GEORGE TOWN: Education Minister Maszlee Malik has defended the matriculation programme’s preference for Bumiputera students, saying those calling for the pre-university course to be opened to other races should also address the unfair job market dominated by a particular race.
“If we want to change this, saying we are in the new Malaysia and that we do not need the quota system, then we must also ensure that job opportunities for Bumiputeras are not denied,” Maszlee told a forum at Universiti Sains Malaysia yesterday.
He was responding to a member of the audience who asked why the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government decided to maintain the race-based quota for the matriculation programme, which allows students to bypass the Form 6 Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) examination for entrance into public universities.
Last month, Putrajaya said it was sticking to the 90% quota for Bumiputera students in the matriculation programme, but announced an increase in the number of students from 25,000 to 40,000.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has described the matriculation programme as a “back door” for Malay students to enter public universities, following calls from some DAP leaders for the removal of the quota system.
Maszlee said the quota system would remain until the government successfully addresses the racial imbalance of students pursuing higher studies, and until the job market is more fair to hiring Bumiputera graduates.
He said the job market has been discriminating against non-Mandarin speakers as well as those wearing the Muslim headscarf.
“If we can get rid of this (discrimination), have an equitable job field and equal business opportunities, then we can talk about being fair in all matters,” he said.
Adding that the PH government was only a year old, he said correcting such an imbalance was too huge a task for the time being.
“Even the Avengers could not do so in a year. The Avengers took eight years to kill Thanos,” he quipped.
He also said many non-Malays were well-off and could afford to send their children to private schools.
Adding that non-Malays formed the majority in private and foreign universities in Malaysia, Maszlee said the matriculation was the government’s remedy to ensure that poor students, especially from among the Bumiputera, are given a chance to pursue higher learning.
He admitted the abuse of the quota system, saying the current government wanted to ensure that matriculation is offered to those who truly deserve it. “We feel that one day, once prosperity is shared by everybody, we will not need quotas in everything.
“But until then, we still need to help those who are in need, not because of their race or who they are, but simply because they need to be assisted.”