the passing points, and if the language is not a concern to the examiner, students can get high points if they are competent to read and understand.
    So, ya… they can possibly pass the course without really getting the language right.

    Q3: This depends on their individual workplace, depending on the requirement of ENG use at their workplace. In Malaysia, I don’t think most of the workplaces need ENG for the most time, but BM is much required. They only need to get some ENG terms and social ENG to function at their workplaces.

    Q4: Many things can be done if there are needs for the improvement of ENG in the job market. When there are such demand in the job market for proficient ENG users, then I think the universities will be aware of it and driven to take further move to produce proficient students.

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  14. 1.Based on what I have studied, the issue had been highlighted few years ago until now. They have the basic knowledge on English language proficiency, however not strong enough or competence enough or lack of communication skills to perform well in writing or speaking in order to function effectively in academic or working environment.
    2. I do not think it is possible to do well in a mainstream course at the university without really “knowing” English. English should be goes together with their mainstream course. It is better to make it compulsory for them to go through certain English courses before they graduate. Universities should monitor the skill-demands of job vacancies and give them chance to improve their language proficiency.
    3. Impossible for less proficient students to make it through the program and perform well in their workplace, because they need to learn the functional language skills demanded across a variety of employment sectors. As a result of the low English language proficiency, it brought a negative impact towards marketability of graduates(locally and internationally),limits access to knowledge, opportunity to express ideas and opinion although they have brilliants opinion and idea and opportunity for internationally.
    4. The most important here is their own commitment to improve their own English language proficiency.

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  15. Hello everyone.

    1) I strongly disagree with the comment that law, engineering, science and the other core subjects are more important than English. I think people started to think of English as unimportant because they (the native speakers) didn't need to learn the language, they had the language, so they could focus on other subjects. However, we are living in Malaysia, where English is not the first language of most people, but somehow the same notion that English is an inferior subject has also reached our shores. The sad thing is we don't have the language, and so I think it's about time the language was given an equal (if not more) emphasis.

    2) I think it's possible to pass a mainstream course without really "knowing" English, but I think it'll be near impossible to excel. Yes, someone can understand the basic concepts even without good English, but I'm sure you'll agree that this same person will have difficulty accomplishing the more complex tasks required by the course, such as analyzing research papers (most of which are written in really 'complicated' English) or writing assignments.

    3) Similarly, I don't think less proficient students can perform all that well in the workplace. Sure, they'll be able to get through the ordinary, 'basic' requirements of the job and probably do it well, but when it comes down to it, these graduates would not be able to keep up with the other more challenging duties. Like, what happens if this fancy English-spouting CEO comes over and it's part of your duty to give a presentation, yet you don't have the language to do it well or to make your points understood? It's interesting to note that all the so-called 'successful' people in this world all seem to be able to use the English language effortlessly, and flawlessly.

    4) I think the first thing that needs to be done is to change peoples' mindsets that English is inferior to all other subjects. The fact is we need English to learn these other subjects, and to learn them well. The people in charge of coming up with the syllabus should realize and accept the fact that General English is no longer adequate for our nation-building needs. Thus, I think it's really time ESP made its presence known in our school curriculum. As they say, "melentur buluh biar dari rebungnya" (is that the right saying?) or rather, it's never too early to start teaching our students. I think Dudley-Evans and St John's (1998) requirements have been met: our students have a specific need for learning English, and they have a basic knowledge of the language system. And even if they're not ready at the secondary school level, they're most definitely ready at the tertiary level.

    Esther Voon Suk Hsien 13993

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  16. I don’t think it is possible for students to do well in their mainstream courses if they acquire less proficiency in English. This is due to the fact that English nowadays has become a medium of instruction in universities and most of reference books are written in English. How on earth students are going to comprehend the content of their courses if they do not understand the language? Even if they share the context/subject matter, or even they have content knowledge on that particular field, there’s still a problem to perform well as they are unable to negotiate meaning due to limitation in the target language use.
    This scenario will become worst when they shift to working field. Working in either public or private sector nowadays are very challenging and demanding as acquiring proficiency in English language become one of the main criteria. How are they going to survive then? Take a research by Smalkoski (2004) where he investigated the problems faced by nursing college students in the workplace due to lack of English language proficiency. He found out that they aren’t able to perform well due to this limitation.
    Therefore, students should take an initiative to improve their English for better prospects. There are a lot of ESP courses offered which mainly aim in improving learners’ proficiency in English language in particular areas. The key success to this situation is that the learners themselves should have self-awareness and motivation to improve their English language.

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  17. Excellent comment Esther. You have hit the nail on the head.

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  18. 1. How true are the above comments based on what you have studied so far?
    -The statement given by one of the respondents is definitely undeniable as that is the perception of most of the learners, and even the instructors themselves. Looking at the learners’ side, they believe that their core subject or major specialization is far more important and need to be put as the first important priority, rather than knowing the English language. One of my friends once said “If one does not know English and groping the words when speaking, they can still pass the university with flying colours, gain high income, and even more successful than those who can speak English fluently.” From this statement, it can be seen that it is the matter of the learners’ low perception towards English. It is not denying that those who study law, engineering, and other core science subject use English in their learning, but they just learn the so-called ‘law English’, ‘engineering English’, and ‘science English’, in which the English learnt is only to be used in their own specific context, and not to communicate with other people that have different context with them. This is actually the reality in which we can see that some of the learners from other core subjects, for example, who are excellent in their subject matter, but when it comes to communicate in English, they started to look at each other and unable to respond appropriately. The effect of the inability to respond in English will be even greater when they enter the working environment later, in which the employer of their workplace may not only require their employee to expert in their particular field, but also putting the demand on the ability to converse effectively in English, be it in everyday, casual conversation, in meeting, or other circumstances.
    On the other hand for the instructors’ side, some of them believe that having the students well-equipped with their own mainstream course is their responsibility and it is the first thing to do but whether the students are able to master the English language, that is the later thing to be thought of or even they never think about it. Perhaps they believe that in some later time, the students will be able to know English by themselves.

    2. Do you think it is possible to do well in a mainstream course at the university without really "knowing" English?
    -Personally, I do believe that knowing both mainstream course and English are vital in order to produce the well-balanced and well-equipped students. Having the expertise in their subject matter is the necessity and owning the mastery in English itself is the complementary, in which without English knowledge, it will somewhat influence the learners’ performance in their mainstream course. This is supported by Aziz et al. (2000), as cited in Mohamed, Nordin, & Hashim (n.d.), who did the study in UTM. The findings show that there is high correlation between English and ‘hard subjects’, like science, where the students with low proficiency in English will also obtain low grades in their core subject. This proved that the lack of English knowledge, or is termed as “language gap” (Mohamed, Nordin, & Hashim, n.d., p. 446) do play a major role in determining the students’ accomplishment in their study.

