The brouhaha over the Finance Minister’s releasing an official statement in three languages – Malay, English, and Mandarin – has exposed (at least, in my humble opinion) the last frontier in the development of Malaysia: Overcoming our colonial mindset.
First off, let’s be consistent. If issuing an official language in Mandarin is “insulting towards the national language and racist”, as some in UMNO (and, sadly, PPBM) say, then why is issuing an official statement in English alright? According to their reasoning, they say it’s OK because that version was meant for the international press.
This, of course, is…well…plainly stupid. China now has the second largest economy in the world, and is among the three largest foreign investors in Malaysia. Moreover, all of the projects signed with them are under government review – don’t you think that their press will take greater interest in statements from the Malaysian government rather than Western countries? This, of course, goes without saying – just like our dismal football team, we don’t really attract much interest in other countries (sorry to dispel your beliefs about the need for an “international” press release in the first place then). Surely, if you have people who are already proficient in Mandarin, it would make the China press’ jobs a lot easier if you released a statement in Mandarin AS WELL (remember, there were already two other versions).
The sad truth is that most – if not all – of UMNO (and, sadly, most Malaysians) still has a colonial mindset. We still believe that “white is right”. Look at how many government (i.e. MARA) scholars are sent to second-rate universities in the US and the UK. Or, on the non-government side (i.e. the Malaysian-Chinese community) – look at how many parents spend good money sending their kids to Australia.
To gain some perspective, I did a comparison in 2015 (so please be mindful of the exchange rate). All of these figures are readily available on the Web, so you can check the figures out yourself. I compared how much it would cost if you sent your kids to Curtin University in West Australia (to Australia, not to the Sarawak campus) to get a degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) field versus one of Japan’s top universities, Keio University. This is what I came up with:
|BUSINESS||Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting)||RM 77,004||RM 39,985|
|ENGINEERING||Bachelor of Engineering||RM 86,490||RM 54,974|
|IT||Bachelor of Computer Science||RM 86,490||RM 54,974|
|SCIENCE||Bachelor of Science||RM 85,653||RM 54,974|
This just shows the average cost of tuition fees per year (nearly all universities use a four-year degree system now), and doesn’t factor in the cost of living. And before any of you jump on the language aspect, the Japanese government has been forcing their top twenty universities (of which Keio is part of) to offer these courses in English as part of an “international program”.
Bottom line is this. Maybe if your kid wanted to study English literature, then Australia would be a better choice than Japan. But if it’s a STEM field…well…when’s the last time you drove an Australian car or watched an Australian TV? Yet, we overwhelmingly send our kids to Australia….
Finally, by the phrase “top university”, I mean where the elites of that particular country go. Let’s put it this way, no Australian PM has come from Curtin; Keio has at least three (plus a plethora of Cabinet ministers). Obviously, the Australian elite aren’t lining up at Curtin’s doors. This, of course, doesn’t mean to deride the education that you’d get at Curtin; it’s probably a very good school. All I’m saying, however, is that we have choices – if we were only willing to get rid of our colonial mindset.