DAP calls for a common university entrance examination so that the present merit-based selection system will not give meritocracy and Malaysia a bad name or become a national and international laughing stock  

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Wednesday)The special formula and explanation given by the director of the Higher Education Department of the Education Ministry, Professor Dr. Hassan Said to match the matriculation results and the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia  (STPM) grades for the merit-based university entrance selection system this year has given meritocracy a bad name and failed completely to make a convincing case that it is not an exercise akin to comparing an apple with an orange – and therefore highly unprofessional, arbitrary and unfair.  

The facetious and fallacious remark by Hassan that in the special formula used, STPM holders have an advantage over matriculation students and that it is the matriculation students who should protest against the formula used, and not the other way round, to try to score a cheap but non-existing point has fallen flat and  was  in very poor taste which served only to  undermines the credibility of the formula and explanation.  

If the STPM grades have an “advantage” over the matriculation results in Hassan’s meritocracy system, is he going to recommend to the Cabinet that the bumiputra students should henceforth be sitting for the STPM examination while the matriculation courses should be open to all other students so that the bumiputra students can enjoy the “advantage”? 

I am sure that would be furthest from Hassan’s mind – which itself demolishes his facetious remark that STPM holders have an advantage over matriculation results.  

Hassan’s argument is also based on the fallacy that the government has discovered a fair and just formula to compare the results of two completely different examinations.  

Hassan’s contends that STPM holders have an advantage over matriculation students  because “a weaker grade in STPM gets the same points as a higher grade in matriculation” – as for instance, the minimum requirement for STPM, which is an E,  is put on par with the passing grade for matriculation, a C, and both awarded two points. 

I am shocked as to how a professional like Hassan can make the unprofessional comment that STPM holders have an “advantage” over matriculation results simply because STPM’s E is put on par with matriculation’s C, when both are the respective minimum pass marks – as if E in one examination is automatically lower than C of another examination.  

Whether the STPM’s E is lower, equal or higher in standard than matriculation’s C does not depend on the alphabet chosen to describe the minimum pass mark, but on the actual comparative academic standards attained by the students at their respective minimum pass mark.  

For instance, at the highest scale of the two grades, matriculation “A” is  equalized with STPM “A”, both given four points; while matriculation “B”  is equalized with STPM “C” at three points.  

But is  the matriculation  “A” equal to the STPM “A” in academic standards attained?  If so, Malaysia has chanced on a miraculous education programme which should be the boon to  the world, as an one-year academic programme meant to assist academically weaker students to enter universities have turned out to be a superior programme as to match the two-year STPM course, acknowledged as one of the most internationally difficult examinations in the world!  

Furthermore  is the matriculation “B” equal to the STPM “C” as both are given three points, or should one think like Hassan that the matriculation  grade is higher than the STPM grade simply because B is higher than C?  

May be the best way to resolve this conundrum of the comparability of the STPM and matriculation grades used in the “special formula” is to hold a test whereby 200 students each from STPM and matriculation grades at each level with 4, 3 and 2 points respectively take a common examination so as to determine  from the results whether there is comparability or whether the special formula used  is an  exercise comparing an apple with an orange!  

It is quite absurd to compare the results of the STPM and matriculation courses as they are completely different systems, with different kind of evaluation procedures.  The STPM is a well-tested, open and standardized system with external moderation and affiliated with the Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, while American-based matriculation system is a totally different creature altogether, with evaluations based not just on the final examination but on attendance, assignment, presentation and with lecturers having a greater say in determining the grades in the 22 matriculation centers.  

The special formula and explanation given by Hassan is most disappointing, as he failed to give information on many pertinent aspects of the selection system, as for instance, the cut-off points for the various courses and why 16,765 applicants, comprising 12,389 bumiputra, 2,952 Chinese and 1,424 Indian students, were rejected for not meeting the requirements of the “special formula” for the merit system, when all those who had made their applications would have met the minimum conditions for university admission.  

DAP calls for a common university entrance examination for all public universities in Malaysia as  the present merit-based selection system gives meritocracy a bad name, making Malaysia  a national and international  laughing stock.  

The common university entrance examination can be achieved either by having  only STPM or matriculation for all university-bound students, or establishing a common university entrance examination for all pre-university students vying for places in the public universities, whether from the STPM or matriculation systems.  

The introduction of a common university entrance examination will end the decades-long division to national unity and nation-building caused annually  by the  issue of university admissions and is long overdue 30 years after the New Economic Policy and National Development Policy – almost half-way to Vision 2020.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman