Grand BlueWave Hotel general manager, Long Cheow Siong told participants at the New Straits Times-Newspaper in Education (NST-NIE), who comprised 95 Form Six students, that prospective employers valued candidates who possessed the soft skills that can carry themselves through in their career progression.
The half-day workshop was co-organised by the Johor English Language Teaching Association (Jelta) and Johor Education Department with support from the hotel.
Jelta president Vincent D’Silva conducted the workshop.
According to Long, English is the major language used for communication in most work places in the private sector. He said the language is a tool used in cross-border business dealings and networking with international counterparts.
“There is a certain benchmark for companies to penetrate the market. English plays a pivotal role in distinguishing which companies have that extra edge against its competitors,” said Long in special talk he gave to the Form Six students.
He told them that it was essential to master the English language not only for the sake of passing examinations, but to ensure they can secure a job later on in the future.
“Many of those I had interviewed in the past possess qualifications for jobs in accountancy, hospitality and tourism fields, but some of them lacked the proficiency in English. I could see this when they were expressing their thoughts and opinions orally,” he said.
He said most employers these days were looking beyond good grades in English.
“Candidates for jobs must possess a good command of spoken English.”
“It is very crucial for our youth, who will be joining the workforce in the future, to be able to speak English professionally. They need to become fluent speakers of the language as they also reflect the company’s good name when they are meeting with potential customers or considering career enhancement elsewhere,” he said.
Meanwhile Johor Baru District Education Office’s English unit for secondary-schools officer, Al Mujani Abdul Rahman said an initiative to further increase English proficiency among school students in the state was carried out in the past two years under the Education Ministry’s ‘Highly Immersive Program’ (HIP), which focuses on the usage of English language in school activities.
“Since the start of the program in Johor two years ago, 10 schools were made to observe the HIP initiative.
“This year, the number increased to 60 schools statewide. By next year, there will be a total of 150 primary and secondary schools in the state that will be adopting HIP,” he said.
Al Mujani said based on his observations of students in the district, a majority of them are able to write and express their thoughts and opinions in English on paper, but they have difficulties conversing fluently in the language.
“They either do not have the confidence to speak or they do not understand the words they are trying to say which became a limitation for some of them,” he said.
Al Mujani welcomed the advocacy of English proficiency as recently stated by Permaisuri Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah, who is the Royal Patron of the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association.
“This is why the Johor Education Department is working closely with Jelta to address this issue with students and teaching professional via platforms such as the NST-NIE workshop.
“We hope to collaborate more in future with Jelta and the New Straits Times in this effort to improve the mastery of the English language among our students,” he said.
Jelta president Vincent D’Silva, an English lecturer who has been conducting NST-NIE workshops for the past 19 years, said students will find the NST to be the best tool in helping them to enhance their command of English.
He said the newspaper was a flexible teaching tool that can be used in all areas of curriculum, in all aspects of the different syllabus in schools.
“It is for every level and age, encompassing everyone regardless of their level of competency. What is important is the reader must fully understand what they are reading and make full use of the news content in the paper to improve their command in English,” said D’Silva.
One of the participants, Syarifah Syafiah Syed Mustafa, 18, from SMK Sultan Ismail she had joined the workshop to get insight on English requirements that employers look for.
“I know English is not just about writing but also being able to express ourselves in the language, as we would be meeting or socialising with others using English as a professional language,” she said.
She hoped one day she will succeed in studying law and become a lawyer proficient not only in Law, but also in the English language. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd