It's never too late to change when the benefits are clearly in favour of our younger and future generations.
My experience studying both Bahasa Melayu and English right from kindergarten to "O" levels has made me bilingual. Whatever my peers and I went through during our schooldays can be reintroduced to national primary and secondary schools now without much problem.
It is only logical to teach Mathematics and Science in English, and let the choice of language to be used to teach the rest of the subjects be decided on the availability of qualified and experienced teachers in the schools.
Twenty or 30 years ago, when the country was going through a very rapid development stage in all sectors, jobs may have been aplenty and because of the demand that existed then, it did not matter much with employers if graduates were not fluent in English.
However, the situation has changed. The first priority of all Malaysian graduates, either those who returned from overseas universities or those who graduated from local universities, is to get a job, either locally or abroad.
In order to stand a better chance of securing a job of their choice, especially with foreign multinational corporations as well as private companies, all graduates are required to be fluent in English.
I am assuming that after 11 years studying Bahasa Melayu, they are fluent in the language.
When talking about giving more emphasis to English in schools and universities in the country, many argue that France, Germany, Japan, Korea and China did not need English to succeed and all these countries are developed countries with First World status.
I agree to a certain extent, but these countries have a lot to offer to people outside their countries and those who want to grab the opportunities or products and services that they have, must know those countries' respective languages in order to get them.
Let me ask this question: "does Malaysia have things to offer (products and services) that those people outside our country cannot get from anywhere else, so much so that they must know our language in order to get them?
My answer is, "no". So, we cannot really compare our country to the other countries in Europe and Asia.
It is also untrue if one insists that those countries are not concerned about English because in Germany, for example, almost everyone understands and speaks English.
Also, an increasing number of people in those countries are studying English from elementary to tertiary levels. There are no lecturers and professors in any German university who cannot write a research paper in English.
I also know a senior professor in linguistics who teaches English language at one of the top Japanese universities in Tokyo. There are many other highly qualified local and foreign professors, lecturers and teachers teaching English at all levels throughout Japan.
I believe the same applies to France, Korea and China.
I was raised and educated in Singapore from kindergarten to pre-university, before proceeding for higher studies elsewhere, and I totally disagree with W.H. when he said: "Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore admitted that his two-language policy of using English as the first language was a failure, as the young generation of ethnic Chinese and Malays were suffering from inferiority complex and the loss of pride and ethnic identity."
No such thing is happening to the young generation of ethnic Chinese and Malays in Singapore before or now. The two-language policy has been very successful.
I don't know why Lee said that. But he has been known to change his mind frequently.
Like many forward-thinking Malaysians, I am very concerned about the unfavourable situation affecting our fresh graduates and the generations of Malaysians to come. We want to address this situation as soon as possible.
Malaysians will do much better if they know English as well as they know the national language. We don't lose anything at all if our people are fluent in both Bahasa Melayu and English.
English can be a catalyst for the country to achieve the tenets of Vision 2020. It can help turn the country into a First World nation and ultimately make our economy a high-income one.
HUSSAINI ABDUL KARIM