From Moaz Nair
Whichever government comes to power cannot abolish the present quota system for students to enter the matriculation programme and public universities. It would be political suicide to do so, as the prime minister wisely said in a student-prime minister dialogue yesterday.
Abolish the quota system and be prepared to lose in elections, he said.
Would PAS and Bersatu abolish the quota system if they were to come to power? No, they definitely would not. So, politicians have to tread carefully when approaching this sensitive subject.
The prime minister sensibly insisted that the quota system should remain to help those from poor backgrounds.
What the government can do is to fine-tune the admission process. As citizens of the country, the truly qualified Indians and Chinese should be given places to do the matriculation programme if they choose to do so. They should not be deprived of this opportunity.
Going by meritocracy
Being in the education line and working for three local universities in the past, I found out that going by meritocracy alone would deprive many Indian students of a place in public universities and colleges. Therefore, the quotas for the minority should remain. This is just an affirmative programme, even practised in many developed countries.
Going by meritocracy, Indians will lose to the Chinese and Malays. Not all Indian students are high achievers. Only about 2% to 3% of Indian students are high achievers in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM). Many of these high achievers are born to rich families and may have other plans as far as education is concerned. They may choose a direct path to higher education, as there are many private institutions offering direct paths for students to do courses of their choice locally, on a twinning basis or overseas.
How about those Indians, Bumiputeras and Chinese from poor families and rural areas who could not perform that well in SPM because of poverty and poor educational support? They should not be deprived of the chance to do the matriculation course if they wish to do so.
Policy-wise the matriculation programme is subject to a 90% Bumiputera quota and a 10% quota for non-Bumiputera students. The 10% quota for non-Bumiputeras is further divided into about 5.5% for Chinese students, 3.5% for Indian students, and 1% for others.
Follow the population ratio
Of course, the ideal formula for the matriculation and university intakes should be to follow the population ratio of all the races in the country. Nearly 70.1% of the Malaysian population are classified as Bumiputeras, 22.6% as ethnic Chinese, and 6.6% as ethnic Indians.
Those who do not fall under these three main ethnic groups are classified as “others”.
Going by the population ratio, every intake to public institutions should reflect these figures. Indian intake to matriculation and public universities then would be about 6.6%. Allow them to do the course they choose when they enter university following the same quota.
By population composition, and percentage-wise, more Bumiputeras would not get a place to do matriculation than Indians and Chinese. Those deprived of this chance have other options, such as studying at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), private institutions or start off by doing a diploma course in areas of their choice.
For some Malay low achievers, they have to do a two-year matriculation programme (a policy to help them improve). For the high achievers among them, it’s a one-year programme.
I know of Indian students with 2As and a few Bs getting into the matriculation programme. Of course, they will get a place in the public universities upon successful completion of the programme, but not all will be able to do a course of their choice.
For that matter, not many Chinese prefer to do the matriculation course. They would opt to do Form 6 or pre-U courses at private universities. They may have the financial means and their own plans. They realise that while matriculation assures them a place in public universities, it will not assure them of a place to do a course of their choice later on when they enter university. This is the disadvantage of the matriculation programme.
Do not be disappointed
So, many Chinese would prefer to opt out of the matriculation programme and go for a direct path to do what they want in further studies. What more, there are many good schools, colleges and pre-university programmes in the country. The Chinese, by nature, value quality education. Many of them have the financial means and are not too dependent on the government, unlike the many poor Indians and Bumiputeras in the country.
It is a fact that graduates from good private colleges are well in demand by the private sector compared to those from public universities. Generally, those graduating from private colleges are more proficient in English.
Any government of the day cannot please all students at all times and it’s not the end of the world for those who are not accepted into the matriculation programme. Do not be disappointed. There are always the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loans for the poor, irrespective of race, to study in some good private institutions. Never give up on education and strive for the best no matter which institution you study in.
Moaz Nair is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.