Friday, April 1, 2011

English: Need to go extra mile

PATRICK TEH, Ipoh, Perak

AS usual, many students who achieved a string of As in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination would feel excited and hopeful about getting a place in local universities to further their studies.

To be exact, 9,239 students scored straight As and 91.2 per cent passed the examination last year.

Every year, when I see all these students so excited about their straight-A results, I have mixed feelings on how well they will fare in their higher studies and, finally, in their careers.

In my 30 years of working life, I have interviewed quite a number of local graduates and, to my disappointment, a majority of them failed to meet the average job expectations mainly due to their weak command of English.

Two months ago, I interviewed a local graduate in his early 30s to fill up a vacancy for an information technology (IT) manager.

The candidate was quite knowledgeable in IT, but he was miserably weak in communicating in English, let alone in writing proper English.

As this post required him to communicate with foreign guests and attend seminars, I had no choice but to give the job to another candidate whose command of English was better.

I believe thousands of local graduates are handicapped by their poor command of English, thus creating a stumbling block in career advancement.

Many of these unfortunate graduates managed to get in as rank- and-file staff for many years with no prospects of promotion to executive and managerial levels.

Obviously, the attractive certificates they received upon graduating could provide them with only temporary excitement but not real hope.

I have also come across a couple of doctors who could not even write a proper reference letter. Grammatical errors and improper sentence constructions were obvious.

They may be dedicated doctors, but I am not too sure they can remain smart by continuing learning from websites, printed materials and attending seminars as the medical field is evolving so rapidly.

About 10 years ago, a problem with my little finger was misdiagnosed by a general practitioner as experiencing a non-serious swelling instead of a tendon rupture.

For weeks, the upper part of the finger had no strength to move and was slightly numb. Much later, the same doctor discovered that it was a tendon rupture.

I was referred to a plastic surgeon for surgery. A smart and correct diagnosis would have saved me from unnecessary suffering.

Although I had my tendon surgically connected, my finger was shortened by at least 1cm due to the long delay. My finger is slightly bent after the surgery because of the tendon pull.

Science and technology is evolving rapidly, thus we need to keep ourselves updated constantly.

To keep ourselves up-to-date, there is no shortcut but to read and be exposed to relevant materials constantly. More than 90 per cent of these technical subjects are published in English.

I am sad to observe that there are many high-ranking employees, especially in the civil service, who are laidback and prefer to remain computer illiterate even in this day and age.

Many make no serious effort to learn and improve, while many young executives treat English as a foreign language instead of a lingua franca.

How will they keep up with changes to remain smart and efficient in carrying out their duties?

I hope the Education Ministry will heed the views of many parents to provide their children with an opportunity to continue studying mathematics and science in English.

It is every parent's hope that our local universities produce not only employable graduates, but also graduates who can compete globally.

Letters to the Editor, NST, 30th March 2011

Malays, especially those involved in professional work have to brush up on their English mastery so that other races don't look down on you.

Don't be lazy to improve yourself even though you are 30, 40 or 50 because it's never too late to learn.

Islam is a religion which promotes its followers; either male or female to gain knowledge throughout their lifetime.

Knowledge seeking does not stop after you graduated from the university. It's a life long affair.

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