Bahasa Malaysia is important purely because it's our national language, and it's the language of the majority of Malaysians. The language will play a huge role in ensuring national integration and unity amongst Malaysians of various races.
Chinese however, is important for other reasons. For those of Chinese ethnic origins, it's important obviously because it helps us trace our roots and understand our culture - or what is commonly regarded as "mother tongue education". Today, on top of that, as highlighted today in the Star, by MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, "Chinese [language] has emerged as one of the important international languages after China started to play a prominent role in the global arena."
Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting was discussing the merits of a Chinese education at the media launch of the Tiger-Sin Chew Chinese Education Charity Concert.
“Chinese education has also progressed well due to the immense contributions of the Chinese community and other supporters over the years,” he said. He described the move to support Chinese education as “worthwhile”, saying that such efforts must be continued.Currently, the chairman as well as a major shareholder of my company is a Chinese national based out of Zhuhai and Beijing. The company has begun placing a greater emphasis in the Far East, now that we have operations in Hong Kong, and clients in Guangzhou as well as Macau. However, due to the total absence of the English language competence amongst practically all Chinese businessmen, it was absolutely critical that I was at least marginally competent in the spoken and written Mandarin to build the necessary close rapport and relationship with my chairman, business partners as well as clients. Hence I can definitely attest to the importance of a decent "Chinese education".
However, it is critical for the authorities and policy makers to maintain the necessary balance in our unique education system. While I support the provision of Chinese education, I must say I've yet to be convinced that the current vernacular school system is the best way forward for both the Chinese community, as well as Malaysians in general. While the Chinese educationists (and to a certain extent the politicians) have done commendably in protecting and entrenching the Chinese vernacular school education system in Malaysia, it is my belief that this has come at the unnecessary expense of both English and Malay language competence.
Many may argue that the ability to do business in China, makes Chinese education the greatest priority relative to other languages and subjects. However, it should be noted that the likelihood of a person born in Malaysia to "do business" in China, in one form or another, is going to be very small. We are probably talking about at best, 5-10% of the Chinese population. Most Malaysians will first have to gain employment locally before even the opportunity to venture overseas arise. Hence it is critical for the Malaysian students to have a decent command of the Malay and English language to ensure that they will be able to secure bright prospects in Malaysia, or even Singapore.
No doubt, a Chinese education needs to be pursued and provided by the Malaysian education system (although not necessarily in its current form and structure). However, my argument has always been that over-zealous emphasis on a particular language and the neglect of the other languages will not, at the end of the day, be in the interest of our Malaysian students.