He said the government would accept whatever decision was made by the people concerning the quota system.
My initial reaction to Mahathir’s statement is one of great caution and wariness, as he seems to be throwing up a red herring instead of addressing the real issue of justice for all Malaysians in higher education in Malaysia.
The Eighth Malaysia Plan 2001-2005 and the Third Outline Perspective Plan 2001-2010 had started very badly with the country reeling from one educational scandal to another, starting with complaints about unfair denial of entry of SPM students into lower sixth, the injustice of the rejection of over 500 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) top scorers in their application to local universities and escalating to the outrage of 7,168 university places left unfilled although there are over 33,000 STPM holders and 135,000 SPM students who have applied and failed to get university placing.
The immediate issue is not the question as to whether university quotas should be abolished but whether the Cabinet is prepared to adopt a new university admission policy reflecting the parliamentary assurance given by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Thursday that local universities will take in “as many as possible” SPM high achievers by
(I) ensuring that all the 500-plus SPM top scorers are admitted
into the local universities to take up courses they are interested in;
(II) release the 7,168 unfilled university places to eligible Chinese and Indian students as there are no more qualified bumiputera students to be admitted who meet the minimum university entrance standards.
The release of 7,168 unfilled university places this already approved
by Parliament in Budget 2001 for eligible Chinese and Indian students
is not about abolition of the quota system for bumiputera students, but
ensuring that larger national justice is done both from the point of view
of promoting national unity and developing Malaysian talents to prepare
for the K-economy.
If the Cabinet is not prepared to release the 7,168 unfilled university places to eligible Chinese and Indian students, it is academic for Mahathir to talk about abolishing the 55:45 quota system 45 for bumiputra and non-bumiputra students for university admissions.
Mahathir should present a Ministerial statement in Parliament tomorrow on the government’s position on the release of the 7,168 unfilled university places to eligible Chinese and Indian students or it is academic for him to talk about abolishing the quota system for university admissions.
Even if the government has decided not to release the 7,168 unfilled university places to eligible Chinese and Indian students, there should be a full debate in Parliament as to why the approval by Parliament in 2001 Budget for 38,000 new university places has met with a 18.8% shortfall.
This makes a complete 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 when in the first year of the Eighth Plan, there is actually a 8.7 per cent reduction in university student intake as compared to the previous year.
What then is the use of Parliament approving the Eighth Malaysia Plan only on Thursday, as the Plan talks 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?