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