TAN Sri Tony Fernandes has added another feather to his cap by venturing into the field of education.
He had the opportunity to receive a good education at Epsom College in Britain at a young age of 13. Fernandes managed to build a strong command of English from young thus enhancing his outlook and confidence that propelled him to succeed in his various corporate ventures in the globalised world.
A mere decade down the road, Fernandes has successfully turned around a defunct airline into a highly profitable AirAsia today thus enabling him to join the billionaire club as a proud Malaysian entrepreneur.
With his great confidence and ability to clinch corporate deals effectively, he continues to expand his business ventures into hotels, insurance, Formula 1 Grand Prix, sports car manufacturing and now quality education.
Obviously without a strong command of English and high level of confidence, Fernandes wouldn’t have reached such a high level of success. As Malaysians we are proud of him.
Our country needs many capable individuals who have Fernandes’ calibre, if we want to compete effectively in this borderless world.
We want graduates who are able to connect well globally, innovate and be able to think out of the box.
Unfortunately most local graduates churned out by the thousands every year by our universities lack such confidence mainly due to their weak command of English.
Unless these graduates are absorbed into the public sector, they face an uphill task to compete with those graduates whose proficiency in English is very much ahead of them. They are victims of our education system.
My nephew was one of these unfortunate graduates. As a local university graduate in economics who completed his studies circa two decades ago, he was unemployed for a long while before joining a small company as a computer salesman.
Frustrated with his inability to clinch a job with better prospects, he finally managed to pursue actuarial science in the United States to enhance his career prospects. He is now a successful senior actuary. But how many frustrated local graduates have such opportunities to further their studies if their first degree fails to provide them a proper job?
Over more than two decades in my career as a senior executive, I have interviewed many local graduates. I was able to feel the frustration suffered by our graduates.
I have even come across a few who were unemployed for more than three years and were once absorbed into the Government’s retraining scheme for which they were paid a small monthly allowance.
Currently, there are more than 76,000 unemployed local graduates looking desperately for jobs in a full-employment economy recruiting millions of foreign workers to fill the various job vacancies.
Now the Government has come up with a new scheme that offers tax break incentives to lure more students to participate in the science stream.
The aim is to increase the number of science graduates to the targeted 60% ratio from the current level of 20%.
Unless we de-politicise education and return to the teaching of Science and Mathematics in English, giving away monetary incentives to make up the number to the targeted level may do more harm than good to our children.
We need competent and innovative science graduates who are capable to connect with the globalised world and bring the country to the next level of innovation.
Without a strong command of English, our local graduates may face a daunting task to compete effectively let alone to become outstanding in the world of innovation.