Empty-handed cabinet meeting yesterday a great disappointment to SPM and STPM high achievers as Liong Sik had raised false hopes last week that all top scorers would be offered university places

- DAP meeting inviting the MCA Deputy Education Minister, 
Datuk Hon Choon Kim to disprove the veracity of DAP figures on university intake 
Lim Kit Siang

(Parliament House, Thursday): It has been said that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. This was what MCA Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Hon Choon Kim implied when he  insinuated on Tuesday that the DAP had misled the people with confusing statistics about university intakes for the past week, leading to the challenge by the DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Kerk Kim Hock to  Hon to a meeting at Parliament House today for the MCA Deputy Education Minister to disprove the veracity of the university intake statistics which had been given by Kerk, DAP Penang State Chairman and MP for Tanjong, Chow Kon Yeow and myself.

We in the DAP are straightforward people and we don’t beat around the bush. When we say that the Barisan Nasional government had been dishonest in its statistics, we stand by it and are prepared to be proved wrong by the government.

For instance, the government had presented confusing, dishonest and selective statistics in the Third Outline Perspective Plan (OPP3)  2,001-2,010 and I welcome any challenge from any Barisan Nasional Minister to prove me wrong.

The OPP3 produced only one table on the bumiputra/non-bumiputra breakdown of enrolment in private institutions of higher learning (IPTS)  in 1999.  This is a most dishonest and selective presentation of statistics as the government failed to provide statistics in the OPP3 on the bumiputra/non-bumiputra breakdown of enrolment in public institutions of higher learning (IPTA)  for the same year, so as  to give a full and complete picture of  the subject.

This is not the only omission in the OPP3. What is even more shocking is that the statistics on the IPTS enrolment  in 1999 is not a true, complete or correct one, as it did not present the full enrolment and bumiputra/non-bumiputra breakdown on private tertiary education in the country.

The following data is given by Table 4-7 of OPP3 (p.107):

Enrolment in Private Institutions of Higher Learning (IPTS), 1999

Level of
Education  Bumiputra     %     Non -Bumiputra    %     Total      %

Degree      6,345       20.5       24,595       79.5   30,940     100
Diploma     44,795      40.5       65,933       59.5   110,728    100
Total       51,140      36.1       90,528       63.9   141,668    100

This is a most dishonest table, departing from all government practices in the past three decades,   whether in the Three Outline Perspective Plans, Seven Five-Year Malaysia Plans or Seven Five-Year Malaysia Plan Mid-Term Reviews, where data on enrolment in tertiary education comprises three categories, namely those enrolled at the first degree, diploma and certificate levels.

Thus, Para 4.50 of  the  Eighth Malaysia Plan said “Enrolment at the tertiary level increased from 147,927 in 1995 to 321,729 in 2000” while Para 4.113 said  “Total enrolment at the tertiary level in public institutions is expected to increase from 321,729 in 2,000 to 526,679 in 2005.”

These figures on tertiary education are derived from the following statistics given in the Eighth Malaysia Plan (Table 4-5, p. 99):

Student Enrolment in Local Public Institutions, 1995-2005

Level of
Education          1995      2000      2005

Certificate        13,556    28,154    88,848
Diploma            46,480    92,304    148,025
Degree             87,891    201,271   289,806
Total Tertiary
Education          147,927   321,729   526,679

Why had the government omitted for the first time the tertiary education students at the certificate level in Table 4-7 of OPP3 on “Enrolment in Private Institutions of Higher Learning, 1999”?

However, both these omissions are  inadvertently  overcome in the Second National Economic Consultative Council (NECC) Report or MAPEN2, in the following two tables:

First degree, diploma and certificate enrolment in public institutions (IPTA) according to race 1999 (Jadual 2.27 - p.112)

Enrolment     Bumiputra     Non-Bumiputra     Total

Degree        97,836        42,084            139,920
              69.9%         30.1%             100%
Diploma       49,588        9,891             59,479
              83.4%         16.6%             100%
Certificate   725           3,551             4,276
              17.0%         83.0%             100%
Total         148,149       55,526            203,675
              72.7%         27.3%             100%

Enrolment according to race in  private  institutions (IPTS) as at 31st December  1999 [Jadual 2.32(a) - p. 120]:

Enrolment     Bumiputra      Non-Bumiputra     Total

Degree        6,017          24,920            30,937
              19.4%          80.6%             100%
Diploma       44,815         65,914            110,729
              40.5%          59.5%             100%
Certificate   30,211         27,736            57,947
              52.1%          47.9%             100%
Total         81,043         118,570           199,613
              40.6%          59.4%             100%

We can ignore the minor differences between the OPP3 and MAPEN2  for the statistics on IPTS enrolment for degree and diploma students, but the omission of the category of students at the certificate level for  tertiary education is most dishonest and irresponsible.

