At last, the cat is out of the bag – “meritocracy”student intake system into public universities “more quota than quota”

At last, the cat is out of the bag – that the university “meritocracy” student intake system which replaced the ethnic quota system for entry into the public universities in 2002 is “more quota than quota”.

According to the MCA Youth leader, Datuk Dr. Wee Ka Siong, the intake of Chinese students for eight major courses in public universities - medical, dentistry, pharmacy, electronics and electrical engineering, chemical engineering, law and accounting - has been declining in recent years from 26.2% in 2001 to 25.3% in 2001 and 20.7 per cent this year.

I commend Wee for finally making the public admission that the so-called “merit system” which replaced the quota system in 2002 was an even worse form of quota system in reality, resulting in the dropping of Chinese students to 19 per cent from more than 30 per cent in the early years, and the general drop in non-Malay students in the eight critical courses in public universities.

In May 2002, I had sent an urgent email to all Cabinet Ministers asking them to rectify the injustice of the so-called “merit-based” university selection system, as the formula used to match the matriculation results and STPM grades was “unprofessional, unfair and gives meritocracy a bad name as it is without any professional merit”, like comparing an apple with an orange.

I had argued at the time that it was quite absurd to compare the results of the STPM and matriculation courses as they are completely different systems, with different kind of evaluation procedures.

This is what I said in 2002: “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 Mohamad (the then Education Minister) has himself confirmed that the matriculation marking is based on coursework (30%) and examination (70%).”

I had in my urgent email to Cabinet Ministers eleven years ago urged them “to ensure that the meritocracy system adopted for university selection is transparent and professional - a race-blind system founded on a level academic playing field based purely on examination results to ensure academic excellence and ameliorated by socio-economic considerations to take account of the more disadvantaged groups to ensure social justice”.

After three Prime Ministers, four MCA Presidents, 12 MCA Ministers together with a MCA Deputy Minister in the Higher Education Ministry for five years from 2008 – 2013, Malaysians are now told by the former MCA Deputy Education Minister that the so-called “merit system” for student intake into the public universities introduced in 2002 had in fact wrought greater injustices and is a worse formula than the “628” quota system of 55:45 for bumiputra and non-bumiputra students in force from 1979 to 2002.

The questions that immediately come to mind is why the these facts and figures were denied to the Malaysian public in the past decade despite repeated demands for them, both inside and outside Parliament; why the 12 MCA Ministers and three times the number of MCA Deputy Ministers in the past decade had aided and abetted in their non-disclosure in the past 11 years, and how the UMNO/Barisan Nasional government and the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak propose to remedy this gross injustice if they are serious about 1Malaysia policy, raising Malaysia’s educational standards in the international sphere and enhancing Malaysia competitiveness to become a high-income economy.

I had proposed a solution 11 years ago, the reform of pre-university admissions with a race-blind needs-based merit system with 75% places based on merit and 25% allotted to cater to the socio-economically backward students to people our public institutions of higher learning – based on a common university entrance examination.

I again commend this proposal to the Cabinet and the Prime Minister.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah