Mind your language

The recent fiasco about the requirement to pass the Bahasa Malaysia(BM) SPM-level paper before being considered for a position within the Ministry of Health has resulted from several exemptions that were given to a number of medical graduates, purportedly the children of expatriates.

Adding to this confusion was the statement from the Ministry of Education requiring that candidates of the BM paper must also register for 6 other core subjects, similar to the requirement for secondary level students in Malaysia. This will be a death kneel for many if true.

The rule for BM paper has always been in existence and is not a new requirement. In fact, the majority of medical graduates would already have a pass in this paper. The main groups that would be affected are those that did not undergo the national curriculum, for example those that had taken O-levels or from international schools following foreign curriculums. This number is no doubt small.

Returning specialists via the Talent Corp initiative are usually not affected as they can now go straight into private institutions, including private universities.

The question however is ,should we make the hurdle less difficult by offering a different test in BM. This is to help attract more foreign talents to our shores. Although BM is important, one will not need a SPM-level BM standard to survive in the medical field or will it impair communication with patients. SPM level BM paper can be quite a daunting hurdle for many.

In fact for medicine, shouldn’t the English Language competency test be equally stressed upon. This will be paramount to ensure a good grasp of medical knowledge. SPM level English is too simplistic and does not prepare graduates for the level of English that they are to encounter in the medical literature.

At the end of the day, a good grasp of languages is always a bonus. BM is important if you want to practice in Malaysia. English however, is equally important in order to be a competent doctor.