    3. Based on the analysis of scientific texts in the class, do you think it is possible for less proficient students to make it through the program and perform in their workplace?
    -In my point of view, it is possible for less proficient students to undergo the program and hence perform well in their workplace. However, in order to be successful in the ESP course or the mainstream course, having at least basic knowledge of English is essential in order to avoid any difficulties that the learners will probably face later on. This is because most of the core courses nowadays are using English as a medium of instruction of the teaching and learning. Hence, I believe that if we make a restriction by saying that the less proficient learners are not suitable to undergo the program, then what will happen to them later on? They also want to learn and succeed as other people and we should not have such negative perception and make such barrier in learning process. However, the main concern in conducting the program for less proficient students is that the approach used and the pace of the learning should be different compared to the other level of proficiencies. This is noted by Tomlinson (1998), in which the approach used in language learning will work at its most if it is used based on the thorough understanding of the instructors towards the learners’ needs, such as their language difficulties, learning styles, and others. In guiding those low proficiency learners, especially in designing the syllabus, this is where the scaffolding process, as proposed by Vygotsky (1978) should be applied. This is also illustrated in Lin (2006), who pointed out that the initial step to teach the low proficiency learners is by building on what the learners already know and can do with the help of the instructor. At this stage, the instructors really need to guide them step by step by using the comprehensible language and use the manageable text for them, as the instance. Gradually, the instructor can increase the level of tasks difficulty and act as a facilitator throughout their learning process. The same thing goes to the pace of communication, in which the instructor need to have the understandable pace with the pauses and examples at certain places to enable them to internalize the information as well as to relate the lesson with their subject matter and to enhance their understanding towards the lesson taught.

    4. "…they know that English is important but nothing is done". Well, what can be done?
    -As I have mentioned in (1), the ‘nothing is done’ can be seen in both the learners’ and also the instructors’ side. The learners’ motivation him/herself is the matter that is quite hard to change but it is not impossible to be done. This is where the importance of designing the specific syllabus for ESP course comes in, in which the instructor needs to exploit the ‘authenticity’ element, for example by using the authentic materials that reflect the learners’ subject matter and creating the interactive ESP classroom by immersing the learners with the more authentic contexts that they will encounter in real life (Chuchalin & Danilova, 2005). If the approach of learning is closely related with their specialization, the learners will soon realize the interrelation of English and their mainstream course, and thus, it will create the motivation among the learners to become expert in both their core course and English as well. Related to this matter, Othman (2005) also highlighted that the language-learning experience will be more relevant and meaningful by contextualizing language within the learners’ domain of study, thereby increasing the learners’ motivation to learn. From here, it can be seen that the careful design of learning syllabus and the ESP instructors him/herself do play a major role in educating the learners with the complementary part as I have mentioned earlier which is supplementing the learners with the English knowledge. ---NOR AZMA MANAN 14749

    References:

    Chuchalin, A. I., & Danilova, E. A. (2005). The breakthrough of the internet to empower ESP teaching and learning at Tomsk Polytechnic University. Global Journal of Engineering Education, 9(2), 129-135.

    Lin B. (2006). Vygotskian Principles in a Genre-based Approach to Teaching Writing. NUCB JLCC, 8(3). 69-83.

    Mohamed, M., Nordin, A., & Hashim, R. (n.d.) Impact on the implementation of bilingualism in Science and Mathematics teaching in Malaysian school system. Retrieved February 6, 2009, from math.unipa.it/~grim/21_project/21_charlotte_MohamedPaperEdit.pdf

    Othman, J. (2005). English language use among EFL learners in Sunway University College. Sunway Academic Journal, 2, 93-100.

    Tomlinson, B. (1998). Materials Development in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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  19. 1. Yes, agreeing to Jason, it is sad but true.
    2. The possibility to do well is depending on what is being assessed in the courses. Typically, a course is aimed to deliver its syllabus and will be considered successful when learners show adequate knowledge of the course content (what has been taught by instructor). In other words, only the content knowledge is required or tested to pass the course. Moreover, those courses are mainly conducted in Malay language, some would be in English (depends on the lecturers). As such, the learners would not need much concern in ‘really knowing English’ in order to do well in their courses (unless if it’s an English language courses). Average proficiency of English would be sufficient as long as the learners focus more on their subject matter.
    3. I believe that more proficient learners has the advantage to do better while the less proficient need to put more effort to make it through the program. On the other hand, performance in the workplace is depending on the working environment because the focus would be more on the working skills, unless if English language is dominant in the working place. However, to secure a job would be the main issue with regards to English language, especially in private sectors as English is the bit and piece of the requirements for communication skills (the advantage) and most importantly a criterion to become competitive in impressing people in such setting.
    4. “..they know that English is imp but nothing is done”. Well, what can be done? This issue is circling around our daily lives, started from family, education system and it goes around the community. No individual with rational thinking would deny the importance of English. Any educated parents would try to integrate English-speaking in their children upbringing, at least at some point of time. There are parents who come to the extreme of neglecting mother tongues or even national language. But is English used in our everyday lives? Does English play a major role in our education history? In mid-sixties, there was a “growing demand that country’s image should be distinctively more Malay” and medium in instruction in educational setting (including uni) substituted to Malay (Khoo, 2008). Imagine a child from working class family where there is no background exposure of English (other than western movies) comes to government school (as most of us did) where speaking English is only required in English classes (depends on the teacher), English oral assessment and a day or week of English-Speaking period in a school year, then enrols the public tertiary education which may or may not requires English language usage to pass the course. Should this person be blamed when he/she failed to compete in the job market due to limited English language proficiency? It is so irony that the inculcation of English in educational prospects is mentionable yet inviable and infeasible (as it is a sensitive issue against our national agenda-e.g struggles in secondary math & science in English) despite of the nation’s awareness of its significance. Hitherto, there are suggestions and attempts to improve current scenario. But easier said than done, those recommendations will possibly turned into political agenda if English is discussed from a view similar to Freire’s and Mecado’s (1987) in Literacy and Critical Pedagogy. Hence, the effort to serve the importance of English will remain as nothing. This subconscious and unspoken understanding has grounded most thoughts like mentioned by one of the respondents. Nothing is done not because we are blind, lazy or ignorant individual, but merely because we grow up with the awareness that any attempt would be fruitless or even leads to a risky loss to certain extreme. Even teachers (including us in future) will be confined by the superior or authority judgment on what is good/should although we may realise that those are against what we learnt or believed is inapt. This could be the underlying reason/challenge for teachers who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. Nevertheless, if some recommendations are feasible for real, I cannot agree more with Grace’s suggestions. And there are/will be lots more useful recommendations from others. To conclude, what can be done (ESP courses, material design, changes in primary/secondary/tertiary educational system) should be reinforced and maintained by powerful influence that governs our society, educational voices alone is inadequate to change something that is upheld for so long.
    Felisia Tensing 14035

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  22. In my opinion, these undergraduates may probably not do well but may survive just enough to graduate even with limited knowledge in English. One reason for not doing well could be because of the limited access to the abundant of literature/academic materials that is available in English. Limited access here points towards their limited language proficiency which hinders them from being able to dissect/understand those texts/literature and acquire the necessary and important knowledge in their academic fields. However, these less-proficient undergrads still manage to seep through tertiary education and find jobs and this is evident due to the complaints by the public and private sectors that they employ graduates who are just not sufficiently proficient in English in the workplace.

