1. A bottleneck in our education system
by Lim Su Lin
PETALING JAYA: In 2004, 128 non-bumiputra students were denied their choice to pursue a course in medicine, despite obtaining a perfect score in the STPM.
It was only after a huge public outcry that the then Higher Education Minister was forced to intervene to get a number of the students accepted for medical studies in public universities. Meanwhile, the rest secured offers from private medical colleges but were forced to give up their career ambitions because of financial constraints.
There was a notable absence of complaints from matriculation students.
At the same time, we have seen the embarrassing deterioration in the world rankings of Malaysian universities.
Focusweek tackles two of the core issues head-on: a less-than-fair university admission system and a glaring imbalance in pre-university courses.
Since 1969, student admissions into public universities have been dominated by political will.
In the general election that year, opposition parties dominated by the Chinese had come close to unseating the ruling coalition led mainly by the Malays. That triggered the bloodiest riots in Malaysian history.
Fearing a repeat of the unrest, the government intervened by introducing the New Economic Policy (NEP) that judiciously aimed to “eradicate poverty, irrespective of race” and to “accelerate social restructuring” to reduce economic disparity between ethnic groups.
To achieve those objectives, the new policy had to be injected into various systems. One key area was higher education, where the percentage of non-Malays vastly outnumbered that of the Malays, although the latter accounted for roughly 60% of the population.
To ramp up the number of Malay students, the government introduced an ethnic-based admissions quota regulating university entry. Under the new system, 55% of public university seats would be reserved for bumiputra students while the remaining seats would go to students of other races.
For several years, the admissions filter remained while other initiatives were introduced and spread into higher education.
One of these was the setting up of pre-university matriculation courses, which were managed by Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara). With the introduction of matriculation courses, bumiputra students had a choice between either taking the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) or the matriculation route into university.
In 2001, then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that there would no longer be an ethnic quota on admission to public universities. Instead, student intake would be based solely on the results of either the STPM or matriculation.
Barely a year later, the government announced that it would relax its strict admission rules for matriculation colleges by opening up 10% of seats to non-bumiputra students.
The 10% cap on non-bumiputras for entry into matriculation colleges remains, effectively reducing the opportunities available to non-bumiputras to enter university via matriculation. That put paid to any claim of meritocracy.
According to economist Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, it was common knowledge that anyone who enrolled in the Mara matriculation courses would already have a foot in the door to local universities.
Our education is suffering because firstly, there are students who have to take the arguably more difficult STPM examinations and compete for the same university places with those who take matriculation.
Secondly, for all the hue and cry of “meritocracy”, the university entry system is still less than fair. Matriculation allows sheer numbers to enter into university on an easier ticket, which in turn undermines the quality of our university graduates.
The argument here is not about stereotyping one race. It is about ensuring quality and equal opportunities for all who are deserving.
This is an excerpt of an article first published in the March 14, 2015 issue of Focusweek. To read more, visit
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2. Watch out Oxford, our Pondok University will outperform you!
by Mariam Mokhtar Published on 23 April 2015
QUICK TAKE: April Fool’s Day in Malaysia is a year-long affair. On 18 April, the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) warned organisers that concerts would be censored. One of the rules said joking about serious matters was not allowed, and jokes which made one laugh too much were taboo.
The following day, Second Education Minister Idris Jusoh announced that Malaysian universities will soon become world-class institutions like The University of Oxford, because many Malaysian university courses are ranked highly in the world, and 135,000 foreign students study in Malaysia.
A few weeks ago, it was claimed that Proton was as good as BMW. So, what are we waiting for? Why not tell the world that we are a first world country and a developed nation.
The former Chief Minister of Malacca, Ali Rustam and Najib Abdul Razak had a grand celebration and national holiday with their declaration that Malacca was a developed state. The endorsement was denied by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
BMW took years of engineering excellence to become one of the market leaders. Proton is only a repository for old Mitsubishi design.
Try giving Tourism Minister Nasri Aziz’s son, Nedim, a Proton. A Proton is not as menacing as his Hummer. Driving a Proton might make him less cocky.
