ADUN SPEAKS | Speaking to Universiti Sains Malaysia students during a question-and-answer session, Education Minister Maszlee Malik said that the quota system for the matriculation programme is necessary because job opportunities are denied to the bumiputeras just because they don’t know Mandarin.
It is surprising to hear that there are unfair job requirements discriminating against a certain race in this country. Newspapers are likely to ban insensitive job advertisements.
Every job has its requirements, ranging from females only for babysitters, valid driving licences for lorry drivers and advanced swimming skills for lifeguards. Jobs that will need competency and good command of Mandarin will be Mandarin teachers and Chinese newspaper reporters.
Similarly, jobs that require long postings to countries like China and Taiwan will make knowledge of Mandarin a daily survival skill. The UK and US demand a high proficiency pass in English tests as legal requirements for many jobs.
China is now the second biggest economy in the world and our Number 1 trading partner. It accounted for as much as US$34.4 billion (RM144.19 billion), which makes up 13.9 percent of the total Malaysian exports in 2018.
Many Chinese companies, workers and customers are able to communicate only in Mandarin, but not in other languages like English or Bahasa Malaysia. There will be difficulties dealing with them if Malaysian companies don’t have workers who are able to converse in Mandarin.
The founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg (photo), famously delivered his speech in Mandarin in Beijing in 2014. Nobody would have faulted him for speaking in English.
Conversely, the founder and CEO of Alibaba, Jack Ma, worked as a tour guide without pay for foreign tourists to earn free lessons in English. Good knowledge and command of English opened the eyes of Ma to the exciting new world of e-commerce when he was in America and Alibaba was born, making him one of the richest men in the world.
The richest man of Malaysia, Robert Kuok, also benefited tremendously from being able to speak Japanese while working in the Mitsubishi conglomerate during the Japanese Occupation between 1942 and 1945. He made his first fortune there and the rest followed.
The knowledge of other languages is highly prized and desired everywhere in the world. It opens a world of opportunities to those who can speak multiple languages to be more successful in their lives. Many countries made it compulsory to have a pass in a second language for university enrolment.
Malaysians who can speak multiple languages are highly sought after. Hotels and casinos in Macau are known to favour Malaysians as many are able to speak English, Mandarin, Tamil and Bahasa Malaysia. The United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is currently advertising for Malay-speaking agents whose linguistic skills “can make America safer”.
The requirement for English or Mandarin in any job is usually a necessity and an excellent opportunity, not discrimination. In fact, knowledge of another language literally opens up billions of opportunities.
DR KO CHUNG SEN is the state assemblyperson for Kepayang, Perak.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.