Do our graduates have sufficient language proficiency?

Eric Lai


LETTER | Maszlee Malik’s remarks on the Mandarin language requirement by employers as justification for matriculation quotas, raises a deeper question: do our graduates have sufficient language proficiency?

Certainly not in English, the global language for business. Much has been said and reported about the poor command of English among our local graduates. In fact, the Malaysian Employers Federation in its 2016 survey reported that 90 percent of its respondents indicated that local graduates “need to improve their English proficiency”.

Mandarin is definitely out of the question. Otherwise, we would not have politicians up in arms against employers seeking “Mandarin speakers”. Never mind the fact that Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world and China is set to become the world’s largest economy.

What about Bahasa Malaysia, our national language? Unless one is employed in or dealing with the government sectors, Bahasa Malaysia is not commonly used for official communication purposes in the private sector, especially among multinational companies. How many times do you hear working Malaysians say “my BM sudah karat"?

Our education minister must recognise that language is one of the most important job skills today. Across economies, bilingual and multilingual talents are growing prerequisites and advantages as businesses go international.

While mastering another language takes times, our minister must ask why our students’ grasp of English so stubbornly poor despite spending 11 years studying it in school? Should Mandarin be given more emphasis given its growing importance in today’s business environment? How do we address the weak command of Bahasa Malaysia among students from vernacular schools? What can be done better to help our graduates with sub-standard language skills in preparation for a more globalised economy?

The deterioration of language competency among Malaysian graduates reflects the overall decline of our education system. Eventually, this will erode the competitiveness of the country’s talent pool. While our government continues to defend the matriculation quota, does it really address the underlying issue of the education system we have today?

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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