By Francis Paul Siah
COMMENT | I have a serious proposition for Shamsuddin Bardan, executive director of the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF).
Shamsuddin should approach Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz to help find jobs for graduates who are not proficient in English.
Why Nazri? Because the minister was the one who called for a halt to the widespread advancement of English in the country.
In November last year, Nazri said that English was a threat to Bahasa Malaysia, and that “Malaysians have to protect the national language by stopping the widespread advancement of English in the country.”
He also pointed out that English is not a language that guarantees progress, and he blamed the private sector for the advancement of English in Malaysia.
Why do I wish to resurrect this issue again?
In my article rebuking Nazri for his absurd statement, I also asked the minister whether he was aware that graduates in Malaysia are finding it hard to gain employment because of their poor command of English.
The MEF statement pointed out exactly what I was talking about. Shamsuddin lamented that the lack of proficiency in the English language, and not just the mismatch of jobs, was among the main barriers facing graduates in search of employment.
He said although most graduates can understand the language, they are unable to communicate their views orally in a proper manner.
“Some even have a problem constructing proper sentences, and employers are unlikely to hire such people,” the MEF boss added.
Now that Nazri is aware of the problem, he should seriously do his utmost to help these unemployed graduates who are not proficient in English to look for jobs.
And MEF and Shamsuddin, who are constantly worried over this unending problem of unemployed graduates, should seek out the minister for assistance.
To Nazri, I have to say this: It is now your most profound obligation to help these graduates find gainful employment.
It is possible that they listened to you attentively and that they too wanted to stop the advancement of English in the country. Maybe they believed you when you said that English poses a threat to the national language. So they paid little or no attention to English while in university.
You are now their saviour, Nazri. You have to save them. Many of their parents probably spent their lifelong savings to ensure that they got a tertiary education. Upon graduating, they are now unemployed. What a letdown!
‘Nasi lemak’ graduates
So what is your plan, Nazri? Or don’t you have one?
If you are thinking of absorbing all these unemployed grads into your ministry as tourist guides, they wouldn’t get far either if they are unable to communicate in English. How on earth are they able to guide visitors, from UK, US or Australia for example, if they can’t speak English?
Just imagine this, Nazri: Your daughter graduated with a degree in chemical engineering and she has to work at the toll booth, aimlessly collecting toll from motorists. To many Malaysian parents, this is a sad reality.
And this is what Dr Mahathir Mohamad was referring to when he expressed sadness at seeing unemployed grads having to sell nasi lemak or driving Uber.
Many are aware that Mahathir was not criticising the graduates, but the system that has caused a high rate of unemployment in the country.
One more thing, Nazri. Your big boss in Putrajaya is very proficient in English and he speaks the language eloquently. Did you tell him that he is now a threat to the national language?
In the meantime, know that you may be held to your obligation to find jobs for these unemployed graduates. Don’t be surprised if Shamsuddin and MEF come knocking on your door tomorrow, for they should.
FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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