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What’s so difficult about studying BM?

By Tay Tian Yan

I personally feel that the frustration of many Chinese Malaysians over the SPM Bahasa Malaysia requirement for civil servants is unfounded and unnecessary.

Think about it: Does an American need to pass the English proficiency test if he or she wants to become a civil servant or a doctor?

If anyone wants to get admitted into an American university or take up a public position or get US citizenship, he or she must have a good command of the English language.

In other countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, you need to have an English paper cert before you can work in a government office, whereas in China and Taiwan, you must do well in Mandarin Chinese if you want a similar post there.

But, people in these countries don’t curse their governments for setting the language requirements nor do they think they are being unfairly treated.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I haven’t heard them complain or object, because this is part and parcel of the country’s system, one of the specifications for government operations and an essential precondition in day-to-day life.

A national and official language – be it English, Chinese or BM – is a constituent part that builds a nation, allowing people of different backgrounds to mingle and interact, and from there establish some common understanding and national solidarity. It is a medium for government functions.

In reality, it has very high practical value. It allows people visiting a government office or hospital to communicate with a language all can understand.

But here in Malaysia, many local Chinese have voiced up a range of excuses and conspiracy theories to oppose the SPM BM requirement for government positions and medical housemen.

I sometimes feel that these people do not seem to realise that they are Malaysian citizens and that they are living in this country called Malaysia.

They appear to be living in their own cocooned, imaginary world, carrying on in life in only the ways they like.

Please, this is not progressive but self-restrictive.

Perhaps these people may want to emigrate one day, thinking life will be carefree and unrestricted.

However, they will soon come to realise that they will be subjected to a new set of requirements, including competency in a new language.

The reality is, we are all living in Malaysia now. The official language of this country is Bahasa Malaysia, and as citizens of this country, we all need to have a reasonable command of this language, whether you like it or not.

Otherwise, you will find yourself sidelined by society, making futile complaints on social media and feeling utterly sorry for yourself.

My conclusion: Stop making a big fuss over something that has long been incorporated into our social contract and accepted as the norm. There are a whole lot more meaningful things waiting for us to accomplish.

As for those public servants and doctors-to-be who do not have a pass in SPM BM, they can always look for better prospects elsewhere.

However, if they insist on keeping their current positions, all they need to do is one simple thing: go and sit for SPM Bahasa Malaysia and just obtain a pass. Which is not that difficult after all, right?

Tay Tian Yan writes for Sin Chew Daily.
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