WE refer to the report “Selection into universities based on merit, not quota” (Sunday Star, June 14), which quoted a Higher Education Ministry press release dated June 3 that said all eligible candidates with the highest merit scores regardless of race, religion, state, standard of living and background were given the opportunity to study at IPTAs (public higher learning institutions).
IPTAs include public universities, matriculation colleges, Institute of Teacher Education (IPGM), polytechnics, community colleges and public skills training institutions.
The ministry’s assertion that the race-based quota was not implemented in the intake process into matriculation colleges has raised eyebrows among many students and parents. This is because the Education Ministry had announced on April 19 last year that intake into matriculation colleges would be based on the 90% bumiputra and 10% non-bumiputra quota.
The ministry reiterated that this has been the position since the 2003/2004 session while reaffirming that the special allocation of 2,200 seats for Malaysian Indian students in 2017 and 1,000 seats for Malaysian Chinese students in 2018 were one-off offerings.
On April 21 last year, the then director-general of the Education Ministry through another press release confirmed that intake into matriculation colleges was based on the race quota while highlighting a preference for B40 students, amounting to 60% of the total number of students offered places to pursue matriculation studies.
Subsequently, the then Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik on April 24, through yet another press release, conveyed the Cabinet’s decision to retain the race quota for intake into matriculation colleges in the best interest of promoting tertiary studies in science among bumiputra students.
However, a temporary compromise was struck by increasing the total number of students into matriculation colleges for that year.
The Higher Education Ministry’s press release on June 3 has raised doubts over the current position of the government, catalysing a growing trend of trust deficit towards government policies and institutions.
The question is whether intake into IPTAs for the 2020/2021 session was conducted with strict adherence to merit or was any allowance given along racial lines or the students’ socio-economic background?
Debates on this are raging among netizens, often flaring tensions in social media. Politicians from both sides of the house are joining the bandwagon to politicise an already contentious issue while offering no feasible solutions.
Meanwhile, the fate of hundreds of thousands of students is affected by inconsistent policies and lack of transparency in the nation’s much esteemed educational institutions.
The large number of highly deserving students from the B40 group who are not able to enter matriculation colleges is perplexing enough to raise a legitimate and justified challenge on the integrity of the intake process undertaken by the Higher Education Ministry.
Will there be light at the end of the tunnel? Yes, if meritocracy is indeed followed.
We therefore call upon the ministry to release detailed data on student intake into IPTAs, listing the race and economic profiles of the qualified and successful applicants. If indeed any quota is put into effect, we call for a full disclosure of the total number of seats allocated for each race or specific economic segment.
This, in our opinion, must be gazetted and announced before students sit for their SPM examination.
Making students’ intake data available for public scrutiny will increase public confidence on government institutions and its policies while reducing the dangerous spiralling of racial slurs towards other communities and protectionism for one’s own.
If meritocracy is indeed practised, let the data illustrate the truth of the statement. We believe this could be the best route to narrow the ever widening trust deficit between rakyat and government.
CONCERNED UM INDIAN GRADUATES
(Group of graduates dedicated to empowering communities through education)