Putrajaya mulls tapping private schools for English boost

May Robertson
Deputy Education Minister, Teo Nie Ching, speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur July 18, 2018. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 — The Education Ministry will study how it might partner with private schools to improve English proficiency in public schools, said deputy minister Teo Nie Ching.

She explained that the private education sector was a major pull factor for English teachers trained by the government, many of whom are drawn by the prospects of improved salaries.

With the government’s push to improve English proficiency, Teo said this was an issue that must be urgently addressed.

“We have a big problem with English teachers because the private sector wants them. Many teachers who have been trained by us go into the private sector as it offers better pay,” she told Malay Mail.

“We are now looking to have a working relationship with the private sector to tap on their resources to improve English teaching in Malaysia,” she said.

When asked if the matter could be better addressed simply by raising the salaries of public school teachers, the deputy minister explained that it was not down to the quantity of educators alone.

Teo argued that private schools possessed a greater overall level of English proficiency that would be beneficial to all the country’s students — if her ministry can find a way to access this in the private sector.

She also added that her vision was not limited to the private educators alone, but also their training methods as well as the expertise of those who have been trained by them.

“It is not just about increasing pay. We believe the private sector has teachers who are good with English, so it’s about how to tap into their strengths and resources to perhaps conduct English tuition for the teachers or even the students,” said Teo.

“We can even have students go into the rural areas to help other students there. It can be a part of a voluntary programme but it has to be discussed further.”

However, Teo stressed that this was just one suggestion among many currently being evaluated, adding that it was still premature to say if there will be follow-through.

“Nothing is set in stone yet,” she said.

Teo, who is Kulai MP, said she will also look into providing special allowances for teachers in some areas of the country to incentivise teachers either to head there or to stay on.

Some places were avoided due to the higher relative living costs while others were located in rural areas that are typically low in teachers’ order of preference for postings.

“There are certain places like Sabah, Sarawak and Johor where we are facing a shortage of teachers, but these are also the places with the highest requests to be transferred away,” she said.

“While I want to work for the welfare of the children, we must also make sure our teachers enjoy teaching.”