Is the omission of the 30,211 bumiputra students or 52.1% of the 57,947 students in this category to give the wrong  impression that bumiputra students constituted only 36.1 per cent when it should be 40.6%?

Furthermore, why were the IPTA enrolments and ethnic breakdowns omitted while the IPTS enrolments and ethnic breakdowns were given selectively?

Is this the reason why the Second NECC Report was not tabled in the Dewan Rakyat until virtually the last day of the two-month meeting, when MPs did not even have the time to go through the 800-page report?

May be Hon as the Deputy Education Minister or Tan Sri Musa Mohamad as the Education Minister would like to explain the reason for the juggling with educational statistics in the OPP3 and Eighth Malaysia Plan, and whether they would publicly apologise to Parliament for misleading MPs and the nation for presenting such dishonest and selective statistics, giving vindication to the statement that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.

All this juggling with educational statistics is most unfortunate when it is clear that the education system had failed in the past ten years under the Second Outline Perspective Plan (OPP2) to deliver the  high-quality manpower development  which is a prerequisite if  Malaysia is  to stay ahead and maintain its competitive edge and thereby achieve the goal of becoming a fully developed nation by the year 2020.

For instance, the OPP2 presented in Parliament in June 1991 lamented the low level of scientific and technological (S&T) manpower in the country, with only about 7,000 full-time research scientists and technologists, giving a ratio of 400 per million population compared the ratios ranging from 3,500 per million to 6,500 per million found in industralized countries.  The OPP2 declared by the year 2000, “Malaysia will aim to achieve a higher ratio of S&T personnel to around 1,000 per million in line with the target of doubling the current percentage of R&D  to GNP” (Para 6.41).

What did the educational system achieve in the past 10 years to develop a strong S&T base to enhance the nation’s industrial competence and competitiveness?

The OPP3 continued to lament the low level of S&T manpower, as in  1998, the number of scientists and engineers per million population was 500, compared with the OPP2 target of 1,000 scientists and researches per one million population by 2000.

As a result, our  competitive edge  has suffered as illustrated by the recently-released 2001 World Competitiveness Yearbook  (WCY) survey, with Malaysia slipping four places from 25th last year to the 29th spot.

In a way, Malaysia’s deteriorating rankings in the annual WCY in the past five years can be taken as an international benchmark of the failure of the education system to prepare  Malaysia   to face the challenges of globalisation, liberalisation and information and communications technology (ICT) and a report card on the Seventh Malaysia Plan, viz:

Malaysia’s ranking in the annual World Competiveness Yearbook
1996 - 23
1997 - 17
1998 - 20
1999 - 27
2000 - 25
2001 - 29

The OPP3 is very liberal in quoting from previous  World Competiveness Yearbook indicators, but when the 2001 WCY was released showing the serious four-place fall in Malaysia’s competitiveness, this news was blacked out in all the mainstream mass media for the past four weeks - another example of the dishonest and selective use of data by the Barisan Nasional government.

With this backdrop, it is most disheartening that Malaysia is not prepared for a revolutionary leap in our educational mindset to invest in Malaysian brainpower regardless of race as illustrated by the rejection of the best and brightest of each generation from our universities.

Although all eyes in the country were on the Cabinet meeting yesterday, hoping that it would send a clear message that it is attuned to the needs of the new K-economy,  gives the highest priority to talents, creativity, skills,  innovation and the development of a world-class university system by admitting the best and brightest of each generation, Malaysians are terribly disappointed that nothing has come out of yesterday’s meeting.

All the hopes of the people and country that the Cabinet yesterday will open wide the doors of public universities to the best and brightest in each generation have been dashed to the ground, as the announcement by the MCA Housing and Local Government Minister, Datuk Ong Ka Ting, after the Cabinet meeting that SPM students with 10As will be admitted to universities is no news, as this has already been announced two weeks ago.

The empty-handed Cabinet meeting yesterday is a shame.  This is because after the Cabinet meeting last week,  MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik was quoted over radio and television  that the Cabinet had instructed the Education Ministry to offer   places in public universities to all Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia  (SPM) high achievers.

It is clear that the Cabinet will be  a major constraint to Malaysia’s success to become a knowledge-based economy, as Cabinet Ministers do not seem to understand that in all the advanced nations, knowledge is supplanting physical capital as the source of wealth and a nation’s prosperity in the new era will depend on the quality of its higher education.

Human capital in the United States is now estimated to be at least three times more important than physical capital but our Cabinet Ministers still belabour under the old mindset that physical capital is more important than knowledge, skills and resourcefulness of people.

The Cabinet  should  adopt a bold and fair four-point universities admission policy beginning this year, not just for the sake of the students but for the future prosperity of the nation, viz:


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman