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    disiarkan pada Sabtu, Januari 12, 2002

Firm's Malay-Muslim staff take Mandarin classes

NST Interactive, 1 Apr 2002

Aims is for employees of educational company to better serve Chinese parents and students it wants to reach out to.

EVERY week, Mr Zaidi Yacob goes to the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce for his Chinese class.

Together with 13 of his office colleagues, Mr Zaidi, the deputy general manager of educational company Mercu Learning Point, is taking the 30-week group course, which will enable him to speak basic conversational Mandarin.

Mercu Learning Point is paying $9,000 to put its staff through the course, which started two months ago.

In the coming months, all 60 Malay-Muslim staff from the company, a subsidiary of the Association of Muslim Professionals, should be able to hold a conversation in Mandarin.
Its aim: To better serve the Chinese parents and students it is targeting for its educational programmes.

Said Mr Zaidi, who described the course as 'tough': 'We get people calling up who do not speak English, only Mandarin. Through this course, we will be able to attend to them.'
The company is afraid that the 20 Chinese staff it hired in recent months to attend to its Chinese clients will not be sufficient.

Since 1997, Mercu Learning Point has been running education, tuition and enrichment programmes for Malay Muslims, from toddlers through to adults.

But last year, its focus shifted to people of other races and religions.

Mr Zaidi estimates that currently, non-Malays form 30 per cent of all the company's classes.
And now, it is busy preparing for its pre-school centre in Katong, which has 440 Malay-Muslim children between the ages of four and six, to start taking in Chinese children and conduct Chinese-language classes for them.

He said: 'Pre-school centres, besides the government ones, are usually race-based. We are trying to break away from that and encourage more integration at a young age.'
The company will start the Chinese-language classes once it gets a group of at least 15 children.
The pre-school centre, which will eventually have some teachers from China, will be advertised in the Chinese press in the coming weeks.

Said Mr Zaidi: 'It is a great challenge to try and convince non-Malay parents to come and use our programmes.

'But what we have learnt is that as long as we produce quality results, parents will have confidence in us.'

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