PM: Poor English eroding Malaysian graduates’ self-belief

Language mastery contributed to 55 per cent of the reason for why fresh graduates are not hired. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Language mastery contributed to 55 per cent of the reason for why fresh graduates are not hired. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 — Malaysian graduates often lose out in the job market as they lack confidence due to their poor command of the English language, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today.

The Umno president said that despite scoring well in their examinations, Malaysian graduates still struggled to secure jobs because they fail to persuade employers that they possess the qualities sought after in the corporate sector

"I know there are students who score a CGPA (Cumulative Grade Point Average) of 3.5, sometimes up to 4, and still cannot get a job because they cannot convince their interviewers that they have what it takes to lead.

"They lack leadership skills and the ability to articulate well," Najib said in his keynote address at the 1Malaysia Training Scheme (SL1M) dialogue session here.

The Pekan MP added that this was the reason behind the many initiatives such as SL1M, which is intended to develop the potential graduates who lack self-confidence and make them more employable.

The programme is an integral part of Putrajaya's effort to strengthen the country's human capital and increase Malaysia's competitiveness in the global services market, he said.

"We are aiming to be a developed economy... to do this we can no longer compete on price alone... on labour costs. That is the past.

"We must now compete with value proposition, our product because we are now competing with countries like Korea, Europe and other rich economies. We want to compete with the best and we must win in this competition".

SL1M, a programme supervised by the Economic Planning Unit, has produced over 10,000 graduates to date, and Najib today said Putrajaya is aiming to increase enrolment to 15,000.

A survey by employment website Jobstreet.com in July last year found that employers are more likely to hire based on a fresh graduate’s positive personality and command of English.

Language mastery contributed to 55 per cent of the reason for why fresh graduates are not hired.

Last year, Putrajaya made it mandatory for students to pass English in the middle secondary SPM examinations beginning 2016, as part of its Education Development Master Plan 2013-2025.

Two days ago, English daily The Star reported that poor English proficiency led over 1,000 medical graduates to quit their ambitions to become doctors.

Parents groups have been lobbying the government to reintroduce the teaching and learning of Science and Mathematics in English (PPSMI), a policy introduced in 2003 but discontinued seven years later.

English-language lobbyist such as the Parents Action Group for Education (PAGE) continue to push for the return of — or at least the option for parents to choose — the discontinued policy that they contend was needed to improve the mastery of English as well as technical subjects.

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