Monday, February 11, 2008

Hujan batu di negeri sendiri (Part 1)

"Hujan emas di negeri orang, hujan batu di negeri sendiri, lebih baik negeri sendiri"
- Malay proverb

My literal translation "Although gold rains down in another country and hailstones in my own country, it is still better to stay in my own country"

The past 4 days of Chinese New Year celebrations, I had the opportunity to catch up with several close friends and ex-colleagues over several mamak outings. Naturally, my tummy has expanded in exponential proportions to the amount of roti tisu, cheese nan, and teh halia to boot, heh!

Catching up with friends back from London, Hongkong, Singapore, China, New York, Sydney, San Francisco, Doha and etc etc, this question frequently cropped up - "WTF are you still in KL? Come to (country name) and with your skills, I can help put your name for a job!".

Seriously guys, I do not doubt that the financial rewards are much better if translated into RM, and the work/life balance is definitely way better than KL, and the super-plus point is that our children, if I am a PR, would get a better education as compared to Malaysia. So why not?

Over a CNY lunch, some babe asked me this. A lot of her friends are talking about migrating for the sake of their children's education. They have lost all hope in the Malaysian education system to prepare their kids for a globalised, realtime information and mobile world. Since I'm a "Hujan Batu" person, she asked for my thoughts.

My wife and I are products of the local university system. When we started working, the reality dawned upon us that we were almost "hopeless" in all technical, report writing, presentation and decision making process when compared to the foreign grads. Needless to say, we were truly humbled. That was 15 years ago. (OK, you can work out my age liao, heh!)

Today, I have loads of issues trying to hire local grads, be them from government universities or the local twinning universities. I want to help but 90% of them can't pass our minimal standards. For one, emails are a must these days and FYI, they are permissible as court evidence, hence I need some common sense of what to write and a fairly good command of written English. So how do we test? A 100 word essay, pick any topic that you are comfortable with. 90% of the time, my boss and I have a good laugh and head shaking on reading the essays. Sad, very very sad but true. Here's a sample of what I have read:

"I very good with word and excel file. Can also bluetooth to print"

"I am liking to work with your bank because I want to use what I study in banking and finance. I am hoping to learn how to make a lot of money for your bank."

"Since my university, I have always a leader among the students...."

And I can go on and on and on. Of course there are the 10% gems and they could be of any race, Malay, Chinese or Indian, so you can't profile a grad just by virtue of their race. Anyone doing that is definitely discriminatory. Interviews are heartbreaking sessions too but I will save that for another day.

Coming back to the "Hujan Batu" and the migrating-for-children-education issue, I am one of them that's disappointed with the Malaysian school and higher education system, for its failure to produce students and graduates that can compete with the best and the brightest in the region.

Our country's progress, if you take away the tin mines and the plantations, were largely resting on the good ol' dedicated Kirby trained teachers and a love-for-teaching educators, who instilled in our fathers and mothers the desire to excel and exceed expectations with focused discipline and ethics. Sadly, standards have since been lowered and is continuing to descend further into the "laughing stock" category, if my interviews were of any objective observation.

Reading the papers, Education Minister Hishammuddin looks like he's trying to reverse the descend with the National Education blueprint but one can't help but notice a lot of physical development (more contracts?) and on-the-surface racial integration strategies. Sadly, I can't read any indepth study into what actually will make our students world-class. It is definitely not more computers and air-conditioned classrooms. It is plainly GOOD TEACHERS. Give these teachers a tin roofed shed and they will still produce excellent students, hands down. So, what is the blueprint doing to produce World Class Teachers? I sincerely hope to be enlightened on this.

Coming back to the "Hujan Batu" and the migrating-for-children-education issue (again, ahaks!), I think we as parents, need NOT migrate for the sake of our children's education. 10 years into the future, education is going to be more commercialised than now, I predict lar. So, if you have the money, your kid will still get that paper and get to throw that square hat into the air.

I honestly think that the migrating-for-children-education excuse is just that, an excuse. The real reason is that these parents have lost hope in the country's leaders to lead their children into a better future. There, I have said it. That's the crux of the matter. Simple as that.

So, am I leaving the country? No. I'm a Hujan Batu person. This is my country. I am a Malaysian at heart and hope to instill that in my children.

I can't say I speak for all Malaysian parents with school going kids, but just me and me alone. My girls will study in Malaysia but sadly, not in the government schools. I have lost hope in the teaching standards of government schools and what students they can produce. Gone were the days of my alma mater's dedicated teachers of all races - a malay teacher for teaching me (boring) history in a new and exciting way, a chinese teacher for patiently teaching us mind-boggling add maths over and over again until we got it, an indian teacher for disciplining us with his super long rotan, heh! and so many more. Gosh, I really missed them.

Please, I am not dissing our teachers for the sake of dissing, they are human too and I have friends who are teachers and lecturers, but the general results show for themselves, and I don't think I would like to gamble with my girls future.

So what if a lot of students are scoring higher and higher, like getting 13 A1's? It's nothing to shout about if the bar has been lowered. The reality will sink in when these students try to get well paying jobs and compete with foreign grads. Remember, the world is getting flatter or already has.

And as for the teachers, these engine of soft-skill development, how are they motivated? Are they rewarded fairly? Simple but deep questions that are not easily addressed but must be bravely addressed for the sake of the country's future.

Our leaders must realise that there are no shortcuts to glory. Buildings and towers and highways can be destroyed in seconds, but not the character, loyalty and creative thinking of its people. It is time that education is given REAL emphasis just like in the days of the Missionary and British rule. Am I being disloyal by writing that? I think not. I love this country too much to be disloyal.

Buaya69 says, "May we have teachers and lecturers that can produce students and graduates for an increasingly globalised, real-time information and mobile world."


rational thinker said...

Hi buaya69! you have come out from your retirement! Woo Hoo.

I concur with you! Living in malaysia, honestly, has no subsitute (yet). That makes me a very much Hujan batu person. I have been soaking hujan emas for a couple of years now though, while studying for my postgrad qualificatino. I am certain however, that one day i will be back - what it is, there's always hope in Malaysia.

Hyphenated L said...

wah... a whiff of politics in this one, i see. truth be told, as a parent (yes, it's hard to believe in this pretty little head lies plans for the future) i too would like to believe there's hope..

Buaya69 said...

tomato: hey tomato! long time no see. This GE, it's the youth that are swinging the shots ;)

L: hope and love is what keeps us going. one day, if i meet your kiddo, i hope i don't mistakenly call her "niimo", ahaks! :D :D

Bernard said...

I vote for Hujan Batu!

Buaya69 said...

bernard: hahaha! I know what you mean. I really tabik you, Palmdoc and Dobbs. You guys came back to face the rocks! I kasi respect tinggi tinggi ;)