    In response to Q3, although one is less-proficient in English, one can still make it through the program. Like as long as you do lots of readings or listening to lectures and you manage to paste together a mediocre assignment or answer exam questions excellently (as a result of blind memorization maybe), at the end of the day, you still get your scroll (I might have simplified it too much). But to survive in the workplace, that’s another issue. The industry, from the research done by Isarji Hj. Sarudin et al. (2007) , seemed to emphasize more on productive skills like speaking and writing as opposed to reading or listening (Isarji Hj. Sarudin et al., 2007) And these are the skills that research has shown the undergraduates have limited skills in according to the private sector and academic staff.

    What I would like to suggest is to not only look for short-term solutions but long-term as well. Many institutions have come up with short English courses for workplaces in various fields in hopes that it would tackle the immediate problem at hand; function at workplaces better. But, there is still this knowledge that the problem will keep repeating itself year after year because more fresh undergrads will come out to the job market experiencing the same problem. Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to tackle the problem at its roots? To create a solid foundation in English at a young age. Which means, not to give any Tom, Dick, Harry or Jane to teach English in kindergarten or even primary schools. (I agree with Esther on the “buluh” saying). It’s not until the students reach tertiary level that everyone starts to panic. For instance, in Isarji Hj. Sarudin et.al. (2007) study, when respondents were asked to rate the suggestions on what needs to be done to improve English language in university, “strong fundamentals in kindergarten, primary and secondary level” ranked as the 10th commonly selected option out of the 15 options. I understand the strong urge to tackle the problem at hand for it need immediate remedy but sufficient consideration also have to go to making it a long-term effort, not just tackling it at the top when the roots will keep producing bad leaves. We keep focusing in tertiary level education but even though we have ELEP, IELP, EAP,EOP or what nots in the university, it will be a never-ending problem. To add, one of the variable characteristics in ESP is that it is “likely to be for advanced/intermediate students or those with basic knowledge in the language system”. If they do not even know how to “string together a proper sentence in English” (Ling, 2000 in Isarji Hj. Sarudin et al, 2007) they wouldn’t gain much from these courses. I personally believe that with a strong English foundation coupled with quality EAP/EOP courses, neither the public nor the private sector will have anything to say about our undergrads in this English issue. But EAP/EOP with MUET band 1? We can only imagine how far he/she can go in the ever competitive job market.

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  23. Please keep your comments brief. You do not have to write an essay for each question. Save that for the finals.

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  24. Wow dedication indeed. It seemed only a few days ago that i saw this site. But today there is over a hundred comments. Most supprisingly each seems to be posted with volition. Its hard to believe that it all started as an assingment. Though it seems like a bush fire. Freind when small, challenger when old. It seems that each student rather than using the bloc as site for mental stimulation rather use it as a venue of venting eternal frustration. Frustration that otherwise they would benefit much more if vented somewhere else.
    Moreover, I would like to state the issue that the length of each comment is very long. As my old teacher used to say it was as if each and everyone of them are practising for an essay competion. Other than that good job for turning over a new a cyber leaf. Welcome to the virtual hell. Lets all be happy deviants from the norm and voice our opnions.

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  25. Hye everyone,

    1. In my opinion, i believe that the above comment is true because the way those students (law, engineering, science, etc) think or their learning preferences are different from the language students. Thus, they might view that english is not equally essential than their subject areas because at the end of the day they are not going to work as english teacher (or someone who studies about language). Therefore, rather than mastering english they might prefer to master their subject areas because that will determine whether yes or not they will get a job as long as they feel that they can speak (or use) adequate general english language.

    2. Wow...this is tough. I’m honestly not so sure but i believe it depends on the employers. If the employers more enthusiast or the priority is given more on the students content knowledge of the subject area thus, they might feel that although the student isn’t competence enough in english, he or she is still given an opportunity to be hired. However, it can be impossible for the students to excel or perform well in the more complex tasks such as, representing a government organization to promote Malaysia new technology in engineering in USA. This is because, to fulfill this task he or she need to be competence enough in English especially to convince and given explaination related to the technology

    3. It can be a tough situation for the less proficient students to excel at the end of the program especially when the tasks or their responsibility getting more difficult and required them to be competence in English. Still, nothing is impossible because it depends on the learners themselves.

    4. First, i’m agree with Ester Voon’s opinion that we need to change the students’ mindset although it might be a difficult thing to do because it is not easy to ask or convince other people to change their mindset but, nothing is impossible.

    Second, ESP courses such as, English for Law purposes, English for Engineering purposes and so on (i’m not sure whether this kind of programs exist or not because this is just examples) should be designed and evaluate from time to time to ensure that they are relevant with today situation and with the students’ specific needs

    Teo Fang Liang (15412)

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  26. Firstly, I would have to say that I agree with the opinion. This is a sad situation but if the students themselves do not aware on this matter and react positively to it, nothing much that we can do for them. To me, it is important for the learners themselves to notice that English is one of their needs to successfully pursue the demands of the workplace. Yes, I do agree that some students can still pass the exams in their respective fields with flying colours even without English but how about the quality then. In this globalization era, English will no longer be a language used by the 'mat salleh' but also a language that hold a person's destiny especially in the work field. Employers nowadays seek something more from their employees. They would want to hire new workers with a complete package: a good academic result and also proficient in English. Secondly, I do believe that students might face hardship in coping with the learning situation in a university. Without adequate command of English, students might not be able to cope with the instruction used in lectures if English is used, they might not be able to understand English texts and reference books that are related to their fields, etc. They might be able to do well but they will have to put a lot more effort than a student that is proficient in the language. Thirdly, I think it is hard but possible for a less proficient student to make through the program and perform in their workplace. Even though they are not proficient, they still have the basic knowledge of the language to make them able and liable to take an ESP course in order to improve their English ability so that they can perform well in the work field. A study done by Isarji, Ainol, Sahari and Azmi (n.y.) says that the employers in private and government sectors believe that proficiency in English especially in speaking and writing is needed in order to perform in the workplace but they feel that Malaysian universities graduates are not satisfying in term of their language ability which they believe that these people are still unprepared for employment. From here, we can see the importance of being proficient in English in order to survive in the workplace and this is really a serious matter. Finally, as I said previously, this is a sad situation which should not be happening especially in this new era. Many employers believe that Malaysian universities graduates are well-aware of the importance of English but they do not do much to improve their language proficiency (Isarji, Ainol, Sahari & Azmi, n.y.). So, what can be done? To me, the most important is for the students themselves to take the initiatives to improve themselves. If the university that they enroll does not provide any ESP course for them to take and improve their English, students themselves have to be productive and do their job to learn and relearn and keep on learning so that one day they can be proud of their own language proficiency. Don't make the limitation become a barrier but always try hard to overcome the barrier by other means. Thank you...

