Call on Cabinet to direct an immediate  review  of the merit-based university entry selection system and the results of the 1,868 Chinese students and 1,007 Indian students not offered places to ensure that  the special formula to match the matriculation results and the STPM grades is not comparing an apple with an orange but highly impartial, professional and meritorious  

Media Conference  Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Monday)MIC president  and Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said yesterday  that his worst fears about meritocracy, which he had opposed in Cabinet, had come true with the drastic drop in the  number of Indian students admitted into public institutions of higher learning this year.

He described  the decrease of nearly three per cent to 4.7 per cent this year as very serious, and said  he would raise the matter in Cabinet on  Wednesday as the situation demanded urgent action.  

As usual, it is only Samy Vellu who is concerned by the sharp drop in the intake of Indian students into the public universities, but MCA, Gerakan and SUPP Ministers who claim to represent the interests of the Chinese seem very contented and and totally unperturbed  by the university intakes this year, with the MCA Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Hon Choon Kim even defending the new “merit-based” university entry selection system which  saw Chinese and Indian student intake falling sharply  from the previous quota of 35% to 10% respectively to 26.4% to 4.7% respectively.  

It would be another shame to the MCA, SUPP and Gerakan Ministers if Samy Vellu has to take up in Cabinet  the concerns of the Chinese community over the sharp drop of the Chinese students in the public university intake, as has happened in so many other controversies, most notably the Kuala Lumpur Kwantung Cemetry relocation controversy. 

Samy Vellu said his opposition to meritocracy when it was first raised in Cabinet had been justified with the release of entry figures into public institutions on Thursday.

He said many Indian students could not enter private universities or colleges due to the prohibitive cost involved which was around five times the cost of study in public institutions.  

Samy Vellu said his immediate reaction to the release of entry figures was  that he  did not agree to meritocracy when it came up in Cabinet at the beginning and that he had  sought entry of Indians students into matriculation courses but this was not considered.  

But is Samy Vellu right in wanting to reinstate the 55:35:10 quota for bumiputra, Chinese and Indians student intake into the public universities?  Is he right that without a 10% quota reserved for Indians, the Indian students are the sure losers as they cannot compete on an equal footing with others “due to historical reasons” and  there is no way for Indian students  to reach this figure on the basis of merit?  

While Samy Vellu is right that the Indian community has become the most marginalized and new underclass three decades after the New Economic Policy and the National Development Policy which requires a special government masterplan to uplift the socio-economic and educational backwardness of the community,  I am not so pessimistic as Samy Vellu about the academic potentials of the Indian students and would urge Samy Vellu that before MIC sounds the call for the reinstatement of the 55:35:10 quota for student intake into public universities, to examine whether more Indian students should  have been selected into the public universities to reach the 10 per cent mark under a proper, impartial and professional merit-based selection system.  

When answering press questions about the “skepticism” over the university intake  figures released by the Education Ministry on Friday after the UMNO Supreme Counciol meeting the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said those not satisfied could inspect Ministry records.  He said there had been no manipulation and that the reason behind the increase is that non-bumiputeras are not interested to take STPM.  

Unfortunately, the Director of Higher Education Department, Professor Hassan Said had failed to learn any lesson of public accountability and transparency from the public uproar over  the release of public university intake results last year to immediately answer the many questions about the merit-based university entry selection system, in particular the special formula used to match the matriculation results and the STPM grades to put them under one main list in order of merit to ensure that it is not comparing an apple with an orange.  

Prof Hassan told yesterday’s The Star that there was no reason to doubt the new selection system as a detailed study by “experts” had been conducted before the selection criteria was set.  

But it is  Hassan who is creating the conditions for the  people to doubt  the new selection system by refusing  to be fully frank and forthcoming to explain the details of the new selection system, and in particular the special formula used to match the matriculation results and the STPM grades, and to allow the “experts” who  devised the formula to be subject to public, professional and peer scrutiny. 

In claiming that the formula and calculation to match the two systems is “very technical and highly academic” which the “the layman will not understand”, Hassan is creating and intensifying doubts and skepticism about the merits of the “merit-based” selection system. 

I am suggesting to Samy Vellu that before MIC sounds the call for the retrogressive retention of the 55:45:10 quota for student intake into the public universities, he should ask the Cabinet on Wednesday to direct  an immediate and public   review of  the merit-based university entry selection system in particular  on two aspects:


The figures of  1,007 Indian students and 1,868 Chinese students who met the requirements under the merit-based system but were not offered places were given by the Education Ministry last Thursday and published in the  Sin Chew Jit Poh, as follows:

Applicants who qualify under the merit-system but not offered places


Race              Science                    Arts                            Total  

Bumiputra      4,200 (74.5%)       7,732(84.3%)            11,932 (80.6%)  

Chinese             996(17.7%)           872( 9.5%)                 1,868(12.6%)  

Indian                  438( 7.8%)           569( 6.2%)                  1,007( 6.8%)


The public university intake this year totals 32,752, comprising 22,557 bumiputras (68.9%), 8,665 Chinese (26.4%) and 1,530 Indians (4.7%). If the  1,007 Indian students who had met the requirements of the merit-based selection system had  been offered places, the percentage of Indian students in the university intake this year would have shot up to 7.7%, which is comparable to last year’s percentage although still falls  short of 10%.

Similarly, if the 1,868 Chinese students had been offered places, the percentage of Chinese students in the public university intake would have reached  32.6% - just short of 35%.  

There is another set of figures which should be studied in the review. A total of 64,324 students submitted their applications this year, comprising  46,878 bumiputras, 13,485 Chinese and 3,961 Indians.  This would mean that 12,389 bumiputra, 2952  Chinese and 1,424 Indian students had been rejected for not meeting the requirements of the merit-based system. 

This calls for an explanation by the Education Ministry, as I would have thought that all those who had made their applications would have met the minimum conditions for university admission.  This set of applications are relevant because they would have raised further the percentage of Chinese and Indian students in the public university intake this year. 

The Cabinet on Wednesday should show that it has the  sensitivity to respond to  public frustrations and outrage at the utter opaqueness of the merit-based selection system, which is a disservice to bumiputra students who had gained university admission by merit.  

It will be another blot in Malaysia’s national education system and history if the Cabinet is not prepared direct Hassan to fully  restore public confidence in the impartiality, integrity and professionalism of the merit-based selection system and dispel all notions that Malaysia has created another new-fangled monster of a “merit-based selection system without merit”. 

DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Kepong, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw, is seeking to arrange a meeting  with Hassan for DAP leaders to find out details about the merit-based selection system, the special formula used to match STPM and matriculation grades, the cut-off points for admission to the various university courses and a host of other pertinent issues.  I do not know whether Hassan is prepared or ready to meet the DAP leaders but this will be a test as to whether the merit-based selection system is honest,  impartial, professional and can bear public scrutiny or whether the government has a lot of things to hide about the system.  


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman