Gain­ing di­verse per­spec­tives and skills through lit­er­ary studie

New Straits Times - - Higher Ed - ROZANA SANI

THE term “word­smith” of­ten comes to mind when re­fer­ring to some­one who is pur­su­ing a de­gree in English Lan­guage and Lit­er­a­ture — one who is on his way to be­com­ing an ex­pert in the use of words in the lan­guage, spout­ing pas­sages from Shake­speare’s plays, for ex­am­ple.

This is be­cause the pro­gramme gen­er­ally re­quires the anal­y­sis of the work­ings of the English lan­guage in all forms and con­texts as well lit­er­ary texts from dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods through­out his­tory.

English Lit­er­a­ture as a ma­jor in a Bach­e­lor of Arts pro­gramme has been of­fered here since 1959 when Univer­sity of Malaya (UM) was es­tab­lished at Lem­bah Pan­tai in Kuala Lumpur.

Pro­fes­sor Shar­mani Pa­tri­cia Gabriel, head of the Depart­ment of English at UM’s Fac­ulty of Arts and So­cial Sciences, said the his­tory of the pro­gramme can be traced back to 1949 when UM was first formed in Sin­ga­pore, and even fur­ther back to the es­tab­lish­ment of Raf­fles Col­lege in the open­ing decades of the 20th cen­tury.

“If you con­sider care­fully UM’s devel­op­ment over its long his­tory, you will no­tice that though re­main­ing dis­tinc­tive in the coun­try in terms of the range of cour­ses it con­tin­ues to of­fer — from the me­dieval era to the 21st cen­tury, from the UK to other English­s­peak­ing re­gions of the world — the con­tents of its BA pro­gramme have al­ways been in a state of flux,” she added.

“This is nec­es­sary for the study of English Lit­er­a­ture to re­main rel­e­vant to our un­der­stand­ing of who we think we are as Malaysians and how we see our­selves as Malaysians in re­la­tion to the wider world. This in­sight on our part means that in ad­di­tion to teach­ing Bri­tish Lit­er­a­ture, we also teach Lit­er­a­ture in English from Malaysia, Sin­ga­pore, Africa, In­dia, the Caribbean, Aus­tralia and the US. Our cur­ric­u­lar of­fer­ings have also ex­panded to re­flect both con­tem­po­rary ap­proaches to the study of Lit­er­a­ture and the breadth of staff ex­per­tise and in­ter­est.”

In terms of stu­dent in­take, the depart­ment an­nu­ally ac­cepts 20 to 25 stu­dents for its BA English pro­gramme although it re­ceives ap­pli­ca­tions in the hun­dreds. “Our un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dent size is de­lib­er­ately kept small so as main­tain a favourable stu­dent-to-staff ra­tio and to re­flect the shift in em­pha­sis from un­der­grad­u­ate to post­grad­u­ate train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion.”

At Univer­siti Ke­bangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Lit­er­a­ture in English is of­fered at the un­der­grad­u­ate level through the BA English Lan­guage Stud­ies pro­gramme as well as the Bach­e­lor of Ed­u­ca­tion (Teach­ing English as a Sec­ond Lan­guage/TESL) pro­gramme.

Dr Shahizah Is­mail Ham­dan, co­or­di­na­tor of the Post­colo­nial Lit­er­a­ture in English Pro­gramme at UKM’s Fac­ulty of So­cial Sciences and Hu­man­i­ties, said: “We also have sev­eral Lit­er­a­ture cour­ses — also known as — open to all un­der­grad­u­ates as part of UKM’s lib­eral ed­u­ca­tion ef­forts. The av­er­age in­take for BA English Lan­guage Stud­ies is 60 stu­dents and 30 for B.Ed TESL.”

UKM used to of­fer a BA Lit­er­a­ture in English Stud­ies pro­gramme, which ran from 2005 to 2014, with an av­er­age in­take of 25. “Due to chang­ing univer­sity pol­icy — which is to in­crease post­grad­u­ate in­take — sev­eral pro­grammes deemed less mar­ketable were put on hold. To date, that is the sta­tus of the BA Lit­er­a­ture in English pro­gramme. At the Mas­ter’s of Arts and Doc­tor of Phi­los­o­phy level, UKM of­fers the Post­colo­nial Lit­er­a­ture in English de­grees.

Both UKM and UM were placed in the 51-100 band in the 2017 QS Univer­sity World Rank­ings by Sub­ject for English Lan­guage and Lit­er­a­ture, mak­ing them the top two uni­ver­si­ties in the coun­try for the sub­ject. UKM was in the 101-150 band last year.

“The rise in rank­ing for English lan­guage and Lit­er­a­ture can be at­trib­uted to the method in which QS Univer­sity World Rank­ings by Sub­ject is done —

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.