DAP calls for a further intake of 12,000 students into the public universities this year in keeping with the Eighth Malaysia Plan target to increase university places during the five-year period  

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Thursday)The public university selection system this year has become a national scandal for the second successive year,  as a result of the introduction of  a merit-based system which has given  meritocracy a bad name because of the inability of the Education Ministry to present a convincing case that it has adopted an   impartial and professional formula to match the matriculation results and the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia  (STPM) grades and that it was  not an exercise akin to comparing an apple with an orange – and therefore highly unprofessional, arbitrary and unfair.  

There is however another aspect of the university selection process this year which has been overlooked as a result of the uproar and outrage at the arbitrary and unprofessional matching of two completely different examination systems. 

The total public university intake this year is 32,752, which is 6,445 places or 16.4% fewer than the 39,197 places offered last year, which makes a complete mockery of the Eighth Malaysia Plan (8MP), which projects a 44% increase of degree-level enrolment at the tertiary level in the next five years from 201,271 in 2,000 to 289,806 in 2005.  

If the government is serious about the 8MP  commitment on “efforts to expand the absorptive capacity of public institutions of learning” to  invest in human capital in tune with the challenges of a K-economy where the highest priority must be given to talents, creativity, skills and innovation, there should be an average annual increase of some 8% intake in the public universities under the Eighth Malaysia Plan  instead of a 16.4% decrease in intake this year. 

A total of 64,324 students submitted their applications this year, comprising  46,878 bumiputras, 13,485 Chinese and 3,961 Indians.  As the total intake is only 32,752, comprising 22,557 bumiputras (68.9%), 8,665 Chinese (26.4%) and 1,530 Indians (4.7%), the number of applicants who have the minimum university entry qualifications who failed to get places  would be 31,572 comprising 24,321 bumiputras, 4,820 Chinese and 2,431 Indians.

DAP therefore calls for a further intake of 12,000 students into the public universities this year so that the intake this year will not only exceed that of last year but also be  in keeping with the 8MP  target to increase university places during the five-year period.

The Cabinet meeting yesterday on the so-called “meritocracy” system adopted this year  for the university intake is most disappointing, as the Education Minister,  Tan Sri Musa Mohamad said after a post-Cabinet meeting yesterday that “the Cabinet was pleased with the outcome of the merit system imposed this year”.

I just cannot understand how Cabinet Ministers who dare not  go out publicly to defend let alone convince outraged students, parents and members of the public about the fairness, impartiality and professionalism of the formula matching the matriculation results and the STPM grades could be so supine, boneless and impotent as to declare in Cabinet that they were pleased with the outcome of the merit-based system.

My attention has been drawn to Musa’s reference to me yesterday, as in the following report in today’s The Star:

“’When it (the merit system) was first mooted last year, everyone was in favour of it, including the opposition party leaders. Our good friend (DAP national chairman) Lim Kit Siang was the first one to champion merit all the way. I think, they should continue to champion merit.

“’But now, after the results are out, they are all against the merit system,’ he said, adding that the merit system was introduced to spur bumiputra students to work harder.

“’The Malays were worried initially but Umno leaders made it a point to encourage the students to work hard. I believe the Malays have worked hard and thus the result.

“’Another factor that affected the results is that more non-bumiputra students chose to study in private institutions of higher learning after their SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia),’ he said.”

Let me declare, and assure Musa, that I am fully committed and will continue  to champion merit, and this was why my first reaction when the university intake results were announced last Thursday was to give “hearty congratulations” to the bumiputra students for their  “outstanding success” in a selection system based completely on merit and suggested that at the time had come for Parliament next month to consider and debate the abolition of quotas for public university intakes and for Malaysia to prepare for the challenges of globalisation, liberalisation and a K-economy  with a public university intake system which is  merit-based coupled with “need”. 

However, I had also cautioned that the Higher Education Department should be completely transparent and make public the various criteria for the merit-based selection system  and it must be prepared to respond to all public queries about the system. 

This the director of Higher Education Department, Prof. Dr. Hassan Said  has failed to do.  On the contrary, with each passing day, there had been more queries and doubts about the formula used to match the matriculation results and STPM grades.

No good answer has been given to the contention that it is 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.  Musa has himself confirmed that the matriculation marking is based on coursework (30%) and examination (70%).

What Malaysia needs is a race-blind merit system coupled with needs to cater to the socio-economically backward students to people our institutions of higher learning – based on a common university entrance examination.

For the past week, DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Kepong, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw has not been able to reach Hassan for a meeting with DAP leaders on the issue.  We will ask for a meeting with Musa himself and we will see whether the Education Minister is prepared to meet us and set a good example to Hassan.



*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman