PETALING JAYA: The employability of graduates, including Bumiputera graduates, ultimately depends on their qualifications, former Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said.
Therefore, he said, people should avoid making sweeping statements such as a high number of Bumiputera graduates from public universities are jobless because “the Chinese prefer to hire Chinese graduates”.
Instead, he said, Bumiputera graduates from public universities should be encouraged to get internationally accredited qualifications.
An engineering graduate, for instance, should strive to get the Ir professional qualification.
“The real issue is about the qualifications and employability of graduates. This is the way to solve the problem. Not by using the race equation,” he told FMT.
The former Umno deputy minister was asked to comment on Perkasa President Ibrahim Ali’s view that Chinese firms in the private sector preferred to hire Chinese staff. Ibrahim said employers who cited the poor command of English as a reason for not hiring Bumiputeras who graduate from local public universities were just using it as an excuse.
Saifuddin said research done by Universiti Malaya professor, Lee Hock Aun did show there were Chinese-owned companies that preferred Chinese graduates over Bumiputeras.
“But I don’t think a person should make a sweeping statement such as the one made by Ibrahim. The issue is quite complex. For instance, there are also Bumiputeras who prefer not to work in Chinese-owned companies. In this case, you can’t say the company does not want to hire Bumiputeras.”
Saifuddin pointed out that the nation needed to look at ways to improve the employability of Bumiputera graduates.
“But the job market is becoming competitive. Companies, especially international ones, need students to have an internationally accredited qualification.
“Some Bumiputera students do not want to continue or go further to get a professional qualification, either because they are complacent, or, in the context of international papers, they are concerned that they may not be able to handle it well because of their weak command of English.”
Saifuddin added that in some specific areas, English played a vital role.
He agreed with former UM Vice-Chancellor Ghauth Jasmon’s statement that 80 per cent of the 400,000 jobless public university graduates were Bumiputeras.
Ghauth had said that he had received a lot of resistance from students and lecturers when he tried to introduce extra English classes and asked lecturers to submit their research papers to International Scientific Indexing (ISI) journals as these were in English. He said he was accused of abandoning the Malay language and there were petitions to remove him from UM.
Saifuddin said there was much truth in what Ghauth had said as the former VC had tried very hard to improve the students’ English proficiency.
“Also his efforts on UM’s ratings in terms of research at the international level. But, my take is, he was misunderstood by many. That is unfortunate.”
He said the Higher Education Ministry had been trying hard to improve English among students.
“But in some cases, especially for the professional courses, I am informed by employers, especially international companies, that we must do more. That is why, for example, in some centres that offer ACCA accounting courses, public universities require students to attend English classes while they do the ACCA.”