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  27. I answer Q1, Q2 and Q4:

    1.I have to agree with this statement. English is important as it is the instruction of the medium used in the university. My friend, who studies marketing course in Faculty Economy in one of the Malaysian universities now, said that her assignments only focus on content rather than language. She rarely focuses and works on their English language. She added on as long as the contents are provided, she did not care much on how to write a good language in her assignment because her lecturer is not emphasized on. Apart from that, my other friend who took degree in TESL but pursuing master in CMBA in the previous year, she complained that her lecturer had language problems especially in the lecture notes.

    2. For my opinion, if the lecturers who do not have the expertise in English language in their professional expertise, for instance Faculty Economy, who can also obtain their Phd, why can’t we do well in a mainstream course at the university without “knowing” English?

    4. I agreed with Grace that “ESP be materialized and implemented” to increase the English proficiency among Malaysian. I think it should be incorporated into courses according to the relative disciplines. In Bosher and Smalkoski (2002) research article, the ESP course designed for ESL students in the A.S. degree nursing program at the College of St. Catherine, Minnepolis campus had succeed in the objective, subjective, and learning needs related to the discipline. Thus, I think this in no doubt will increase the English proficiency because “ESP is centered on the language appropriate to these activities in terms of grammar, lexis, register, study skills, discourse and genre (Dudley-Evans, 1998).”

    Reference:
    Bosheer, S. & Smalkoski, K. (2002). From needs analysis to curriculum development: designing a course in health-care.

    Dudley-Evans, T., (1998). Developments in English for Specific Purposes: A Multi-disciplinary Approach. Cambridge University Press.

    13871

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  28. 2) I think it’s possible to do well in their mainstream course and as mentioned by Esther but it’s near impossible to excel. The reason is they might only learn the English for survival, means that learning English to pass the course only. This type of student likes to memorize things rather that understand. However, would this kind of student be able to cope with working environment later on such as the employee needs which probably aim for more than just memorizing things such in university life.

    In response to Q4, I think that developing an ESP courses is one of the crucial thing to be done and its really need a consistence effort in monitoring the courses to ensure a up-to date ESP courses. Moreover, motivation in learning is also significant as I believe learning should take place inside the individual itself before it can go further.

    Angella Cox (13731)

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  29. Hi,hi,hi...Hola my friends...

    1.I don’t understand if people look down on that learning English is not important than the other subjects. This shows that people nowadays are not reflective enough about their future and yes, ignoring the small thing in life that has the BIG influence in their lives. Hey, come on. I think they are not realizing the basic role of language as the conveyor and vehicle of knowledge. I always go for the fundamentals and basic. Nothing is done? I think different people, different organizations or whatsoever have their own level of efforts. Maybe the effort is there but it’s not optimum enough to reach the goal. It depends on the attitudes towards learning. Reflect!

    2.Yes and no. Yes, if the materials for learning or the class does not demand much English, the answer is yes. Students doesn’t need to do much, provided if they are spoonfed by the lecturer and maybe the lecturer or the students can find other learning materials not in English or the language that the students can understand and the class is conducted bilingually. No, it’s the counter of the answer ‘yes’ just now. And I would like us to think about the academic written works (books especially, etc.) in Malaysia or the translated works here in our country. In English or in Malay those are many? If the answer is not, maybe we can ponder why English is important in order to do well in the university.

    3.I’m afraid it’s not. Outside world is challenging and communication and dealing with people is a very big thing. Let’s say you are very good in your field but in the language you are less. And how can you deal with someone that are better than you in English and yet you are not? I think we are clear about the result, right? Maybe we can read the article by K.S Chew (2005) about the new entrants or employees in Hong Kong banks who have the language difficulty and ‘surprising” new working world after they graduated. I believed we’ve all read it.

    4.Hi…before I answer this, I would like to say to EstherVSH: “ Hi, Esther. I think we have the same opinion lo…hehe…” First, the mindset. It should start from the inner side of the individual. I always believe that changes start from someone and then it become collective. First and foremost, believe that language is important and that learning English is important. Then, it goes back to “why ESP should be implemented?”. Because it caters for students’ needs and if the needs are fulfilled, we are satisfied. If we are satisfied, then we are successful. 
    “A little courage, brings a lot of difference”-But how courages are we?
    At the end of the day, it’s about courage, attitude and mindset.

    Helen anak Abang-14115

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  30. morning everyone...
    in my opinion...without really knowing english, students not be able to perform well in a mainstream course at the university.y???the reason is because without knowing that language how come they wanna study the subject-matter that incorprate with english. for instance, there are many terms in the science course come in english and not in bahasa melayu or other languages.thus, for me..the students should know the english language if they want to survive not only in the course that they learned but also later on when they start to work.
    suzanni (15275)

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  32. 2. Do you think it is possible to do well in a mainstream course at the university without really "knowing" English?
    I don't agree with the statement in the question. In my opinion..those who are good in English can benefit more in their mainstream course because most of the subjects are taught in English. Their proficiency in English will lead them to comprehend more on what is being taught in class compared to those who are not really 'knowing' English. Some of my friends from other courses did admit that they can do well in their core subjects if they know English better..this is their opinion..maybe it is true..

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  33. 2. Do you think it is possible to do well in a mainstream course at the university without really "knowing" English?
    I don't agree with the statement in the question. In my opinion..those who are good in English can benefit more in their mainstream course because most of the subjects are taught in English. Their proficiency in English will lead them to comprehend more on what is being taught in class compared to those who are not really 'knowing' English. Some of my friends from other courses did admit that they can do well in their core subjects if they know English better..this is their opinion..maybe it is true..
    -amal hayati-

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  34. Hi everyone,

    1. I do not agree that core subjects like law, engineering and science are more important than English. I feel that without a certain threshold level of language knowledge, one could not fully understand the actual content delivered as language is the vehicle that bridges text and meaning. Therefore, if English is to be devalued, one could not make sense of the knowledge and might probably reproduce the hard facts without getting the real concepts and treat them as ‘today’s knowledge, tomorrow’s rubbish’. In Malaysia, our undergraduates do show their concerns in English, however with the limited proficiency, English is often sacrificed to give way to learning the technicalities in their field as it is considered a burden for them to learn both English and content knowledge at the same time. As for the competent ones, they have more advantages as they could make fuller use of their language resources to comprehend the specific area knowledge (Clapham, 1996 as cited in Douglas, 2000).

