Foreign students inept in English
> Some have good scores on paper, but cannot answer oral questions
PETALING JAYA: Foreign students without basic knowledge of English have been accepted into institutions of higher learning, resulting in high drop-out rates that leads them into the job market.
Many present documents certifying they are proficient in the language, but in reality, the situation is different.
Coming from countries where such certification can be bought on the streets, these students use them merely to enter the country, and join the labour market.
Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA) chief executive officer Datuk Rujhan Mustafa said MQA is aware about the practice but is unable to rectify the situation.
“We found so many students who are poor in English, and we don’t know how they are going to do the course.
“Our job is to set the standards. It is up to the colleges to only accept students who meet such standards,” he said.
Rujhan said during one their checks, MQA found students enrolled for post-graduate courses were unable to answer questions posed by the inspectors.
“Maybe they are like the Japanese. They are experts in their field but probably fall short in communication skills,” he said.
“They have good results in their tests, but when it comes to communications ... we don’t know.”
It is learnt that many international students who had been accepted into local higher education institutes have a belowaverage command in English, despite having impressive scores on paper.
Doctors who examine students who have to undergo mandatory post-arrival medical screenings have also raised this issue.
Many of them, one doctor told theSun, can’t even tick the proper boxes of their medical history.
The problem seems to arise across the board, in both established institutes and less-known ones.
How does the Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS), an agency mandated by the government to process student visas address this problem?
“EMGS looks at the general academic requirements and most institutes conduct language proficiency tests prior to offering the students a place,” said its head of Communications and Branding, Anita Daud Charles.
She said the institution may also recommend intensive English programmes to the students, if it sees the need.
“Every institution sets its own standards which meet the requirements of MQA and the ministry. They vary but when EMGS does academic screening, we check the credentials against the requirements for the specific courses,” she added.
The English language requirements for foreign students are a minimum score of 5.0 for the International English Language Testing System and Test of English as a Foreign Language.
Other equivalent qualifications such as Cambridge English: Advanced and Cambridge English: Proficiency and Pearson Test of English are also acceptable.
However, native speakers from countries where English is the first language and those graduating from institutes which use English as the medium of instruction are exempted.
Also exempted are graduates from local institutes looking to continue their studies.
The ministry aims to reach its target of enrolling over 200,000 international students by 2020, which is estimated to benefit the nation’s economy by generating an income of RM15.6 billion.