“The chicken and egg” of the Education Minister

The chicken or egg situation is commonly stated as “which came first: the chicken or the egg?”. The dilemma stems from the observation that all chickens hatch from eggs and all chicken eggs are laid by chickens. “Chicken-and-egg” is a metaphoric adjective describing situations where it is not clear which of two events should be considered the cause and which should be considered the effect. 

This metaphor has been used in many situations throughout the world. When we talk about the “chicken-and-egg”, it is happening now in one of our nation’s current issues.

A few days back, the Education Minister Maszlee Malik has linked the matriculation quota system with the unequal job opportunities for bumiputras in the private sector. 

Maszlee, who was addressing a question-and-answer session in Universiti Sains Malaysia on Thursday, had reportedly said that if Malaysians do not want the quota system, then job opportunities should not be denied to bumiputras. He has cited the example of certain jobs requiring applicants to be able to speak Mandarin.

While we may be fighting for equality among Malaysians, we have to really think seriously that what Maszlee has said could be true. Although I think Maszlee as an Education Minister should not have uttered that word.

Firstly, we all know and many agree that education plays an important role in advocating racial harmony. And if the biggest boss of the education sector in Malaysia is not promoting harmony, then how can we expect those under him will do the same?

Has Maszlee fallen into the trap of racial politics that he has to say words that protect the interest of the majority of voters?

It is pretty ridiculous to state that the problem is faced by bumiputras only. In our community, job-seekers who are facing the issue of ‘hiring those with Mandarin-speaking ability’ not only fall towards bumiputras, but rather those who have studied in national schools, and that includes Chinese as well. We have plenty of Chinese Malaysians that could not read and write in Mandarin.

But we must also acknowledge that there are irresponsible businesses that do hire employees based on races. We do not have to particularly look into details, but if we notice the conversations that we have, and the people that we mix around with. There are certainly racial elements in it. Similarly to others, I believe every race has been stereotyped to a certain extent.

Don’t we agree that every community has their stereotype towards every racial group? 

We have to admit that it is a problem, a problem that needs both the government and our own community to solve it.

And here comes the situation which is similar to the chicken and egg question. Should the government take the effort to solve the problem first or the private sector?

What action is the Minister taking to rectify the situation rather than irresponsibly linking it to the matriculation quota system? 

Or should the general private sector take the initiative to promote racial harmony? Maybe we have to encourage the establishment of social enterprises that advocate racial harmony.

Or perhaps individuals in our community must take the effort as well?

Language-speaking is a skill that is required by certain companies as they might be dealing with countries that only use specific language as their official language.

While job-seekers must make their own effort to learn specific skills for job requirements, I think employers must also take their responsibility to not implement unnecessary criterias that are preventing certain groups from being hired.

In fact, I agreed with YB Maszlee that said providing equal opportunities to all races should not only be looked at from the perspective of education. But as a Minister, I don’t think it is a good example to push such responsibility to the private sector openly. It is definitely not fair to wait for the private sector to first take the action; then only the government will do it. He should have engaged with the private sector to solve the problem instead.

So who should take the initiative first? The government or private sector?

I believe it should be done at the same time. The most important is do we have the political will to push for better things. Afterall, it will only be better if we are solving it together.

If the current Ministers still make decisions and statements based on the interests of their political mileage, then let’s just forget about Malaysia Baru.