    2. I don’t think a person can go far in the mainstream course if he / she does not really ‘know’ English. The situation is made worse when language errors are not penalized in performance as content is viewed as utmost importance. And along the way, they will face greater challenges and difficulties as they lack the sufficient skills (speaking, listening, reading, writing) needed to perform in the course. In contrast, I believe a student who is competent in the language would excel in almost every subject.

    3. It is possible for less proficient students to make it through the program, looking at the exam-oriented system whereby students read-reproduce. However, in view of the changing demands in the workplace, a person might survive or fail depends on their compatibility with employer needs. Also, in the competitive market, one can only advance with highly specialized skills. English which is emerging as the global language of communication is definitely the ultimate factor to succeed at the workplace.

    4. Of course, we cannot expect our students to be proficent in English if they don’t use the language as even Rome was not build in one day. Therefore, to raise awareness in English, a change should be made as early as possible. With reference to the Critical Period Hypothesis, the optimal age at which children should start learning a new language is before 12 years old to achieve a full command of language which means that the ability to acquire a second language decline with age. Thus, ESP can be introduced in secondary schools with emphasis in specialized skills when learners have gained sufficient language skills after the primary schooling years. What’s more, it is best with English made as the compulsory subject to pass in all national exams; like scoring a pass in BM / PA ensure admission into local universities. It is about learning attitude as only when English is not treated as minority, people would start to feel its impact and treat it as important.

    Angeline Hii Hui Wen 13728

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  35. hi...
    I disagree with the comment. Yeah, most students think that the other core subjects are far far more important than English. It might be an upshot of the fact that other core subjects such as engineering, medical and science have higher demands in professional field. People also tend to look high at those who are knowledgeable and involved in those fields due to the fact that those fields entail lots of technical and scientific content which require higher intellectual thinking compared to English. For me, the thought of the unimportance of English is led by their perspective towards English itself. Being in a comfort zone when they realize that they still can survive though they only know basic/simple English lead them to just remain in that level. They might forget that English is more than just a language, but it is a vehicle for them to succeed their goals in the mainstream course as well as in future workplace.

    I don’t think it is possible for the students to do WELL in a mainstream course at the university without really knowing English. I do agree with Swee hoon as she mentioned that they may survive just enough to graduate but they probably not perform well in a mainstream course. If English is used to understand the concept of the content in the courses, and to write for their assignments, they will able to do well in it as they have been exposed and familiar with the kind of language use for that purposes.

    Looking beyond the academic situation, in my opinion, students with less proficiency in English will struggle to perform in their workplace. Workplace serves a great amount of contexts and situations that beyond their ability with that proficiency. As employees, they are not merely require to apply and explain the content knowledge they have but to communicate effectively with others (employer, administrators, clients etc). Not just that, they might also been asked to handle a situation which is beyond what have they learned in university.

    Therefore, it is essential for students whose taking the other core subjects to attend ESP classes which closely related to their area. From that then they will realize what are served by English are more than what they expected. ESP course designed should motivate them to acquire the language for the purpose to use it in their occupational context. It can be done by working out their language needs in relation to their specialism, using context, texts, situations from their subject area and bringing the real world into the classroom as stressed by Harding (2007).

    15440

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  37. Hi,evryone...
    I don’t think law, engineering, science or other core subjects are far more important to students than English. I think this perception has become an epidemic among Malaysian. I also have encountered one situation during my secondary school where the intensive classes/tuition only for “important subjects” such as Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, etc. No extra classes for English subject. Sad but it’s a reality. How can students survive in the future due to the fact that English has become medium of instruction in many universities? I don’t think it is possible to do well in a mainstream course without really knowing English. Eventhough students might have a basic knowledge of the language and content knowledge, I think it’s quite difficult for students to perform well especially during exam. They might know the answer, however due to the fact that they lack of English proficiency, the A student can be the C student. Yes, it’s sad that many talented students are hidden behind “ENGLISH”. It’s like a wall which blocked them from showing what they are capable to do. I think all Malaysian students are aware that English is important for them but nothing is done. I won’t blame the students if no actions are taken to improve their English. Because too many subjects to be completed in four years. However, I think that students with lack of English language proficiency need to enroll in foundation/ preparatory course to master the language before they can enter the universities. It’s like 3-6 months course only to learn English/ESP.

    Nurfarizah 14954

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  38. It is indeed a reality which happens among the students nowadays. They view English is less important than their subjects because they are not tested with their English language proficiency but the subject matter knowledge. There are lots of my friends who are studying engineering course. Yes, they can score well and get the deanlist. Pity to say, when it comes to English speaking, they are unable to speak properly or even a simple correct sentence. Why? The reason is they don’t have to speak or write proper English when they deal with their assignments or coursework. The command of English language is not being emphasized by their lecturers. As long as they can pour out their ideas in a logical way, then they can get mark in their exams or presentations. Sometimes, the lectures even encourage them to speak in Bahasa Malayu if they are not confident in speaking English. No demand from lecturers, thus it causes them to pay less attention on their proficiency of English and they become less bother and less motivated to improve their proficiency of English although they know that they are weak. Yet, they are not in the comfortable zone anymore once they are in the workplace. Most of the employers demand good proficiency of English as they are working as professions. English is an international language. They need to deal with foreign clients in business or doing projects. With low proficiency of English, what do the employers expect from them? It might wash the name of the particular university where produces such graduates. Hence, students have to be responsible for their own learning. As what Ester Voon said, students’ mindset is the most important criteria. In the primary or secondary school, the time of learning English language is limited and that’s the reason students are unable to learn well. In addition, English normally is the second language for most of us. Once they score badly in English subject, they start to view it as a hard subject and try to avoid being involved in the subject. Thus, they need to be wash brained that learning English is just like learning other languages. No mistake means you won’t get improvement.

    Ying (15438)

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  39. My responses for question 1,2 and 3:

    1. For me, the statements are true. Core subjects are taught based on facts, logics and formula. Therefore, they feel that they can still pass the course even if they don’t know English. Language is an art, which is opposing to what they have learned. Plus, it is the nature of their field that English is used in limited way. They deal with specific terminology in which can help them to understand the whole concept. However, they should be more open to perceived English as a medium that can help them perform better not only for the sake of their studies but also communication skills (no more IT geek or nerd doctor). I think these students are afraid of English because of grammar. Therefore they are reluctant to learn English.


    2. Yup, this is true because even the tutorial question can be tricky to them if they can’t grasp the meaning of the sentences (which eventually lead them to wrong calculation!). However, since content are far more important than language, these students still can do well even without really “knowing” English.


    3. Well, I dare say this is like a win-win situation. It is not fair to say that less proficient students can’t make it through the program. I agree with Felisia that less proficient should work harder to achieve better performance in their study.
    For me, workplace is a different world than study. It is depends on the employer because skills are weighted more than language, unless their working environment required them to speak English. However, I still believe that employers nowadays are aware of the importance of English and they set up English course for their employees.


