Hassan Said invited to DAP education forum tomorrow to explain the unfair and unprofessional flaws in the university admission meritocracy system

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Wednesday)The Director of the Higher Education Department, Professor Dr. Hassan Said has been invited to the DAP education forum at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Kuala Lumpur tomorrow night to explain the unfair and unprofessional flaws in the university admission meritocracy system.

The speakers at tomorrow’s DAP education forum, entitled “Education – English, Universities and National Integration”, are Prof Datuk Ibrahim Bajunid,  educationist;  Prof P. Ramasamy, political economist;  Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam NUTP Secretary-General;  Dr. Tan Seng Giaw DAP MP for Kepong and myself.

I have today emailed an invitaton to Prof. Hasssan Said to personally, or through a representative, to attend the DAP public forum on education tomorrow to answer the many questions about the transparency, fairness, professionalism and integrity of the merit-based university selection system which, if they remain unanswered, will be major obstacles to the national ambition to build a world-class education system and transform the country into a regional education hub and a centre for academic excellence.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had said that there was “no manipulation” in the merit-based university selection system and that those who are not  satisfied could inspect the Ministry records.

The Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad had said that it was  certainly a bad and wrong attitude for people to harbour suspicions against the system and the government … without checking the facts first” and that they should approach the ministry for clarification if they are unhappy with the meritocracy system adopted for admissions to public universities this year.

Unfortunately, all the responsible Education Ministry officials had made themselves completely inaccessible not only to the public but even to Members of Parliament in the past two weeks since the announcement of the highly-flawed meritocracy system for university admissions.

I hope Hassan, or an Education Ministry representative, will have the courage and the  sense of responsibility to turn up at the DAP public forum on education tomorrow night – together with the relevant Education Ministry records -  to field l questions from the public about the highly-flawed meritocracy university selection system.

Hassan must ensure that the Education Ministry is represented at the DAP public forum on education tomorrow as he should heed the words of  the Prime Minister and the Education Minister, which clearly  implied that the Education Ministry must come forward to the public domain to respond to  public queries about the meritocracy system and not go into  hiding.  Furthermore, as one of the top Education Ministry officers, he should be mindful of the Education Ministry’s Client’s Charter pledging the Ministry to be “sensitive and responsive to the needs and wants of its clients, namely students, teachers, society and the nation’ – and the clearing of the people’s  queries and doubts about the flawed meritocracy system is the most rudimentary of such client needs!

The main table of the DAP public forum tomorrow will display an apple, an orange and a pear, which symbolize the flaws of the meritocracy system adopted for university admissions this year, and the focus of public queries and doubts which must be answered and dispelled by the Education Ministry, such as:

Firstly, how can an apple be compared with an orange – which is what the Higher Education Department had done in its unfair and unprofessional matching of the matriculation results and STPM grades, when they are two completely different examination systems with different evaluation procedures.

The STPM is a well-tested, open  and standardized system with external moderation and affiliated with the Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate based solely on the final examination, while the American-based matriculation system is a  totally different creature altogether, with evaluations based not just on the final examination but on attendance, assignment, presentation with lecturers having a greater say in determining the grades in the 22 matriculation centres and where the final examination rates only 50 to 70 per cent of the  matriculation marking.

The two-year STPM examination is  acknowledged as one of the most internationally difficult examinations in the world –regarded as harder than its equivalent, the Cambridge A levels, which is why students from the upper-income bracket prefer to choose  the A levels instead of STPM, not only  because it is a ticket to overseas universities but also  the lack of an academic level playing field for admissions to local universities.

I am sure students, parents, educationists and the Malaysian public will like to hear Hassan justify his statement that the formula used in the merit system  matching matriculation results and STPM grades  gives an “advantage” to STPM holders over matriculation results, implying that the one-year matriculation grades are higher and superior to the two-year STPM results!

The unfair and unprofessional formula used to match the matriculation results and STPM grades has given meritocracy a bad name by creating the injustice of comparing an apple with an orange. It has done more, by creating the double injustice in simply throwing out the pear – the tens of thousands of diploma holders who were not even  considered for selection under  the merit-based system.

On 2nd May 2001, when Hassan first announced the 2001/2002 academic session university intake, he said that out of the 30,832 successful applicants, about 20,000 were STPM  candidates, 6,000 matriculation students and the rest diploma holders. This meant that for last year, some  4,800 diploma holders were offered places for first-degree university courses.

The Education Ministry has committed a grave injustice by destroying the  hopes and legitimate expectations  of tens of thousands of diploma holders in  refusing even to consider their applications, including those who have scored the  full CGPA mark of 4, when for years, the diploma course has been accepted as one of the three normal avenues for a student to continue studies for a degree in a public university.  In fact, one reason why so many  students opted  for the diploma route is because the STPM is regarded as a very difficult examination to score high grades.

Finally, Hassan or his representative should come to the DAP education forum tomorrow with all the racial breakdowns of the university intake all the years since the introduction of the quota system of 55:35:10 for bumiputra, Chinese and Indian students in 1975, as from the following figures from the first and second National Economic Consultative Council (NECC) reports, the Chinese and Indian student quotas had never been adhered to for the past three decades:

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: NECC I & NECC II Reports)

The recurrent educational furores and scandals in the country raise the fundamental question as to whether the nation’s policy-makers and educational planners are aware that our ability to create a world-class education system will mark the difference as to whether we join the nations that succeed in the era of globalisation and information technology or those whose futile efforts lie in trying to cope with the future armed with outmoded mindsets and obsolete visions – and that the adoption of the  unfair and unprofessional meritocracy system for university admissions  is not one that will take the country  towards global success with greater international competitiveness in the 21st century.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman