July 10, 2007

Brain Drained or Brains Going Down The Drain??

It is just one of those nights when I'm up late working on something and I'm distracted to read Screenshots.

This article caught my eye in particular.... The article linked back to articles in The Star and that piqued my interest as well.

I'm going to talk about two issues which are related, hence my title.
  • Malaysia's Brain Drain
  • Malaysia's Brains Going Down The Drain
First of all, I've "lost" a number of friends to other countries when they decided to leave the country for good. Some of them never came back to Malaysia after completing their studies as they felt they could earn a decent buck there. Why not? When the GBP, SGD, USD, AUD.. are all 2x, 3x, 4x, or 7x more than the MYR?? So, its economic reasons. You can call them greedy but they're only looking out for their family and future generations.

Another reason, they feel that they won't be able to make it through fairly in our "aided meritocacy corporate ladder". I can't blame them because in the first place, they could not get a spot in our local universities and hence, have to take up private or father scholarships to study overseas. So, fearing the same situation in public or private sector, they chose to stay away and work for foreigners in a foreign land.

Besides that, after reading such horrific news of the crime wave hitting our nation like a tsunami, they choose not to come back. They fear that the country may spiral down into a chaotic blackhole of crime and despair. You can call them for being wimps for fearing crime since crime is everywhere. Not so, some people I've known have worked in crime-infested cities like New York, who find that it is more safer to work in New York than in KL. ;-)

That's just one problem - getting our brains to come back home. Sure, there are programmes like making Malaysia My 2nd Home. How effective is it? I have a friend, who married my other friend, a S'porean who's a qualified tax accountant some years back. After studying, living and working in Sydney, Australia, the couple decided to go back to Malaysia to make it their home. They settled in nicely and soon enough, my S'porean friend wanted to work as an accountant. She is not only CPA-qualified but also had overseas working experience in an MNC audit company. However, she was denied a working permit despite being married to a Malaysian (who held a doctorate in Engineering) and being a professional as well.

She did try to enlist the help of an agent but after finding out how much it costs to get her working permit, she just gave up.

After several years of frustration, the couple decided to go south to S'pore to settle down for good. Both are very happy since the S'porean government provided housing and also other supports when they decide to have children in the future.

So, where's the beef?? Malaysia lost two brains that day when they moved down to S'pore.

Sure, we can also try to "import" some brains but let's face it - Malaysia is just a stepping stone for some of these people. They are looking to go elsewhere after Malaysia. So, how much are they able to contribute?

Not only that, these professional foreign workers are paid much higher than our locals, i.e. bought for our skills. Hence, due to such unfair remuneration practices, many opt to leave for foreign lands as professionals as well. Hehehe.. I shall not delve into the current local practice of paying top $$$ for sh*tty work done by a certain group of foreigners - I shall not get into **JP bashing. (^^)

Now, the second issue - Malaysian Brains Going Down The Drain; this relates to our antiquated education system. I will not go into details but time and time again, a lot has been said about the quality of our education system. I believe that the study Maths and Sciences in English will slightly improve the quality of English of our future workers but then, this change must be propogated to the higher institutes of learning as well.

Today, we are churning out graduates who can't speak a decent sentence of English. I have met interview candidates who wish that the interview be conducted in a language other than English. I have sent them packing, despite my bosses' objections. I am not asking for frehies to speak in an anglo-slang, but at least try to say/write a decent sentence in English. Of course, in our globalized and very flat world, it is good to pick up another language too like Mandarin or Tamil. However, the global business language is still primarily English. The Chinese in China are picking up English too.

Besides that, most of our freshly minted graduates these days tend to be mindless zombies. There are many freshies whom I have encountered who are so spoonfed that they don't know what to do with themselves on the first day at work. Some, don't even know how to open their mouth to ask "Where is the toilet" and they sit there, suffering the entire day. What am I ranting about? They lack a critical mind. They do not know how to ask questions. Some are smarter, they know how to ask questions but in actual fact, they are asking to be spoonfed.

So, how are we able to address the current shortage of highly skilled workers when our education system is churning out zombies?

Of course, I can't say that all local graduates are zombies, just that most of them appear that way. There are a few bright sparks but once they realized that their intelligence or brain is not appreciated here, they leave for better pastures. Notice the vicious cycle? Kekeke

Frankly, my friends and relatives overseas are constantly pestering me to come over. They lure me by telling me that your effort over there is well appreciated. Some friends back here in Malaysia are asking me to stay because they say that when you go over to orang asing's land, you'll be treated as second-class citizen.

Yep, I agree with these friends, but at least I'll be a second-class citizen with rights. Hehehe... I'm reminded by the quote, "You tak suka Malaysia, you boleh keluar dari Malaysia!!"

My best friend has been bugging me about moving down to Australia. She is a classic case of Malaysia losing a brain. At a tender age of 17, she moved to Australia for a better future and got it. She was a reasonably good student here, but when she got to Australia, she flourished. She got top marks for the VCE (Form-6) and was immediately offered two things - 1) Australian citizenship and 2) University scholarship. She eventually graduated with 1st Class Honours and worked for the RBA (Reserve Bank Of Australia = same like our Bank Negara).

I often wonder, what would have happened to her if she stayed on in Malaysia to pursue a local university education. Would she have gotten her course of choice, in the first place? Would she have been able to enjoy a very fulfilling career here?

I'm still happily working here in Malaysia, taking care of my parents and etc. However, I must seriously evaluate if Malaysia is the place for me? I still call Melbourne my 2nd home, since I've been there for a while during my younger days. Will I call Melbourne my 1st home? I'm not sure. I'm still deciding...

So, for now, Malaysia still has a reasonably good brain sticking around.... Hehehe...

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