    Faridatul Mastura (14019)

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  40. 1. In my opinion, all courses that offered in university are important for those who enroll it. It doesn’t mean that though English is a “language” course or sometime people will categorized it as social science course, it is less important. Language course especially English is the bridge that bind in understanding the subject matter. I can say that most of the courses offered in college or local university are taught in English, therefore by any means the students have....or should I say “MUST” know English. However English is not the first language for most of the Malaysian but should be emphasized in any field not only for education.

    2. I think it is possible to pass the core courses without really knowing English, but it seems it’s difficult to do extremely well.

    3. Well, I think less proficient students won’t be able to perform well in their workplace. Though it is true that they able to cope with the basic requirement of their job and do it well, but when comes to it, they won’t be able face tough duties.

    4. First and foremost, people minds have to be changed. They should be informed that English is equal important compare with other courses. In fact English is the medium which represent the subject matter content. I agree with Esther saying that GE is no longer adequate for the nation building needs and ESP should be introduced in the curriculum. ESP can be the first move for the students as they go along the learning process.

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  41. 1) Yes, I agree with the statement given. I believe that Malaysian undergraduates can still pass their programme even though they are poor in English. We all know that English comes across as a relevant and useful resource for communication, skills development, and lifelong learning. Sadly, this phenomenon does not seem to apply in academic context of Malaysia. For the Malaysian undergraduates, English represents a low priority subject because they see no immediate use of the language (as being explained by Grace). Besides, we often hear that most of our engineering (particularly) students are employed even before they graduate. As we can see here, there is such an acute shortage of technical personnel that employers are prepared to overlook the English proficiency level and opt for their technical knowledge.

    2) Yes, I think that it is possible to do well in a mainstream course at the university without really “knowing” English. In an academic setting, the main concern of learners is the acquisition of knowledge related to their present field of study or future workplace. Their immediate area of interest should always be their profession development. Perhaps they might think “As long as I have a repertoire of technical words, I can secure myself a job even if my English is poor.” Again, the technical/subject matter knowledge outweighs the linguistic knowledge. Worse still, there are courses using the national language as the medium of instruction and of course students do not have to use English at all in the classroom.

    3) I feel that it is possible for less proficient students to make it through the programme since they use the target language chiefly to gain the subject matter knowledge (for the sack of passing examinations or completing assignments). But, seriously I doubt for their performance in the workplace. Bachman and Palmer (1996) postulate two components of communicative language ability: (a) language knowledge and (b) strategic competence. Strategic competence serves as a mediator between the internal traits of background knowledge and language knowledge and the external context, controlling the interaction between them. If their language knowledge is lacking at the first place, how can they perform well in their workplace? In order to do extremely well in the workplace, they should not only familiar with the academic discourse of the field but they need to be able to transfer and use that knowledge in the professional context of the workplace (which seems to be the challenge).

    4) I totally agree with those saying that ESP is one of the alternatives. But, we must always bear in mind that the existing ESP programmes should not be looked upon as final. They should be reviewed periodically. There should also be a continuos effort to carry out further needs analyses to keep up with the changing expectations and requirements of the industries/ employers.

    For sure the pedagogical problems faced by ESP teachers are wide and varied, but positive thinking and collaboration among ESP teachers and the cooperation of the trade teachers/ subject matter experts can help to alleviate the problems to a certain extent.

    15520

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  42. 1) Yes, I agree with the statement given. I believe that Malaysian undergraduates can still pass their programme even though they are poor in English. We all know that English comes across as a relevant and useful resource for communication, skills development, and lifelong learning. Sadly, this phenomenon does not seem to apply in academic context of Malaysia. For the Malaysian undergraduates, English represents a low priority subject because they see no immediate use of the language (as being explained by Grace). Besides, we often hear that most of our engineering (particularly) students are employed even before they graduate. As we can see here, there is such an acute shortage of technical personnel that employers are prepared to overlook the English proficiency level and opt for their technical knowledge.

    2) Yes, I think that it is possible to do well in a mainstream course at the university without really “knowing” English. In an academic setting, the main concern of learners is the acquisition of knowledge related to their present field of study or future workplace. Their immediate area of interest should always be their profession development. Perhaps they might think “As long as I have a repertoire of technical words, I can secure myself a job even if my English is poor.” Again, the technical/subject matter knowledge outweighs the linguistic knowledge. Worse still, there are courses using the national language as the medium of instruction and of course students do not have to use English at all in the classroom.

    3) I feel that it is possible for less proficient students to make it through the program since they use the target language chiefly to gain the subject matter knowledge (for the sack of passing examinations or completing assignments). But, seriously I doubt for their performance in the workplace. Bachman and Palmer (1996) postulate two components of communicative language ability: (a) language knowledge and (b) strategic competence. Strategic competence serves as a mediator between the internal traits of background knowledge and language knowledge and the external context, controlling the interaction between them. If their language knowledge is lacking at the first place, how can they perform well in their workplace? In order to do extremely well in the workplace, they should not only familiar with the academic discourse of the field but they need to be able to transfer and use that knowledge in the professional context of the workplace (which seems to be the challenge).

    4) I totally agree with those saying that ESP is one of the alternatives. But, we must always bear in mind that the existing ESP programmes should not be looked upon as final. They should be reviewed periodically. There should also be a continuos effort to carry out further needs analyses to keep up with the changing expectations and requirements of the industries/ employers.

    For sure the pedagogical problems faced by ESP teachers are wide and varied, but positive thinking and collaboration among ESP teachers and the cooperation of the trade teachers/ subject matter experts can help to alleviate the problems to a certain extent.

    15520

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  43. Personally, I disagree that all those courses are more important than English. It is true that they can still pass the course without the need to be proficient in English. However, it would be a struggle to them (struggle to learn, struggle to understand) and of cause at the end of the day they can pass but the question is will they excel with ‘flying colours’ and deeply comprehend what they learnt?. What I mean to deeply comprehend is, will they be able to bring that learning to another stage (application, synthesizing??). Learning should develop learners’ autonomy, meaning that learners need to be able “to transfer school knowledge into action knowledge” (Little and Krijgsman in Potocar, 1998). Thinking of low road and high road in learning?
    So, what can be done? That is depending on the individual views towards English. Even if there are, free courses offered for learners to learn and improve their English out there, but if the individual think less of it, nothing can be done. This shows that motivation to learn English play a vital role. Now, how to motivate learners to want to learn English? Again, the answer is by looking at their needs.
    Well, this goes to the need why ESP courses should be offered out there rather than just General English. The ‘uniqueness’ of ESP can/might change the perception towards English itself. Rather than just learning English in a typical ways, ESP will be a whole new experience to the learners. It gives learners the opportunity to learn English for immediate use, and help ‘en culturing’ the learners into the professional community (Shrivastava, 2009), which absolutely will motivate them as it really can benefit them in the future.
    Besides learners, there is also a need to look at the demand of the job market out there (looking at the demand of the employers). What is/ are the employers wants our learners to have? Based on a case study done by the Institut Penyelidikan Pendidikan Tinggi Negara (as cited in Koo, Pang and Fadhil Mansur, n.d.), the employers wants their employees to have a good command of communication skills with personal attributes as well as knowledge in ICT with general skills such as language skills, general and current knowledge, ability to give presentation to clients, basic knowledge in ICT, and work experiences. Thus, again ESP courses should be offered as it can provides to the learners need as well as the need of the job market out there.

