MCA, Gerakan,  SUPP and MIC Ministers should declare whether they have agreed in Cabinet to the “disinvest in Malaysian brains” policy  by requiring   private institutes of higher learning (IPTS) to adhere to the 55:45 bumiputra/non-bumiputra quota for student intake

Media Conference  Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Friday): The statement by the Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad in Shah Alam yesterday that private institutes of higher learning (IPTS) may have to adhere to the government’s quota system for student intake in the future has come like a “thunderbolt” to Malaysians.

Musa  said the matter would be taken into account as a policy guideline as it would be in line with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s statement on Monday that the question of quota should not be restricted to public universities alone.

Mahathir had said that the present 55:45 bumiputra/non-bumiputra  university intake quota will remain as it is needed to balance the number of bumiputra and non-bumiputra students at the tertiary level and that it should not be viewed strictly in relation to students admitted to the local public  universities but should encompass those studying in private universities and colleges here and overseas as well.

Is Musa seriously suggesting that the Barisan Nasional government proposes to introduce a second quota for IPTS,  requiring the private institutes of higher learning to comply with the 55:45  bumiputra/non-bumiputra student intake as well, and that  non-bumiputra students should forgo tertiary education opportunities even at their own expenses if the IPTS could not comply with the quota?

I call on MCA, Gerakan,  SUPP and MIC Ministers to  declare whether they have agreed in Cabinet to the “disinvest in Malaysian brains” policy by requiring private institutes of higher learning (IPTS) to  adhere to the 55:45 bumiputra/non-bumiputra quota for student intake or whether they could give a guarantee that such a quota would not be imposed on the IPTS.

It would be most shocking if the MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and MIC Ministers could agree to the imposition of a new 55:45 quota for the IPTS when they had not been able to ensure that the local public universities (IPTA) adhere to the quota for  the past two decades, when  non-bumiputra student intake had consistently fallen well below the 45% quota, as shown by the following statistics for first-degree enrolment in the local public universities between 1980 and 1999:

First Degree Enrolment in Local Universities

              Bumiputra         Non-Bumiputra         Total

1980          13,610              8,334               21,944
              (62%)               (38%)               (100%)
1985          23,841              13,997              37,838
              (63%)               (37%)               (100%)
1988          30,085              19,705              49,790
              (60.4%)             (39.6%)             (100%)
1990          35,361              18,309              53,670
              (65.9%)             (34.1%)             (100%)
1999          97,836              42,084              139,920
              (69.9%)             (30.1%)             (100%)

(Source: MAPEN and MAPEN2 Reports)

Yesterday, Musa repeated what his parliamentary secretary,  Datuk Mahadzir Mohd Khir said a day earlier and was reported on the on the front-page of Berita Harian, viz, that there are only 10 per cent bumiputra students in the IPTS, and when this is combined with the 55% bumiputra students in the IPTA, bumiputra students comprised only 30 per cent of the students in tertiary education in the country.

Mahadzir’s claim suffers from two fallacies. His first fallacy is that the  bumiputra student ratio in the IPTAs is not 55% but very much higher, ranging from 65.9 per cent in 1990 to 69.9 per cent for bumiputra students for first-degree level, as illustrated from the following tables in the MAPEN2 Report:

First degree, diploma and certificate enrolment in public institutions according to race 1990 and 1999

Enrolment     Bumiputra     Non-Bumiputra     Total

Degree        35,361        18,309            53,670
              65.9%         34.1%             100%
Diploma       28,719        1,772             30,491
              94.2%         5.8%              100%
Certificate   624           1,929             2,553
              24.4%         75.4%             100%
Total         64,704        22,010            86,714
              74.6%         25.4%             100%

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%

First degree, diploma and certificate output  in public institutions according to race 1990 and 1999

Degree        7,487          4,567             12,054
              62.1%          37.9%             100%
Diploma       8,588          965               9,553
              89.9%          10.1%             100%
Certificate   387            396               783
              49.4%          50.6%             100%
Total         16,462         5,928             22,390
              73.5%          26.5%             100%

Degree        14,600         9,753              24,413
              60.0%          40.0%              100%
Diploma       8,701          3,161              11,862
              73.4%          26.6%              100%
Certificate   583            2,025              2,608
              22.4%          77.6%              100%
Total         23,944         14,939             38,883
              61.6%          38.4%              100%

Mahadzir’s seconf fallacy is that bumiputra student ratio in the IPTS is much higher than 10 per cent.

The MAPEN2 Report  shows that in the IPTS as at the end of 1999, bumiputra students comprised 19.4 per cent of first-degree, 40.45 per cent of diploma and 52.1 per cent of certificate enrolment, or 40.6 per cent of all tertiary students enrolled in the IPTS.

