LAST_UPDATESun, 22 Jul 2018 9pm

We Put Malaysians' Knowledge Of The World To Test And Here's What Happened

How much would you say you know about the world in general?

A few days ago, a colleague of mine shared with Malaysian Digest's readers his findings on Kosovo  after he voiced out that he didn’t know anything about the country, which he first came across when noticing that it shares the same spot as Malaysia in the FIFA world rankings at 174.

That led me to wonder, how much do Malaysians really know about the world because we, as humans, are susceptible to only be concerned about things that we have a vested interest in.

So are Malaysians like the proverbial ‘katak di bawah tempurung’ who remain blissfully ignorant of the world outside their comfortable shell?

I personally would like to say I know enough but that would still be asking for trouble since anyone can come up and ask me a whole host of questions about the world that I don’t know the answer to because for all the information and knowledge that I have, others would have hundreds and thousands more that I don’t.

Because of that, I decided to conduct a non-exhaustive survey among young Malaysians if they know some seemingly random facts about the world.

80% Of Respondents Got Australia’s Capital Wrong

But first, I would like to clarify that I am not intentionally trying to offend or attack Gen-Y and Gen-Z when choosing my 50 respondents, who are aged between 16 and 34.

This decision was purely based on the findings by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) where they found that youths within that age group spend the most time on the internet per day.

As the internet stores a wealth of information, I went with the assumption that they would have come across the information, one way or another, and would likely know the answers to my questions, which were largely based on general knowledge and the news.

My unsuspecting respondents were posed with the following questions, which you could answer as well to test your knowledge about the world (answers at the end of the article):

1. Which ASEAN country is landlocked?

2. What is the throne of the Japanese Emperor known as?

3. Russia is the largest country in the world by area. What is the second largest country in the world?

4. Name Australia's capital city.

5. People in England speak English, Ireland: Irish, Italy: Italian, Finland: Finnish. What language do people in Netherlands speak?

6. Prince George of the UK is the fourth in line to the throne after Prince Harry. True or False?

7. What is Brexit about?

8. The Mekong River cuts through six countries. Name them all.

9. What canal connects the Red and Mediterranean Seas?

10. Nordic countries consist of 5 countries. Name them all.

11. What is Singapore's national language?

12. Where do the Rohingya people originate from?

13. Where is the Europen Union's headquarters located in?

14. Egypt is located in Africa. True or False?

15. Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world. Which country is it located in?

The results of how my respondents fared are as follows:

Looking back, I admit that the questions are random and might not be useful - in the sense that it would not be a detriment if we do not know the answers to, but one respondent, Azfar, 22, was despondent when he didn’t manage to answer most of the questions as he thought that he knew enough about the world.

“I honestly thought that I know a lot of things about the world because you can ask me things on economics and finance and I can answer you but this has proven me wrong.

“It is really humbling to realise that I might be knowledgeable in my field but a bit clueless in others,” the accounting student confessed.

Maria, 24, also feels a bit inadequate after attempting to answer the questions although she managed to answer most of the questions correctly and also found it illuminating.

“It reminded me that as much as I know what’s happening outside of Asia, my knowledge is minimal in my region. Case in point: I got Singapore’s national language wrong.

“But I never thought that my YouTube surfing and Googling would pay off,” she chuckled.

So, how did you fare?

Knowing About The World Helps Create The Impression That You Are Knowledgeable

With the results of the survey and the thoughts of the respondents out of the way, you might ask, how would these seemingly random and isolated information would be beneficial to you?

A thought that might have occurred to some of our readers when perusing the list of questions above is that today we have information at the tips of our fingers, literally. Just google it and you have the answer, in your preferred language of choice.

So is it necessary to commit to memory random facts of the world anymore?

I am not the best person to answer that question so I sought out a stakeholder who actually grew up in a world of analog landline phones only, where knowledge of the world had to be sourced from books and printed sources, or experienced directly through firsthand knowledge.

Mansor, 63, is a businessman who has experienced the world through his years of being involved in international business and as such, has a wealth of knowledge and he shared why it is important for us to know these random tidbits about the world and how it has helped him in his business.

“First and foremost, it creates an impression to the people that you are dealing with - like you are knowledgeable and hence, give them more confidence in you.

“And I suppose, it also reflects your attitude. For instance, when you know Fact X, surely you’ll know a whole lot more facts,” he said.

However, he said that we should still need to be selective for facts so that we do not end up being bogged down with information that might not be pertinent.

