THE recent decision to allocate places at universities based on a racial quota will lead not to a culture of meritocracy but one of mediocrity.
I am a foreign graduate of a local university. I found my professors to be on par with those in the United States, but I found my fellow students to be sub-standard. My graduate class only had 10 students, and only four graduated on time. They were not the scholarship students in the group.
Instead of using a race-based education system, I suggest Malaysia emulate Ireland.
Malaysia and Ireland have a lot in common. Both were colonised by the British, both are mostly literate in English, both are small countries, and both are religious.
For centuries, Ireland was the sick man of western Europe. Even in the 1980s it suffered from such high emigration that the country had a net population decline. People left because unemployment in the 1980s was 17% and poverty trapped one-third of the population.
Malaysia also suffers from emigration. When I ask my friends why they emigrated (most go to New Zealand and Australia), they respond with, “To give my children a better future.”
In about a decade, Ireland went from one of the poorest countries in western Europe to one of the richest. GDP per capita is US$68,711 (RM230,000), inflation
is 0.3%, and the poverty rate is 0.2%. Ireland is the fifth highest buyer of US treasury bills. How did they do it?
One of the reasons is it attracted foreign investment with low tax rates. Another reason is foreign companies invested due to Ireland’s highly skilled and English-speaking workforce.
Ireland revamped its education system to give its students the necessary skills to succeed. The country did not allocate university spots based on race, religion, or other demographic factors.
I understand Malaysia wants to become a developed nation, but I don’t see how this is possible when you have an education system based on racial quotas rather than meritocracy. The education system here is uncompetitive and hence Malaysia will be uncompetitive compared with those countries with a meritocratic system.
Malaysia needs to make a choice. Does it want its children to face a future with continued low wages, skills and foreign investment or does it want to reach for a brighter future for its children?