Where did Mahadzir get the 10% enrolment of bumiputra students in the IPTS and the 55% bumiputra enrolment in the IPTA?

The Cabinet should direct the Education Ministry to make public all data about student enrolment and the ethnic breakdown for IPTA and IPTS for the past 25 years, so that no one would be able to juggle or  concoct figures to mislead the public and confuse public opinion.

Musa has made known his personal support for the raising of the bumiputra quota for IPTA from 55% to 66%, but this can be no justification for him and his parliamentary secretary to rely on two fallacies to justify the extension of the quota system to IPTS.

Will  Musa next propose a new global quota of 55:45 for bumiputra and non-bumiputra students in universities, whether in local public institutions, local private institutions or abroad and that non-bumiputra students should forgo tertiary education opportunities  although at their own expenses whether in the country or abroad if such a global 55:45 bumiputra/non-bumiputra quota could not be met?

Musa seems to have  forgotten a  cardinal principle of the national development policy for the past three decades ever since the 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”.

DAP fully supports all government efforts to raise the enrolment of deserving bumiputra students in the IPTA and IPTS  but would insist that any such affirmative policy should not have any element of “Rob Peter to pay Paul” and should honour the cardinal principle that  “no one in Malaysian society need experience any sense of loss or deprivation of his rights, privileges, income, job or opportunity”.

This is why the DAP has called on the government to ensure that the 11,376 qualified bumiputra students who had not been admitted to the local public universities should be fully financed by the government to pursue tertiary education in the IPTS.

As the National Higher Education  Corporation  (PTPTN) gives RM16,000 for each student in the IPTS, the government should make a special allocation of RM182 million to ensure that all the 11,376 bumiputra students not admtited into the IPTA get into ITPS and do not become tertiary education “drop-outs” because of financial difficulties.

This will be a most worthwhile investment in  Malaysia’s own brainpower to help the country face the challenges of globalisation, liberalisation and information and technology communications (ICT) in the new century.

Is Musa prepared to formally propose  at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the government approve RM182 million to allow all the 11,376 bumiputra students rejected by the IPTA to pursue higher studies at IPTS with full PTPTN support?

I find it very disturbing and distressing that instead of going all-out to pursue a policy to fully invest in the brains of our best and brightest in each generation so that Malaysia can compete with the rest in the world in the era of knowledge economy and information society, Musa and some Barisan Nasional leaders seem to have lost their sense of direction and are more interested in a “Disinvest in Malaysian brains” policy.

Musa and other UMNO leaders should  be forewarned that any attempt to impose a  global quota regulating enrolment  of  bumiputra and non-bumiputra students  in tertiary education, encompassing  local public institutions, local private institutions and  abroad would be a major setback for nation-building, K-economy and all IT plans

It  would  put the clock back and go against the fundamental push of  the K-economy to ensure the highest participation rate of  the population in tertiary education so as to create a critical mass of trained, skilled and knowledge manpower in line with technological advancements.

Malaysia is already trailing behind other nations in ensuring that the best and brightest of each generation receives quality higher-education.

The Third Outline Perspective Plan (2,001-2,010) reports that in 2000, the percentage of the population completing tertiary education was 14 per cent and secondary education was 58 per cent. Its target for expanded tertiary education is that by 2,010, "the enrolment of the age cohort of 17-23 years in tertiary education will be 40 per cent, and at least 35 per cent of the labour force will have attained tertiary education".

Malaysia, however, compares unfavourably with other economies like Singapore, South Korea and Japan in investing in higher education in the Information Technology era  where human resources have become even more
important than physical resources in determining a country's competitiveness.

In South Korea, the university participation rate in South Korea increased by nearly 900 per cent in  four decades  - from 5 per cent in 1955 to 43.4 per cent in 1992. These figures relate to the number of students at four-year universities.  In addition, over 30 per cent of the age group pursued two-year courses at Junior Colleges.  In Singapore participation in university had increased from 9 per cent to 20 per cent between 1985 to 1995 with polytechnic participation increasing from 15 per cent to 37 per cent during the same period.

Malaysia lagged behind these  countries with 11 per cent university participation rate.  We should be focussing on how to raise the participation rate of our population in tertiary education and  create excellence in a quality higher-education system but our Education Minister is only interested in how to cut down tertiary education participation rate of Malaysians to comply with his global quota system!

I call on the MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and MIC Ministers to make clear their stand on whether they would support a “Disinvest in Our Brains” Policy by imposing the 55:45 quota on the IPTS.

The Cabinet next Wednesday should also come out with a clear policy statement on this issue before it drives away more foreign investments and  doom the Multimedia Super Corridor and all the other national IT plans as no IT company or personnel would come to a country which prides in a policy to disinvest rather than invest in the brains of the best and brightest of its citizens.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman