COMMENT Recently, I received an urgent note from a student who is doing matriculation in a government school in Kedah where tuition and accommodation costs are covered by the state. I
have been helping her with financial assistance for food and miscellaneous expenses since her father is unemployed and she is a deserving student from the poorer class.
Her letter reads as follows:
“Hi sir it's me …. sorry for disturbing sir. Sir I want to ask sir something. Sir I really need sir's help. Sir if can sir can bank in some of the money before I further my studies in matriculation.
“Sir I need to buy something as preparation to further my studies in matriculation sir. so please help me sir. I really don’t know who to ask help. That why I am asking sir's help. please sir. I hope sir can help me because I don’t know who to ask. sir I hope sir can understand me and give me some support. Thank you sir. I hope sir will reply my letter as soon as possible. Thank you a lot sir.”
I have shared this letter with friends not simply to provide an example of the extent of financial desperation and need that hundreds of thousands of poor students in our country face everyday in their lives.
I am also sharing it to show my concern with the standard of English proficiency of our younger generation who are going to colleges and universities. This is not an isolated example. I am sad to say that the overwhelming majority of the students that I am presently supporting have equally low standards of the English language.
These students represent the better ones among their classmates in school. I shudder to think of the standard of English proficiency of the average students in our secondary schools.
How are these students, when they pass through college or university, able to compete in an increasingly globalised employment market? How are they going to function in the private sector or the business world when they cannot express themselves in basic simple English?
And what is the quality of the service or communication they will provide when they eventually find jobs?
BN the main culprit
The main culprit for this phenomenon of our present younger generation of poorly educated - unable to communicate in simple English without making grammatical mistakes - is the government.
Barisan National has been in power for over 50 years and sorry to say, it has put the country's educational system in the longkang!
The Education Ministry has been the biggest ministry for a long time and receives one of the largest if not largest budgets. But it appears as if donkeys and meter readers are in charge of the Ministry.
Millions of students pass through our national education system and many receive high grades and the ministry's stamp of approval. The standard of education, however, is so low that these students are virtually unemployable despite their impressive certificates.
And this is why I fear for the worse for the present batch of students that I and others have supported! Poor and deserving yes; but they have been screwed up by our rotten education system
The government is not the only culprit. There are other culprits in our educational tragedy.
Profiteering from education
I also blame the private sector educationists. There are far too many universities and colleges. Most are owned by businessmen whose main aim is to make profit. When I read a newspaper article commending a educationist businessman for his noble contribution to the country through his educational institution, I cannot resist a big laugh.
Most of our educationists are pure entrepreneurs. Some want to make a fast buck. Others will be prepared to take their time. More than a few are crooked or unscrupulous and are prepared to lower standards to rock bottom so that as many students as possible can enroll in their institutions.
At the same time, many private sector higher education institutions are charging ridiculously high tuition fees so that the cost of private higher education is getting out of hand and unaffordable to the lower and middle class.
Unfortunately the Higher Education Report which was released by the government a few days ago is clueless on the concerns raised here.
KOON YEW YIN, a retired chartered engineer, is a philanthropist.