Below: Mongkok, sunrise.
I am seated at a nice restaurant during dinner with a friend somewhere in Kowloon Bay. Business is good; each table of the 50-table restaurant is occupied. Waiters and waitresses rush to serve. Once a while a waiter with a Peking duck whizzes pass me. At this point in time Hong Kong's unemployment rate is 5.3% (Malaysia- below 5%). Hong Kong's GDP is 5%, compared to Malaysia's negative 4%. I don’t know what is Malaysia’s ranking but the natural-resource-constrained Hong Kong is the 13th largest exporter in the world. And they just have 7 million people.
Below: Someone else's Peking Duck
"You were educated in Malay?" This question from my friend interrupted my thoughts.
"Yes," I answered. "I'm from Malaysia; naturally I will be educated in Malay with a mix of English. Malay language is mainstream. It's normal."
Friend replied politely, "True, but China's economy is big and isn't it good to know Chinese too. I think Malaysia failed to consider certain aspects of education and language?" Duh, I did not have an answer to this. I know that, back at my office, all my contracts and industry guidelines are in English. My continuing professional development training is in English. How on earth would I be able to understand the technical journals with merely a good command of Malay or Chinese right.
In the recent years, I'm not sure whether Mister Education Minister knows this, regional call centres and service centres have been set up in Malaysia. Shell, HSBC, Dell, BASF, BHP Billington, Standard Chartered, IBM (11 centres in Malaysia!), Microsoft, Intel, BMW, Crown, American Express. Did you know that as at this year Malaysia has 600 call centres and hundreds of shared services centres employing more than 35,000 people. Revenue from shared services was RM5 billion in 2007. This market is growing and what makes Malaysia an attractive hub compared to India, China and the Philippines? Many Malaysians can speak multiple languages while being technically qualified in their respective fields. Because these skills are easily obtainable in Malaysia, it lowers the wage cost. For instance, an English-speaking competent marketing manager in a multi-national company in Vietnam could easily cost employers USD7K per month. It costs much lower in Malaysia for that same level of hiring.
Somehow I can't find Malaysia's education system gearing up the younger generation for global trade and economic developments in Malaysia. Malaysia is ranked the world's third most attractive avenue for outsource services after China and India. I don't think we have the luxury of time to debate over the use of language in schools and also the change of teaching medium every few years. The facts are in our hands. So, Mister Education Minister and all UMNO Minister goons, think properly before screwing up our entire future. Malaysians need to be strong in multi-lingual skills. Let's just not focus on Malay language shall we.
NB. Other information on the shared services industry can be found at the MITI website here.