Sunday, October 09, 2011

Is being good in Chinese a financial liability ?

Just the other day, my good friend and ex-colleague, told me he liked my article because of my observation that a large number of unemployed IT professionals come from HCJC and I suddenly had an eureka moment.

I just realised that my friend is from ACS and then ACJC, and I don't remember seeing a single resume coming from this institution.

There has been many things the government has been trying to do to us Gen-Xers in the past. Two of which is to develop skills in Mandarin and take up courses in Engineering.

The Chinese High-HCJC elites have traditionally adopted the government suggestions, they are stereotyped as math wizards and have the stoic, taciturn and conscientious outlook in life. The ACS-ACJC students stayed true to their Methodist tradition, they were stereotyped as being poor in Mandarin but excellent salesmen, have great practical intelligence and generally go into the banking industry.

I think this is where the government can have a breakthrough if they are simply willing to reveal some numbers to us.

With SAP schools targeting the top 10% of the student population, I'm sure that statistics point to the fact that your income is correlates with mother tongue proficiency. I don't need a statistical report to accept that if your chinese score is higher, odds are your salary is also higher for the general population.

But we would be fooled if this fact was used in personal decision making. We should be benchmarking people of equivalent intelligence and background, and then comparing their salaries based on the effort they put into the mother tongue.

Differences in ACS-ACJC versus CH-HCJC philosophical outlooks can serve well in this regard.

They are students, generally, of equivalent intelligence and capabilities. Only exception is that one group chose to stoically devote time to Chinese language and culture and the other proceeded to develop superior communication skills, salesmenship and personal character.

The results would be mindblowing but ultimately useful to all Singaporeans.

If CH-HCJC salaries come on top, then the government does not need MM Lee to keep reminding us to develop mother tongue proficiency. There is a financial premium that goes towards being good in Chinese. We Singaporeans are a practical lot and will happily adopt CL2 as a first language if such is a case.

However, if the ACS-ACJC salaries come on top, all hell would break loose.

The Generation X guys in my generation will go away knowing that for all this effort to develop mother tongue, we'll just handicapping our future. We will then know that there is a discount attached to developing an affinity for Chinese culture.

This will result in the most earth shattering discovery for ethic Chinese in Singapore. If we take Mandarin seriously we will crippled financially by our personal choices.

If ACS-ACJC salaries come on top, I would not want to be a Chinese teacher in this country.

Regardless of the results, I think Singaporeans deserve this level of granularity to assist us in decision making. If we make our beds with Meritocracy and Pragmatism, then we should apply the same principles in deciding here to devote our 10,000 hours of deliberate practice into.

Remembering those bad old days in NJC where I could score straight As and still get a letter home to my parents because I failed my CL2, I've always argued aggressively ( in mandarin, mind you ) that decision to develop a language should be an economic one and not one which is clouded by some sentiment of superiority of Chinese culture or spirit. And the list of silly proverbs we had to memorize do not move towards that aim, we should reading Chinese business contracts instead.

We are Singaporeans first and ethnic Chinese second.

Today I am a good Mandarin speaker and my old secondary schools friends find it very freaky.

And that is only because my wife refused to park toh with me if I keep speaking English in dates.

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