“For instance, we should know relevant, important and significant facts such as the longest river in the world, but not necessarily the 50th.

“It’s important to know because we must know what’s happening in the world, and at the same time it actually helps you shape your personality and understanding of the world and yourself,” Mansor added.

Coming from a time where they had limited choice as their source of information, Mansor read books that were available and from his own curiosity to learn and know things to expand his knowledge, so the internet was a big boon as it helped him to know more about the world.

Before we parted ways, he left some advice as to why we should learn some random facts about the world.

“With random facts about the world, at least it instills curiosity and a sense of knowing in you but evaluate the information that you seek.

“You should always ask yourself how the knowledge/information you accumulate would make you a better person or how does it contribute to your betterment as a person.

“Because, how would information about a celebrity be beneficial to you?” he posed.

‘For Every Bit Of Information, You’re One Of The 10,000 People Who Is First Hearing About It’

Since the beginning of time, the arrival of a new communications technology and new sources of knowledge have often freaked people out. Human civilizations were variously galvanised when printing, photography, the telephone and even television were invented.Pic: The IndependentPic: The Independent

American writer Nicholas Carr in his book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains had described how our dependence on networking technology might actually be changing the way we think.

Who bothers to write down or memorise detailed information any more, for example, when they know that Google will always retrieve it if it's needed again, Carr points out that the World Wide Web has become our default collective memory.

A survey by The Kaspersky Lab in 2015 had also concluded that we don't commit data to memory anymore because of the "Google Effect", where answers are just a click away.

The millennial generation who formed the source of my survey subjects are the first generation to grow up treating the web like an extension to their memory. So, we sought out a millennial to shed some light on whether seeking knowledge of the world around them to commit to memory is still relevant.

I reached out to Tharmelinggem Pillai, the director of Undi18, a non-government organisation working to lower the voting age to 18 instead of the current 21.

The 24-year-old expressed that knowing facts about the world is very useful for a whole variety of reasons but most importantly to serve as a conversation starter.

Tharmelinggem PillaiTharmelinggem Pillai“For example, I was at the car wash and I was talking to the Bangladeshi workers about their country, which I would not have been able to if I did not know anything about the world.

“So it helps you to create conversations, create bonds, create friendships, where there might not be anything there if you did not have any of the information beforehand,” he said.

He also thinks that it is fun to know that there is a whole world outside of our own bubble where we can learn about different cultures, different people, different types of political realities and different types of structures.

“I just feel that the world is such a rich and diverse place and that humankind is very interesting. I think it gives you a better appreciation about humanity in general,” he expressed.

However, he does not think that it is right for anyone to shame others for not knowing what some might consider simple facts about the world.

Roughly quoting a saying, he said that “For every bit of information, you’re one of the 10,000 people who is first hearing the information on that particular day.

“Everyone all around the world is learning something new and I think you should just embrace gaining knowledge and not shame people for seeking out knowledge.

“I personally think that if someone has the initiative or is taking initiative to learn about something, or someone is curious about the world, then I think you should promote that or you should be very positive about that mentality,” he said.

I wondered about people who live an insulated life, where they only take interest in things that happen around them and in the country, and do not bother to know the goings on in the world at all, and Thermalinggem said that he has met several people like that but said that they are not interesting people to talk to.

“I’ve literally never met people like this who were interesting to talk to because let’s face it, when your worldview is limited to where you go to work and your home, then you hear gossip from your family and from your friends, that is literally your world and what you can talk about.

“I mean, it is completely fine if you want to live that way but in my experience, people like that are not very interesting people to be friends with. I wouldn’t suggest that as a worldview,” he said.

As any kind of knowledge is literally a mouse click away, Thermalinggem said that there isn’t a reason why we should choose to be ignorant because of the ease of how we can gain it.

“You don’t have to go to the library and spend hours reading books and all that. It is so easy nowadays that people should take the opportunity.

“Learn about the world, learn about the diversity of humankind so that you become a more interesting person; a person with more ideas, not only about how the country might work but how you might be able to make yourself a better person, make your business better, your job better or improve things even in your personal sphere because there are always things that people have tried in other countries that you can implement in your own personal life.

“We live in the best era in human history so I think it is time to take advantage of that.”



1. Laos

2. The Chrysanthemum Throne

3. Canada

4. Canberra

5. Dutch

6. False. He is the fifth in line to the throne.

7. The UK divorcing from the European Union

8. China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar

9. Suez Canal

10. Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland

11. Malay

12. Bangladesh

13. Brussels, Belgium

14. True

15. Nepal