In my email, I urged them, “in the name of equity, justice, national unity and national development” to implement the university intake quota system in a flexible and “smart” manner and release the 7,168 public university places already approved and budgetted by Parliament in the 2001 budget to non-bumiputera students, including the over 500 SPM top-scorers, as there are no more bumiputera students to meet the minimum university standards.
I stressed that the Cabinet is not being asked to question the policy of the quota system, but its flexible and smart implementation.
With such a decision, the Cabinet will not be denying a single bumiputera student of the opportunity of admission to the public universities - but will be able to ensure that 7,168 eligible non-bumiputera students are not deprived the opportunities of higher education because of an inflexible and unreasonable implementation of the quota system.
My email to the Cabinet reads:
“Please ensure that the Eighth Malaysia Plan and the Third Outline Perspective Plan 2001-2010 do not start with the new injustice of depriving 7,168 Chinese and Indian students the opportunities of admission to public universities and colleges.
“The Eighth Malaysia Plan 2001-2005 and the Third Outline Perspective Plan 2001-2010 could not have had a worse start with the country reeling from one educational scandal to another, starting with complaints about unfair denial of entry of SPM students into lower sixth, escalating to the injustice of the rejection of over 500 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) top scorers in their application to local universities and now horror of horrors, the shocking revelation that 7,168 university places are left unfilled although there are over 33,000 STPM holders and 135,000 SPM students who have applied and failed to get university placing.
“Education Ministry Higher Education Department director Professor Hassan Said had disclosed on Wednesday that intake into public universities this year has been reduced from the planned 38,000 to 30,382 - a precipitous cut of 18.86% or 7,168 places - because there were not enough bumiputera students to meet the minimum standard so as to comply with the 55:45 university intake quota for bumiputera and non-bumiputera students.
“The enrolment for the 2001/2002 academic session at 14 public institutions of higher learning is 30,832, a drop of 8.7% compared to last year's intake of 33,783. This makes a mockery of the Eighth Malaysia Plan which projects a 44% increase of degree-level enrolment at the tertiary level in the next five years from 201,271 in 2000 to 289,806 in 2005.
“What then is the use of the Eighth Malaysia Plan talking about ‘efforts to expand the absorptive capacity of public institutions of higher learning’ and establishing four new universities in Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Pahang and Perlis to provide additional 20,000 places at the degree level by 2005 when this year alone the government has to leave 7,168 university places unfilled?
“It is not that there are no eligible candidates with the requisite minimum standards for admission into the public universities and colleges.
“According to Dr. Hassan, of the 30,832 successful applicants, about 20,000 are STPM/equivalent candidates, 6,000 matriculation students and the rest diploma holders.
“As only about 20,000 out of the 53,207 STPM or equivalent applications were accepted, this means over 33,000 STPM holders failed to get admission into the local universities.
“As only 4,998 places were available at universities offering programmes at the post-SPM places, and there were 140,845 students who applied, this means that 135,844 SPM applications have been rejected - including more than 500 SPM top-scorers, with some scoring 11As, 10As and 9 As.
“With over 33,000 STPM holders and 135,844 SPM students rejected in their application for admission into the public universities, how can the authorities leave 7,168 university places unfilled simply because there were not enough bumiputera students to meet the minimum standards to maintain the 55:45 university intake quota?
“I agree that the mininum standards for university admission cannot be lowered further if minimum university standards are to be maintained and Malaysia’s ambition to become an international centre of academic excellence is not to be undermined.
“When there are no more bumiputera students to be taken into the public universities on the basis of the minimum standards set for university entry, this would mean that the university intake quota had served its purpose to ensure that every bumiputera student in this category had been given university places.
“The quota system is not an end by itself, but the means to the end of nation-building and national development, and when its particular objective has been served - as in this case when there is no more bumiputera student to be admitted by the universities - there should be a flexible and smart implementation of the quota system to release the unfilled 7,168 university places to non-bumiputera students to serve the national objective to create a knowledge-based economy with competent, productive and knowledgeable workforce.
“Parliament had in last December approved the 2001 Budget to provide for 38,000 new places in the public universities this year, and to leave 7,168 university places unfilled is not only a grave injustice to the over 33,000 STPM holders and 135,000 SPM students whose applications for university admission have been rejected, but a gross waste of national resources and talents after the budget for the 7,168 university places had already been approved.
“In fact, this decision is doubly unfair to the non-bumiputra students, as with the global figure of 38,000 students, the 35% Chinese and 10% Indian quota would work out to an intake of 13,000 Chinese and 3,800 Indian students, but with the global figure reduced to 30,832, there would be a corresponding decrease of intake for non-bumiputra students, i.e. 10,791 Chinese and 3,083 Indian students - or a decrease of intake of 2,509 Chinese and 717 Indian students.
“In keeping the 7,168 university places unfilled, and in fact reducing the intake of Chinese and Indian students to comply with 55:45 quota, the 33,000 STPM and 135,844 SPM unsuccessful candidates, their parents, friends and Malaysians in general are entitled to be aggrieved that a cardinal principle of the national development policy for the past three decades has been violated - the solemn promise made from the very start of the New Economic Policy in 1971 that in the implementation of development plans, ‘no one in Malaysian society need experience any sense of loss or deprivation of his rights, privileges, income, job or opportunity’.
“This is because 7,168 of the 33,000 STPM and 135,844 SPM unsuccessful applicants for entry into the public universities have been deprived of the opportunity to pursue higher studies when 7,168 university places are deliberately left unfilled when Parliament had approved the budgetary allocations for them.
“I urge you, in the name of equity, justice, national unity and national development to ensure that the Eighth Malaysia Plan and OPP3 do not start with the new injustice of depriving 7,168 Chinese and Indian students the opportunities of admission to public universities by releasing the places already approved and budgetted by Parliament to non-bumiputera students, including the over 500 SPM top-scorers, in a flexible and smart implementation of the quota system.
“Let me stress that I am not asking the Cabinet to question the policy of the quota system, but its flexible and smart implementation.
“With such a decision, the Cabinet will not be denying a single bumiputera student of any opportunity of admission to the public universities - but will be able to ensure that 7,168 eligible non-bumiputera students are not deprived the opportunity of higher education because of an inflexible and unreasonable implementation of the quota system.”
In this connection, the Education Ministry should give a full explanation as to why there are no more bumiputera student left who could be taken in by the public universities on the basis of the minimum standards for university entry, the number of bumiputera students who have other avenues of higher education advancement, whether locally or abroad.