The great salary debate: Poor standard of English a problem

FORUM

SINGAPORE - Managing editor Han Fook Kwang has aired a truth that political correctness and politeness have long buried.

I run a tiny legal practice and for a long time was shielded from the harsh realities of the labour market because I had an excellent legal secretary. Unfortunately, she relocated to Turkey with her husband.

Over the course of a year, I experimented with all types of hires, among them polytechnic graduates. They could not string one sentence together, let alone two. They could neither reason nor organise work flow. Some of them found it impossible to make it to work on time, or at all. And once trained, they jumped ship the moment they could.

I was, however, lucky enough to get an intern, a National University of Singapore business graduate, through family connections. Her attitude and aptitude were excellent, but she struggled with her English.

When I pointed out to her that her sentence lacked a verb, she had no clue what a verb was, or the rules of sentence construction.

At a class reunion, one of my former classmates, now a school principal, told me ruefully that Singapore had lost two generations in terms of English, as they were not taught the rules of grammar.

Our education system needs yet another revamp, and industry leaders need to be consulted.

- Josephine Chong


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