    Shrivastava, A. (2009). English for specific purposes: Its meaning and importance in present Indian scenario. Retrieved February, 2, 2009, from http://www.esp-world.info
    Potocar, M. (1998). ESP in Slovenian secondary technical and vocational education. Retrieved February, 2, 2009, from http://www.esp-world.info
    Koo, Y., L. Pang, V. & Fadhil Mansur. (n.d.). Employer perceptions on graduate literacies in higher education in relation to the workplace. Retrieved February, 2, 2009, from http://www.esp-world.info

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  44. hi everyone..
    I would like to answer the questions based on number.
    1. I do not agree with the comments. It is not because i am the one that major in English. In my opinion, those subjects cannot be said as more important than English. Even scienes stream subjects are important for development, it goes the same with English as as medium of instruction worldwide.

    2. Yes, I think it is possible. Even though they have problem in english, it might not the major problem for them as thier focus is not about the langauge but for the content of the subjects. So, English might not affect their study as they still can understand the contents of the courses. Besides, in my opinion, in our class too, we are given marks based on the content of our works even our English is emphasized.

    3. Yes..it is possiblle for less proficient students to make through the program as their ability in English might not be the main focus for their performance evaluation. However, it might be difficul for them to perform in thier workplace. It is because the demand in English in workplace might be the priority (not all departments) due to the importance of English as the medium of communication. They have to face the real world which require them to use English. Their less proficient in English might caused them to be backward in their performance as they cannot compete with others that can use English very well. Moreover, they might feel inferior due to the lackness which can affect their career.

    4. What can be done? In my opinion, "practice makes perfect". It is a well known worthsaying. We usually afraid of speaking in English due to some reasons as mentioned in our previous discussion. We are the one that want to get something, therefore, it is bect if we ourselves try to come out with our solution first. If we canot really make it alone, then we asked for others' help. Others' might be able to come out with advanced solution such as organized courses that use English. ESP courses is very useful to help them to enhance thier proficiency in English as well as to help them to prepare for job market.

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  45. 2. i think the students can still could past their mainstream courses eventhough they did really good in the language.But to do well might be a bit difficult for them because they might having problem with the vocabularies and understand the reference that related to their studies.
    3. The students can still get through the course eventhough their language proficiency is not that good. What is important here they course understand the content matter but not the language. They even could perform well in their job as long they really well verse with the job situation and understand what they are doing. For example the research on the banker in hong kong when the also use englsig language in reading and writing slill but not really on the speaking. Most of the client use the local dialect during the transaction and this make them to perform well in their job.
    4. English should be taugh as a compulsary subject in all the faculties. this would really help the students in their learning. this isssue actuaslly are almost similar with the PPSMI issue. the main objective of the reaching of math and science in english because it could help the students understand better the subject because almost all the sources or references are in english as student might having problem if the learn it n local language.

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  46. Hi everyone…

    1) Based on what I have studied so far, I think the comment saying that law, engineering, science and other core subjects are far more important than English is not true. Many students underestimate the importance of English. This is especially true for people who live in English speaking countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States. Since they are raised speaking the language, they thought they have mastered the language and would rather put more emphasis on other core subjects. The similar condition has applied to our country that our students also think that other core subjects are more important than English. They think they can still pass the course although they do not have the language. However, the truth is, without knowing language in the particular context, we definitely will not do well in the particular course.

    2) In my opinion, I think it is rather impossible to do well in a mainstream course at the university without really “knowing” English. With the limited knowledge of English, one may still pass the course at the university, but he or she certainly will not do very well in the course. To do well in a course, one must have operational command of English so that he or she can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in his or her main field of study.

    3) Based on the analysis of scientific texts in the class, I think it is possible for less proficient students to make it through the program and perform in their workplace. Nevertheless, they may not be able to perform as well as more proficient students. They may still be able to accomplish basic and ordinary tasks in their workplace, yet they will have difficulties when they meet more complicated and challenging tasks. Therefore, less proficient students should redouble their efforts to improve their English language proficiency in order to succeed in their future workplace.

    4) "... they know that English is important but nothing is done". Well, I think the recommendations which the researchers proposed in the article above are fairly useful and practical. One of the recommendations is introducing industrial attachment to all programmes in our national universities for students to be exposed to real language demands at the workplace. It helps in increasing students’ awareness, improving their attitude and enhancing their motivation to use and acquire English. By this, they will be more aware of the importance of English at the workplace and put more emphasis on improving their English language proficiency. Other than that, I think government needs to make English into a compulsory subject for at least a pass in our public examinations, namely PMR and SPM. This is to ensure that every student has the minimum English language requirement prior to admission into STPM and tertiary level. For that reason, students will begin to give greater emphasis to English subject and acquire at least the minimum level of English language proficiency in order to be able to go through higher level of education.

    15050

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  47. Hi everyone…

    1) Based on what I have studied so far, I think the comment saying that law, engineering, science and other core subjects are far more important than English is not true. Many students underestimate the importance of English. This is especially true for people who live in English speaking countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States. Since they are raised speaking the language, they thought they have mastered the language and would rather put more emphasis on other core subjects. The similar condition has applied to our country that our students also think that other core subjects are more important than English. They think they can still pass the course although they do not have the language. However, the truth is, without knowing language in the particular context, we definitely will not do well in the particular course.

    2) In my opinion, I think it is rather impossible to do well in a mainstream course at the university without really “knowing” English. With the limited knowledge of English, one may still pass the course at the university, but he or she certainly will not do very well in the course. To do well in a course, one must have operational command of English so that he or she can use and understand fairly complex language, particularly in his or her main field of study.

    3) Based on the analysis of scientific texts in the class, I think it is possible for less proficient students to make it through the program and perform in their workplace. Nevertheless, they may not be able to perform as well as more proficient students. They may still be able to accomplish basic and ordinary tasks in their workplace, yet they will have difficulties when they meet more complicated and challenging tasks. Therefore, less proficient students should redouble their efforts to improve their English language proficiency in order to succeed in their future workplace.

    4) "... they know that English is important but nothing is done". Well, I think the recommendations which the researchers proposed in the article above are fairly useful and practical. One of the recommendations is introducing industrial attachment to all programmes in our national universities for students to be exposed to real language demands at the workplace. It helps in increasing students’ awareness, improving their attitude and enhancing their motivation to use and acquire English. By this, they will be more aware of the importance of English at the workplace and put more emphasis on improving their English language proficiency. Other than that, I think government needs to make English into a compulsory subject for at least a pass in our public examinations, namely PMR and SPM. This is to ensure that every student has the minimum English language requirement prior to admission into STPM and tertiary level. For that reason, students will begin to give greater emphasis to English subject and acquire at least the minimum level of English language proficiency in order to be able to go through higher level of education.

