The email (must read!) which was described as his "sad tale – of a young Malaysian full of hope and patriotic enthusiasm, which is slowly but surely trickling away." It's a touching tale, but I certainly wouldn't classify his case as a "sad tale" though - many would willingly swap their own "sad tales" for his any time! :)
In his email, he has emphasised his patriotism to country by often rejecting overtures from the Singaporean government through its scholarships as well as well-paying job positions through its private and public sectors.
I have been asked many times by Singaporean government agencies to join them on very lucrative terms, but I have always refused due to my inherent patriotism.He reminiscences about the "good old days" of the Malaysian education system where he received his primary and secondary education from the national-type schools.
My parents insisted that I should be exposed to a multi-racial education in a national school. In my time, my urban national school (a missionary school) was a truly happy place – where the Malays, Chinese and Indian students were roughly equal in proportion. We played and laughed with each other...However, in recent years (months), news from home while he has been working in the United States have been unfortunately, "distressing". He has read many happenings which were very negative in its portrayal of the Malaysian education system. His long long list of disgruntlement, has included:
I read about the annual fiasco involving non-bumiputera top scorers who are denied entry to critical courses at local universities ...
I read about UMNO Youth attacking the so-called meritocracy system because there are less than 60% of Malay students in law and pharmacy...
I read about the Higher Education Minister promising that non-bumiputera Malaysians will never ever step foot into UiTM. [Tony P: This, I think, is actually a good thing! Definitely not one of the better local universities :)]
I read that at our local universities, not a single Vice-Chancellor or Deputy Vice-Chancellor is non-Malay.
I read that in the government, not a single Secretary-General of any ministry is non-Malay. The same goes for all government agencies like the police, armed forces, etc.
I read about my beloved national schools becoming more and more Islamic by the day, enforced by overzealous principals.
All the above, and those which I have not quoted are very valid issues. However, some of these issues are not new issues. In fact, some of these issues are the same issues facing the Malaysian education system some 25 years ago, while both of us were in primary and secondary schools.
Hence my case and challenge to the "frightened" Malaysian abroad:
- The concept of "patriotism" does not include "bailing out" when things in the home country are not as rosy as it could be. I can understand the many people who have migrated and obtain other citizenship in the interest of their economic well-being as well as their "future" generation, and I completely respect their decisions. However, if you are "patriotic" as you claim to be, then come home and help make Malaysia a better place for all of us, including your future generations.
- From the long list of disgruntlement - there's plenty to be unhappy about and there's plenty of work to do to make things better. However, I don't think there's plenty to be "frightened" about. Both my wife and myself graduated from the same university are happily married and settled in Kuala Lumpur with a new 5-month old baby. Are we frustrated with the Malaysian system? Sure, we are sometimes. (Even Singaporeans are with their own government) But are we frightened for ourselves, for our kid? No way! (Or we could well be Singapore citizens by now! :))
- Make no mistake, "frightened" has done extremely well for himself and I'm proud that a Malaysian has achieved so much in such a short span of time. He makes a month pays for 25 (40%) of my staff salaries - its no mean feat even if he's paid out of the United States.
- Which brings me to my next point - "frightened" has done extremely well, and as he has admitted:
Till this day, I am absolutely certain that it was the kindness of all my Malay teachers which made me a true Malaysian...As a true Malaysian, who have received much and benefited from the kindness of our society, "frightened" should come home and play a part to ensure that our future generations could receive the same opportunities and kindness which you have experienced. The fact that you have in a simple email listed so eloquently the problems and issues faced by the Malaysian education and administration system, makes the need for "frightened" to return all the more imperative.
I really want to return home. I have been told by government-linked corporations and private companies in Malaysia that at best, I would still have to take a 70% pay cut if I return to Malaysia to work. I am prepared and willing to accept that. My country has done a lot for me, so I should not complain about money.
So, in short, I can only say to my fellow alumnus - Don't be frightened, come home. You will not be as rich as you could be if you were to remain in the United States, but your pay at home will still rate among the top 5% in Malaysia (despite the "pay-cut") and you will still enjoy many of life's little luxuries. By returning, you can play an active part in helping make Malaysia a much better place for our future descendants - making you a "true blue Malaysian" repaying the kindness you have experienced. I can only add that while one person may not move the world, every other person working together towards the same objectives will help make the goals more achievable.