PETALING JAYA, Malaysia - Knowledge of English alone will not satisfy the demands of the workforce as employers require graduates who can communicate in the language.
Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said of the 28% of students who had achieved a credit in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) English 2010, as revealed in the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, only 30%-40% would be employable.
"A credit in SPM English doesn't mean you can communicate well. Even if you increase the number of students who pass with a credit to 90%, it still won't fill up the gaps in the workforce if only 30%-40% of those graduates can communicate well," he said at The Star's public forum at Menara Star.
He added that the situation was further aggravated by the unwillingness of many employers to offer English and communication training to employees and prospective employees.
Shamsuddin said most companies would rather use the 1% tax levy for staff training from the Human Resource Development Fund for other endeavours.
He also highlighted the discrepancy between the employer's views on the importance of English in hiring versus those of fresh graduates .
"In a survey by JobStreet, 56% of employers viewed poor command of English as a reason for not hiring, while only 23% of fresh graduates shared that view.
British Council English Language Services director Sam Ayton said the inadequacy of English education could potentially create serious gaps in the global job market for both advanced and developing nations.
"But global trends reveal that education systems worldwide are now emphasising English and as a consequence children are getting proficient at an earlier age, eventually English proficiency will be commonplace globally," she said.
Another speaker at the forum, TalentCorp Malaysia CEO Johan Mahmood Merican said it was important to change the Malaysian attitude towards English.
"We have to change the youth's outlook on English. The language must be seen as a means of advancement in life, to land a better job or to access a wider range of knowledge," he said.
He added that English needed to be promoted not just in terms of learning but also for communication.
"Are we really training our children to communicate?" he asked. "We need our teachers to really engage our children and provide them the soft skills they will need in the working world."