Malaysia English Assessment intensifies the usage of English among university students
With the implementation of Malaysia English Assessment (MEA) back in October 2017, the Ministry of Higher Education aims to tackle the issue brought up by employers of students and graduates lacking competency in the English language.
MEA marks the first change to the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025, which aims to prepare graduates holistically, to face the challenges that await them in this 21st century. To ensure the success of graduates, the education system targets to nurture Malaysian youth to become knowledgeable leaders, who are able to think critically and creatively, and at the same time, communicate well with the rest of the world. With English being the international language, especially in the global workplace, MEA is developed to enhance the usage of English among Malaysian youth, to fulfil the aspiration of the Malaysia Education Blueprint.
What is MEA?
MEA is a way of evaluating student’s proficiency in English, which is in line with Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) that is recognised worldwide. MEA is embedded in the Ecosystem for English Language Learning and Assessment in Higher Education, launched by the Minister of Higher Education, Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, to enhance the usage of English among university students. The Higher Education Ministry works closely with Cambridge Malaysia Education and Development Trust, in collaboration with Cambridge Accessible Test (CATs) to ensure the quality of the assessment. The Minister of Higher Education is positive that MEA will change students’ experience with learning English and thus improve their command of the language.
What is CEFR? Common European Framework of Reference is an internationally recognised six-point scale standard to describe someone’s language ability. The scale ranges from A1, the beginner stage, in which a person is able to communicate and exchange information in a simple way to C2, the proficient or native stage. In between there are the A2, B1, B2 and C1, the stage of being able to teach English to others. As of now, most Malaysian public university students graduate with only a B1, which is the ability to communicate English with minimal vocabularies. With the introduction of MEA, the ministry hopes to elevate this to a B2, instead. B2 is the ability to speak fluent English even with native speakers and the ability to communicate ideas of various subjects in much details. By achieving the B2 level, the Ministry hopes that Malaysian graduates will be able to communicate effectively in the workplace at the global stage.
How does the structure of MEA look like? The MEA consists of two elements. The first (MEA 1) is the formal element of the assessment, which is aligned with CEFR and the second (MEA 2) is the informal element of the assessment, including the student’s daily activities.
MEA 1 covers the four core elements of CEFR, namely reading, writing, listening and speaking. The Ministry of Higher Education started implementing ME 1 in all 20 public universities through the development of Higher Education English Language Test Repository (HELTR) in September 2017. HELTR acts as a question bank, where participating higher learning institutes can deposit their English examination papers. HELTR will also provide lecturers with ample resources to base their future examination papers on, in order to adhere to MEA test specification and to be on par with CEFR.
MEA 2 on the other hand, will assess students on their ability to use appropriate English in the context of culture and society. The performance-based assessment will take place in six engagement sections, which are:
Extra-curricular and co-curricular activities
Global engagement With MEA 2, the Ministry wants students to practise English in every possible engagement of their campus life. This way of assessment requires students to interact in English using their intellect, emotions, willpower and practical skills. Students are expected to make full use of the resources they can find on campus for more effective communication, which will prepare them for the working environment that awaits them once they graduate. Students must be able to identify the opportunities for informal learning, including the interaction with foreign students and lecturers beyond classroom interaction.
Undergraduate students are expected to advance to at least one level of CEFR throughout their study, leading to their graduation. The ideal level of achievement will be B2.
What are the stages of MEA? MEA is still in its infancy and is expected to be fully developed by the end of 2018. There are three stages of implementing MEA, with the first stage being the development of the HELTR system. The second stage is the construction of test specification of MEA 1 and MEA 2. At the final stage, MEA Guidebook and Test Repository Manual for the Users will be published.