A Confused Generation

By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

I was greatly amused by the audacity of one twenty-something with a bachelor’s degree in architecture from a local university who applied for a job with Ipoh Echo. Her choice of appointment was as an architectural trainee, being a fresh graduate. Applying for a job with a news agency? This girl must be out of her mind, I posited.

I told my staff to call her personally and inform her that Ipoh Echo is not a company that draws plans for housing projects, bungalows and shopping malls. She got the wrong people. And the answer the surprised girl gave was a sheepish exclamation, “Oh! Oh!” typical of someone who is in a quandary. She was lost for words and was very unsure as to how to free herself from a sticky situation.

The poor girl’s dilemma is not something strange and if you are an employer, this incidence is nothing new.

This is not my first experience there are many more and sharing them here is one way to illustrate the perilous state of our education system. A system that has been diluted by too much politicking and a glaring insecurity of a ruling party that is short on ideas as to how to manage the country’s most precious attribute – human resource!

The recent report of many young doctors opting out for having a poor command of English is a case in point. Reducing English Language to just a subsidiary subject of lesser importance than Bahasa Malaysia and religious studies has led us down this path of no return.

When Malaysia was once acclaimed for its very Anglophile civil servants who went on to serve in choicest appointments abroad due to their ability to converse and interact, today we pale in comparison. Most of our embassy staff overseas cannot speak and will shy away from any serious discussion with their hosts. This is most unfortunate.

But what are we to do? The rot has set in a decade after Merdeka when the race to Malay-nise the nation’s education system gained so much steam which eventually reduced us to being mere bystanders in the academic world. I shall stop at that lest I may ruffle some feathers and make the high and mighty uncomfortable.

Now back to my “close encounters” with the uncompromising youths of today. These youngsters are samplings of the molly-coddled and over-protected Generation Y or Gen –Y, in short. There are no precise dates when the generation starts and ends; most researchers and commentators use birth years ranging from the early 1980s to the early 2000s as a guide. I am not entirely free of them, as my second and youngest of two boys belongs to that generation. Although in his early 30s and married he is, by all reckoning, a mama’s boy to the hilt. He still finds solace in the warm embrace of his mother much to my behest.

They, unabashedly, prefer to be identified by their established traits of being tech-savvy, family-centric, achievement-orientated, action-craving and what have you, I beg to differ. They may be tech-savvy but action-craving they are not.

There was this young man in his twenties too who applied for a job as a photojournalist citing his vast experiences in his cooked-up resume. I was impressed so were the rest in the company. When I told him to come for an interview on a fixed date and time he was thrilled. An hour before the interview he emailed to say that he was feeling sick and was not in the right frame of mind for a job interview. I told him to see a shrink and not to come near Ipoh Echo office ever again.

These encounters are just the more interesting ones. I’ll keep the less exciting ones for mention one of these days.

Many would want to cherish Generation Y as a group apart from their seniors, the Baby Boomers and Generation X. However, my mind keeps telling me that they are the confused generation.

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