Englishis one of the languages which are being used by Malaysians for communicationsat the present moment, as a result English has become an important source inMalaysia’s ‘ethnically and linguistically fragmented society’ (Mandal, 2000). Invogue, Malaysia is a multi-ethnic country with at least a hundred languagesspoken nationwide (Decraw, 2005). It is consequently, prevailing for Malaysiansto be bilingual or multilingual speakers (Jamaliah, 2001). Malaysians derives froma variety of ethnic groups. The common majority ethnic groups are Malays,Chinese and Indians. Thus, in order to communicate, these people of various ethnicbackgrounds socialize or communicate using a language or languages which all ofthem are able to speak.
The national language of Malaysia is Bahasa Melayu. It isone of the communicative language in this country. Besides that, English alsoplays a great significance role in Malaysia. In other words, in Malaysia, mostformal or informal transactions in every aspect of life are carried oututilizing either Bahasa Melayu or English (Norizah, 2014). English became themeans of communications in certain activities, studies and job situationsparticularly in big cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bharu.
Research hasshown that wherever there is multilingualism in a context, for example, inMalaysia, code switching is most likely to occur between languages (Richard,2010). Before Bahasa Melayu was declared as the national language of Malaysia,English played a significant role (Jamaliah, 2001). English was firstintroduced in Malaysia through the trading process by the English East IndiaCompany which then spread into religious and educational activities from theearly nineteenth century (Jamaliah, 2001). English medium schools were builtand all subjects in schools were taught in the English language. Bahasa Melayuwas declared the national language after independence in 1957.
When the neweducation policy was implemented in 1971, English became the second mostimportant language next to the Malaysian National Language, ‘Bahasa Melayu’ asstated in the report of the education planning committee known as the RazakReport 1956 (Asmah, 1992). In 1971, with the operation of the new educationpolicy, all former English schools in Malaysia were progressively transformedinto national schools that used Bahasa Melayu as the main medium ofinstruction. All school subjects such as Mathematics, Science and Geographywhich were previously taught in English, had to be taught using Bahasa Melayuas the language of instruction. The entire process of changing over the mediumof instruction was completed in 1980 (Asmah, 1992).
Despite all the changes,English was a compulsory subject to be taught in school. However, in 2003, theMalaysian government made drastic changes by implementing the teaching ofMathematics and Science in English at the primary school level. Realizing theimportance of English language, the Malaysian government also implemented newcurriculum to expand the English language learning as a means of progressingthe younger generation towards being able to compete with the current globalcommunity. One of the main reasons why English is an important language becausein the global economy, most employers prefer their employees to be able tospeak and write in English fluently. For instance, many multinational companyprefers their employees to be able to converse in English in the right way.
Thisidea sparked a continuous debate over the effectiveness of using Englishinstead of Bahasa Melayu. In general, the changes were made to achieve theMalaysian Vision 2020, which aims at developing Malaysia into an industrializedcountry. To achieve vision 2020, higher competency in English is needed asEnglish is a global language unifying people from different languagebackgrounds. Nevertheless, in 2012, the medium of instruction for Mathematicsand Science was changed to Bahasa Melayu. In order to satisfy all parties,Memartabatkan Bahasa Melayu & Memperkukuhkan Penguasaan Bahasa Inggeris(MBMMBI) was introduced to upgrade students’ English language proficiency.