December 3, 2013, by michaelgroves
A Vicious Cycle (Part Two)
Yan Lai Peen continues her discussion of the Human Capital that a sound knowledge of English can provide
In the last blog post, I wrote about the necessity of knowing when to use standard grammar as an educator and asserted that an educational institution is where students acquire linguistic capital, especially if it is a language not spoken at home. In this entry, I will consider the relevance of linguistic capital and the role of teachers in developing it.
Linguistic capital opens doors. In Malaysia, the advantage of linguistic capital was seen during the colonial days when lucrative and secure government jobs were offered to those who could speak and write in English. Over the years, this culminated in an economic divide – the haves and have-nots. The English-educated had more opportunities as they were able to establish liaisons with the powers-that-be. The colonial days are long gone, but we are now faced with a more pressing phenomenon – globalisation – which will continue to widen the divide. In this age, if we are to remain relevant and competitive in the global arena, English is a language we cannot afford to do without. Our mastery of it, or the lack of, spells how far we can rise in the echelons of society, in fields of commerce, technology, science, politics, and diplomacy.
This is why English teachers, in every level of education from pre-school to varsity, cannot take their role lightly and cannot remain lackadaisical in their attitude towards the language they profess to teach. Not only should they convey the importance of a language to their students; they should ideally be a living example of it. In my opinion, English teachers should strive to have a good grasp of grammar in the classroom as they are the model and thus a representation of what their students should aspire to. They should get the grammar right before expounding on the aesthetics of a Shakespearean sonnet. Demonstrating excellent teaching methodology and passion in our career is commendable, but that alone is not enough. We need not speak with a Caucasian accent or abandon our vernacular languages, but we do need to recognise the necessity of embracing the language that will ultimately be in our favour. English teachers who are ‘not fit to teach’ are doing their students a disservice and they should pull up their proverbial socks to do justice to their profession. It is my hope that the new policy in the National Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025 to make English a compulsory subject to pass in SPM would elevate the status and importance of the language in school and society in general. Perhaps then, more Malaysians will stand a better chance of competing and excelling in the global world. Hope springs eternal.