Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Malaysia's English is No. 1 in Asia

Deputy Education Minister P Kamalanathan (left) decided to follow in his boss’s footsteps. He boasted that Malaysia’s command of English is the best in Asia.

He didn’t believe in just ejecting hot air – he wanted to show proof that he knew what he was talking about. (Actually, he is not very much different from Second Education Minister Idris Jusoh you may wish to be reminded of his amazing stupidity by re-reading my post at this blog link
And so Kamalanathan cited the English Proficiency Index developed by Sweden-based EF Education First. Then he made another boast – we even outranked Singapore.
Of course, by now, Malaysians know that this sort of pronouncement is nothing more than hokum – although government ministers, given their low level of intelligence, might be able to easily convince themselves otherwise. (I am making a bold assumption here that Malaysian ministers actually have intelligence, even if it is miniscule).
According to the deputy minister, EF Education First is a research website that focuses on the usage of English in the business community among 65 countries in which English is not a native language. The point that he neglected to mention was that the so-called study drew its conclusions from data collected via English tests available for free over the Internet.
Didn’t he know that not everything on the Web is to be believed? Maybe he was so desperate that he was wont to accept just about anything.
Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari (left) had cast aspersions on the study’s findings because as he said, respondents were self-selected and therefore they could not be representative of each country’s population. In contrast, proper survey methodology requires unbiased sampling that selects a subset of individuals from within a statistical population according to estimate characteristics of the whole population – he had patiently explained
In the case of EF Education First’s English Proficiency Index, the sample was neither representative nor randomly selected. Instead, participants voluntarily chose to take part, hence greatly increasing the margin of error and the probability of an unrepresentative sample. This survey could not, therefore, be considered scientific or a statistically valid evaluation, he concluded.
There will always be fools out there who will dispute the above explanations simply because Zairil is a DAP Member of Parliament.

Therefore, I consulted Sunway University’s subject matter expert and this was his email reply yesterday:
“Probability sampling requires a proper sampling frame and during the sampling process it means that every unit of analysis (the respondents in the population) has an equal chance of being sampled. Self-selected samples do not reflect this randomness nor equality in probability and is skewed to biasness based on convenience. It depends on whether the study was meant to be generalised or taken as a case study. If it was the former, then the methodology is flawed and does not match the intention. Thus in matters of population and national statistics, one needs to be attuned to sensitivity for accuracy and precision when reporting numbers and not merely just follow blindly”.
This person is Dr Derek Ong (left) and he is very well-qualified. He's a Chartered statistician (CStats) and Chartered scientist (CSci) with the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), UK; Senior Associate Fellow, Academy of World Business, Marketing and Management Development (AWBMMD); Fellow Member, Higher Academic Association (HEA), UK; Fellow Member, World Academy of Researchers, Educators and Scholars in Business, Social Sciences, Humanities and Education (WARES); Fellow Member, Academy of World Finance, Banking, Management and Information Technology (AWFBMAIT); and Member, Malaysian Economic Association (MEA).
Anybody still intend to challenge the above?
In truth, every Malaysian (except our Ministers) knows our level of English proficiency is poor. Extremely poor. Wait – the word doesn’t even begin to describe the actual situation. Maybe I should use the word “impoverished”.
If we know this, how then could we be the best in Asia? This confounding claim went against all evidence, anecdotal or otherwise.
In the 2008 novel Duma Key – didn’t Stephen King write: “We fool ourselves so much we could do it for a living”? Isn’t that true of BN politicians? Isn’t that why they become politicians in the first place?
Anyway, with the likes of Kamalanathan, I don’t have to try to make a fool of him – God had already beaten me to it.

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