(Kuala Lumpur, Thursday): We have a special
painting of an apple, an orange and a pear done for the
backdrop for this forum, as well as an apple, an orange and a pear on the
main table to symbolize the double injustices done this year
to the students applying for admission to public universities
by an unfair and unprofessional meritocracy
system for university selection.
First the apple and the
orange – to illustrate the absurd formula used to match two completely
different examinations with different evaluation procedures, one the two-year
STPM and the other, an one-year matriculation course.
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 mark rates only 50 to 70 per cent of the matriculation results.
The 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. Students opted for
diploma courses as a route to universities because
STPM is regarded as a more difficult examination.
When the public university intake for the
2002/2003 academic session was first announced on 9th May, the Director
of Higher Education Department, Professor Hassan Said refused to explain the
special formula used to match the matriculation results with the STPM grades,
merely saying that experts had been enlisted to help streamline the gradings
from the matriculation and STPM streams.
mounted for greater transparency for the “special formula” to match to two
examination results, Hassan claimed that the “formula and calculation were
very technical and highly academic” which no layman would understand.
pressures for transparency mounted further and the political masters find them
increasingly unbearable, and Hassan had to make public the formula to match the
results of the two examinations, it turned out to be a very simple formula and
there was nothing “very technical and highly academic” about it.
In fact, it was such a simple formula that it
does not require any expert or Ph.Ds to
devise any esoteric
formula as even a good
primary school student would be able to work out and match within minutes
the two lists of STPM and matriculations results by equating the top-mark
STPM “A” with the matriculation CGPA “A” with a score of 4 while at the
bottom line, equating the STPM “E” with the matriculation CGPA “C” with
a score of 2.
What is so difficult in the
formula as to make Hassan describe it
as “very technical and
highly academic” when it is so
simple and mechanical?
The most important issue, however,
is whether the formula used is
a fair and professional measure to match two
completely different examination systems with different evaluation methods - whether the matriculation “A” is really equivalent to a
STPM “A” and whether a matriculation “C” is equivalent to a STPM
In May last
year, Utusan Malaysia carried an article about a study
by Universiti Utara Malaysia (Bidin Yatim, Sharipah Soaad Syed Yahaya
and Nor Azilah Ngah, 1997) on the performance of matriculation holders in
the first year of university compared to STPM holders.
The study found that matriculation students on the whole could not
maintain their high CGPA after
their first semester.
A professional matching of the two completely
different STPM and matriculation
examinations and their results would require academic and technical expertise,
as there would have to be a comparative review and evaluation of the academic
standards and quality of learning and teaching under the two different systems,
which was not done at all. The formula by the Education Ministry was as unfair as
comparing an apple with an orange.
But there is another injustice – the
throwing of the pear into the dustbin. I am referring to the tens of thousands
of diploma holders who were not even considered
for selection under the merit-based
system in the university intake this year.
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 refusing even to
consider the applications of the diploma holders, the Education Ministry had
acted both unfairly and unlawfully – and the DAP is prepared to give legal
assistance to diploma holders who wish to challenge the legality of the
Education Ministry’s decision.
It is very disappointing
that in the last two Cabinet meetings, no Ministers, whether UMNO, MCA,
Gerakan or MIC had raised these two
injustices of the university admission system this year.
MIC President and Works Minister, Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu has made a lot
of noise, declaring that his “worst fears about the meritocracy system have
come true” – but he studiously avoided both these injustices.
The Education Minister,
Tan Sri Musa Mohamad had said the number of non-bumiputras who sat for the STPM
last year were so low that even if all the qualified students were admitted into
the universities, the university quota would not have been filled.
This is not true.
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 be 7.7%.
Indian students who submitted their
applications for university admission were rejected on the ground that they do
not meet the requirements of the merit-based system. I still cannot understand this explanation, as I would have
thought that all those who had made their applications would have met the
minimum conditions for university admission.
If this group is included, then the percentage of Indian student intake
would have shot up to 12% - well above the 10% allotted to Indians under the
55:35:10 quota for bumiputra, Chinese and Indian students respectively.
However, the 10%
quota for Indian students had always been a myth for the past quarter of a
century, for the Indian student intake under the quota system had never touched
10%, and had hovered between 4% to less than 8%.
For this year, the
Indian percentage in the university intake had in fact slumped to below 4%, as
the 32,752 student intake with the breakdown of 68.9% bumiputra, 26.4% Chinese
and 4.7% Indians for this year’s
admission into public universities are incomplete figures.
As announced by
Hassan on May 9, there is another batch of university intake which had not been
taken into consideration – an offer of 12,784 places to bumiputra students
only for courses in Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Kolej-Universiti Islam
Malaysia, the International Islamic University and various Islamic faculties,
giving a grand total of 45,536 student intake into the public universities this
When these 12,784
places in public universities are taken into account, the breakdown of racial percentages in the university intake
this year will be 35,341 bumiputra (77.6%), 8,665 Chinese (19%) and Indians
unfair and unprofessional university admission meritocracy system, resulting in
intake of 77.6 % bumiputra, 19%
Chinese and 3.4% Indian students is destructive of the
Malaysian spirit and contrary to Vision 2020 concept of Bangsa Malaysia.
use of a meritocracy system, which is
palpably clear to everyone that is unfair and unprofessional,
depreciates the sense of self-worth of both the victims and the
beneficiaries of the system, demeans the Malaysian spirit and devalues the goal
of an achievement-oriented meritocratic society.
for this reason that there should be no delay to rectify the injustices of the
unfair and unprofessional meritocracy system this year by expanding places in
the public universities for the “rejects” as well as to introduce a common
university entrance examination system by building junior colleges to cater for
all pre-university students to sit for
a common university entrance examination.