Economist Lim Mah Hui says he never made comments attributed to him, so I am reproducing his statement below to help him get a fair hearing. What is irrefutable though is that the number of unemployed diploma holders and graduates has soared over the years.
I refer to the rencana by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Bumiputra Tiada Kualiti, originally published on his blog chedet.cc and reproduced in The Malaysian Insider on 22 October 2013, in which he names me personally, alleging that I said Bumiputras have no quality.
It is deeply disturbing that there is a continued barrage of mendacious comments and articles, attacking me over what I did not say, coming not only from a New Straits Times journalist, Shamsul Akmar, but even more from a person no less than a former Prime Minister of Malaysia – a man of high intellect and stature.
Unfortunately I was out of the country when the article appeared in early October and it was only brought to my attention on 17 October after my return. I immediately contacted the journalist to correct the misunderstanding and, to his credit, he subsequently published his article titled, Kualiti Pendidikan Punca Graduan Menganggur, Tiada Kaitan Perkauman (Root cause of unemployment is quality of education, no relationship with race) that appeared in the same issue of The Malaysian Insider, 22 October 2013. The Malaysian Insider should be commended for their professionalism in this respect.
But what is unprofessional, unethical and unacceptable is how some commentators continue to spin and, worse still, engage in flights of fantasy by embellishing the issue without checking the veracity of the original statement. This is a reflection of the tragic state of affairs of politics and reporting.
The original interview was about the high level of unemployment of graduates in Malaysia. I had said that many of our graduates (not singling out any race) are not only unemployed but more seriously are “unemployable” due to the drastic decline in the quality of education received. This problem is recognized by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak when he mooted setting up a Graduate Employability Taskforce with an allocation of RM200 million to make graduates more employable during the 2013 Budget presentation. He also announced an additional RM440 million for the Skills Development Fund Corporation.
Something has gone terribly wrong with our higher education system. It is well known that the standard of our education has declined drastically the last 40 years. After spending billions of ringgit to train our graduates, they are still not up to standard for employment. The government has to spend another RM640 million ringgit to make them more employable.
Even the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) and the Ministry of Manpower have highlighted this problem. According to the MOHE, a total of 184,581 students graduated in 2011, and 44,391 or 24 per cent, mostly bachelor’s degree holders, are unemployed. Arts and Social Sciences graduates form the highest number of unemployed, constituting 45 per cent.
In the medical field, about 8,000 nursing graduates have not secured jobs. According to Minister Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam, this phenomenon is because of “the low quality of nurses, including poor language proficiency and nursing skills and training. Because of this most of them have been unemployed two years after graduation.” (NST, 8 October 2012).
In November 2011, a Jobstreet poll of human resource managers in the country found that more than 50 per cent of respondents said they were unable to hire the graduates due to “poor communication skills, notably lack of command of the English language”.
In short this problem is not a racial problem but a socio-economic malaise that must be rationally examined without racial mongering. But unfortunately it has been spun into a racial issue.
But I am happy to note that another fellow Malaysian, Hassan Talib from Gombak, has raised the same concern rationally in his letter to the Star on 16 October, titled “Got a degree but not a job”.
Therefore, instead of turning everything into a racial issue, and making the problem worse, it is high time that rationality and cool analysis replace racial mongering.