Acquisition planning for English: A case in Malaysian tertiary education

Mohamad-Hassan Zakaria, University of Pennsylvania


This qualitative case study examines issues concerning the goals for language planning for English as perceived by participants involved in English language teaching and English acquisition planning in Malaysia. It situates the problem of the decline in English proficiency in Malaysia within the scope of language planning, and specifically within the area of language planning goals. Focusing on the English language program at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) in both its structural and pedagogical aspects, the study explores the relationships between Malaysian English language planning goals, the various curricular goals and objectives of the program, and the values and attitudes of participants at different policy levels, including ESL practitioners/teachers, administrators, and policy makers. The study's findings have implications for policy making, policy implementation and effective day-to-day operation for acquisition planning, in this case and other similar cases worldwide. The results of the data collected suggest, first that there is ambiguity in goal-setting (1) at the national level with regards to the contending roles between English and Malay in policy and in society, and (2) at the curriculum level with regards to distinguishing between (a) problems with English and problems with communication, and (b) a specific content syllabus and a general content syllabus. Second, the findings also suggest that there exists a goals-implementation gap which is due to (a) lack of coordination and cooperation across levels--national policy to university to RELP, and (b) disempowerment of teachers. It is, thus, postulated that in order to achieve a clear goal-setting, (a) the role of English must continue to be as resource to the society and a tool for development, and that English must cease to be seen as a threat to the existing role for Malay, and (b) environment and opportunity for English must be provided on campus and this necessitates structural changes in the institution. Also, in order to bridge the existing goals-implementation gap, there must be an emphasis on (a) coordination across different disciplines, approaches, planning levels, and professionals, and (b) the importance of teachers as leaders who can have direct roles in effecting change through the planning and implementation of a language program.

Subject Area

Higher education|Curricula|Teaching|School administration|Language arts

Recommended Citation

Zakaria, Mohamad-Hassan, "Acquisition planning for English: A case in Malaysian tertiary education" (1997). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9800946.