Provide matriculation for Malays, but don’t compromise on standards

Seemingly, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim too has lost his ability to count and rationalise public policies. I am referring to his explanation on increasing the number of students for matriculation from 25,000 to 40,000 but maintaining the quota at 90% for Malays and Bumiputeras.

Earlier, I had written a letter stating that the affirmative action programme, through matriculation, should aim at providing more opportunities rather than lowering standards.

The real problem we face today is the parallel systems we used for university admission.

Students who are able to get into matriculation programmes are likely to do well in gaining university admission while students who fail to get into such programmes will face a double whammy — sitting for a tougher exam and facing tougher criteria to gain admission.

I think it is this “double standards” that is the root cause of the problem.

The complaint today is about the insufficient intake of non-Malays into matriculation programmes. After all, regardless of whether one is Malay or non-Malay, I think everyone wants a less vigorous examination and an easier route to get into courses and universities of their choice.

Let’s make a quick summary of the numbers. The present intake of 25,000 is made up of 2,500 non-Malays and 22,500 Malays, based on the quota system imposed.

If the total intake is increased to 40,000, based on the same quota, the non-Malay intake in absolute terms will increase to 4,000 while it will see an increase of Malay students to 36,000.

The original intent was to increase the non-Malay intake into matriculation programmes. But the so-called “expanding pie” will increase the Malay intake by 13,500 while the number of non-Malays will increase only by 1,500.

We play with percentages, but have we not forgotten to look at the numbers in absolute terms? The increase in Malay intake is nine times that of the non-Malay intake.

Let’s not be fooled or consoled by percentages.

The number of places in universities is finite and measured in absolute numbers, not in some fanciful percentages.

How about the fact that 40,000 students will be sitting for an easier exam when compared with 25,000 previously? Surely 40,000 will take away more university places meant for those sitting for STPM rather than if the number had been only 25,000.

Have we not made public policies without fully considering all the unintended consequences?

We say we want to increase the intake of non-Malays into matriculation out of fairness. But we end up taking in even more Malays than non-Malays.

We want to facilitate non-Malays, especially Indian Malaysians, to gain admission to universities through matriculation, but have we not made the situation worse for those who will be sitting for STPM?

By all means, provide the opportunity to Malays and Bumiputeras. But we must not do this by sacrificing standards.

We can increase the intake into matriculation colleges, but they must pass an exam that is on a par with STPM. Otherwise, we are running in circles.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.