    15050

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  48. Hi..

    (1)
    Responding to the first question, I think that to a certain extent, it is true that students can still survive in the core subjects even though they have a limited proficiency in English. These students may be good at solving the mathematical problems, remembering all those enactments in law, or even memorizing the chemical substances for the chemistry subjects. All those require their competency in the subject matter, without knowing much about English. However, is it enough to just pass the course? Well, problems may not arise too much and become worse yet at that level. Wait until these students enter the workplace setting, and there they will eventually know that English proficiency is really needed.

    (2)
    To pass the course or to do well? Not “knowing” English may just enable the students to pass the course, but proficiency in English will lead them to a success in the mainstream courses. Besides, let’s think about “knowing” here. Many students “know” English, but, to be able to do well in study, we have to think in depth the “knowing” here. IMO, it means that students should be able to use English appropriately for various purposes and be able to exploit it when necessary. Focus is not only given to academic work, but in terms of interactions with the lecturers, students and anyone related.

    (3)
    To answer the third question, let’s take a look at what Gatehouse (2001) had mentioned. In ensuring a successful communication in workplace setting, one should have these abilities. First, to be able to use particular jargons in the particular occupational situation. Second, to be able to use a more general academic skills for work- related purposes. And third, to be able to use daily language for an informal communication. So, clearly understood here that English proficiency is one of the vital component in workplace performance.

    (4)
    What can be done? Firstly, let’s put aside first all the government or any sectors’ agenda to help these students because what the most important is the students’ own awareness. They need to change the perception that “I can still pass the course even if I don't know English”. This mindset has actually made them think that English is not important for them to be succeeded. If this can be changed, I believed that all those plans to help them in English will work.

    Nik Zati Iwani -14692-

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  49. Hi…

    1.I do agree with Teo’s. It depends on how the students view the importance of English in their course or maybe their future. If they think that English is not so important, they might take it lightly and the focus will be more on their subject areas. Besides, society’s perception that law, engineering and medical fields are essential compared to language (I 100% don’t agree with this) also plays a big role in how the students view English.

    2.It is impossible as many of the reference books available are written in English. English also has become the medium of instruction in most of universities. So, in other words, they do need English in order to do well in their course.

    3.It may be tough for the less proficient students but it is not impossible. They just have to work harder than the others in order to complete the course and also perform well in their workplace.

    4.I still belief that it depends on the students. They just need to adjust their mind set that English is not important. Besides, the university authorities also need to design a course and may be reevaluate the existing course in order to meet the students’ needs in learning English.

    -Samihah Ab Razak- (15176)

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  50. People are becoming more aware of the importance and need of English for both academic and occupational settings. That’s why ESP is blooming nowadays and so as the editing business (another future career for us to think about). People do pay to get their works edited into perfect grammar. For undergraduates, their final year projects especially.

    Therefore, less proficient students do have ways to pull through and receive a degree at the end of the day. However, when it comes to performing in your job and to think of paying for every piece of written work that you are required to do to be edited, that would be so-not-worth-it. Then again, your job would be in the firing line. Perhaps, you can say that I’m exaggerating, but having a good English proficiency would definitely be an advantage to you for your study and future career.

    Subconscious language learning does occur along the way but the pessimistic me contend for a more conscious learning of the language, for example, ask someone to help proofread a section of your work and identify and explain to you what your mistakes are and how to correct them. Then you continue to correct the rest on your own. That’s what I do to help some of my friends. And I found most of their mistakes are recurring.

    Try it. You have nothing to lose.

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  51. hello!
    1. i definitely disagree that english is less important if compared to other science or core subjects. english is a must have nowadays. even if the students are well educated in other subjects, the knowledge can only be put useful within their playground. english is still needed to allow the sharing process beyond the league.remember, we are not in japan~
    2. that is of course possible but shouldn't the students set their target higher. doing well is common. being excellent on the other hand is rare but it is more valuable. and to achive the excellent level, english is a necessary considering it being the major medium of teaching in unis.
    3. less proficient students can possibly make it through the program but there is no guarantee that they will perform in the workplace. those who are normally in the front rows for promotion and getting acknowledged for their excellent performances are those who have good and better english command.
    4. we should consider having more EST sort of classes. what i mean is that the language class should be 'modified' so that it can be seen as important in various fields. our general english class is no longer regarded as useful and beneficial by our students. so instead of giving students free periods to take a nap, there should be a second thought on our current syllabus. is teaching students how to recycle still relevant to make them even interested in coming to the class? think about that~

    14915

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  52. Hi...
    1. For me, there are nothing to compare amongst the subjects. All are important as long as your goal of learning is there. Every field has it own speciality. They (students) are not 'totally' do not know English, it just that they have limited knowledge in English which confine them to use it.
    2. It's true that even though they are not good in English but still can manage to pass the courses or graduate from universities. All they have to do is by memorising the notes or lectures that they have. They just reproduced what they have memorised during the exam. That's how they are able to graduate and do well without really knowing English. What is important for them is to get the good results only.
    3. Besides, what i have heard in the other courses, some of the lecturers do not emphasize on the students' grammar or fluency. What they really concern is their content, in other words, their knowledge in the field. Thus, students who are less proficient manage to pass the program but not in the work place. This is because in the real world, they have to communicate with others using English. If they are not fluent in English, it's hard for them to get through it.
    4. ESP classes should be implemented in the schools and universities nowadays. The mindset of exam-oriented must be get rid first in order to make sure that ESP can be done. Ohterwise, it will still be the same like before even if there are ESP classes.

    Shirley Michael (15227)

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  53. If you ask me the importance of English when I was in my secondary school, I would say that English is not important. BM is more important than English during those days. In my Form One until Form Five in Science Stream, all my core subjects are conducted in BM except for English subject. The same thing also happened to the undergraduate at that time. They received BM education for all the core subjects until Form Six. After they entered the University or college, they need to study all the core subjects in English. They can still pass the course eventhough they are not good in English.

    Therefore, I do believe that people can still pass the course although they do not know English. All they need is mere understanding of English, the subject matter knowledge of the course and the efforts they are willing to put in so that they can do well in the course.

    Nothing is impossible in this world. Everyone learns differently. The less proficient students can also do well in the program if they can figure out their learning styles and work on from there with some proper guidance from the experts (teacher, internet, reference books, videos, hands-on experiment, etc).

    Nothing can be done unless they change their mind-set. Teachers and students need to share the same concept that English is important in helping the students to have a better achievement in both the written and oral performance in their field. Then, thorough and complete English courses cater for their needs can be developed.
    14128

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