When will Idris understand that it is quality and not quantity that matters? The University of Oxford is a place where scholars have been involved in both political and religious disputes. Oxford, Cambridge and other exceptional universities dared to challenge conventional thinking, religious conservatism, experimented with new ideas, and did not fear officialdom. It took centuries to acquire their status.
Muslims in Malaysia can’t even attend a pop concert without attracting the fury of Jakim. Students can’t invite a former Deputy PM for a talk without a police clampdown.
Our centres of learning kowtow to the government and restrict students from having open minds. Even history books are cooked, to a special recipe.
What message is conveyed, when Najib, refuses to participate in a debate, because he says debating is not part of Malaysian culture?
The Oxford Union (OU) has invited a diverse range of guest speakers such as Baywatch’s Pamela Anderson and Ron Jeremy, the porn-star. They also had 'Kermit The Frog', but our Pondok university would ban him because of idolatry. The Dalai Lama would be barred because he is not a Muslim. Perhaps, Katie Price will be allowed, despite having too much on her chest.
Last October, the Malaysian authorities were too scared to allow an Indonesian scholar Dr Ulil Abshar Abdalla from entering Malaysia. They banned him from delivering a talk and yet Idris has the cheek to claim that our universities can become like Oxford.
If anecdotal evidence is to be believed, the foreign students, principally from Nigeria, use their studies as a facade for running multi-million ringgit drug and vice rackets. The allegations of Malaysian girls being raped, at drug fuelled parties in local universities is worrying. Local girls have been seduced with money and romantic liaisons to become drug mules.
A few years ago, an Iraqi, at a local university, was charged with a serious crime. He spoke neither English nor Malay. What are the enrolment requirements?
It is alleged that many educational institutions use the provision of education to make money. Teaching standards are poor, enforcement is non-existent and the quality of graduates is questionable. Our universities are not in the top rank of world universities, and yet Idris has made his wild claims.
Jakim warned Muslims not to pull too many jokes, but Idris’ joke about the pondok university becoming the equivalent of Oxford, must be one of the best!
See more at: http://theantdaily.com/Main/Watch-out-Oxford-our-P...
3. Still not too late to check declining standard of our varsities
COMMENTS by Theantdaily readers Published on 24 April 2015
Safri Zaidell: I have to be honest here. While we used to be among the best in the 60s and 70s, our education standard now has dropped to a new low because of the country’s policies.
Universiti Malaya and Universiti Sains Malaysia used to be among the top educational institutions in the region back then. Only those who met the strict entry requirements were given seats, thus maintaining the high standard.
But over the years, our politicians introduced several policies which while encouraging more students to pursue tertiary education, also unfortunately contributed to the declining standards in these two elite universities.
Now we are lagging behind our neighbours in Asean who were at one time playing second fiddle to us.
Well, it’s still not too late now. We can reverse the current situation by recruiting dedicated lecturers, perhaps even foreign academics, and also set stricter entry requirements.
Su Bee Hong: Since I left school in 1975, the quality of education in government schools has gone from bad to worse. Many of the Form 5 students can't even speak proper English now.
Stephen Lo: Sometimes I wonder what our elected representatives are talking about. We didn't elect them to talk nonsense, did we?
Lee Kwok Yat: I wonder why parents still fork out large portions of their savings to finance their children's education in local private universities.
Our students consider studying in China, where tuition fees are heavily subsidised by the government of China and the quality of tertiary education is on par with many western universities.
Tan S Aun: Not Oxford but soon Ox-Ford standard?
Cai KL: I remember my mother seeking treatment at a government hospital. One of the doctors (perhaps a houseman) only managed to locate the correct vein only on the fifth attempt to get my mother’s blood sample!
Product of a would-be world class university?
Geetha Pillai: I graduated from the University of Hard Knocks which I guess is much better than our so-called universities.
Er Liang Chye: It's good to dream; finally we have to wake up to the truth. Our education system really sucks! Even our DPM, who's the Education Minister, finally thinks so.
Foo Koon Sang: Some of our universities can surely rank No. 1 – from the bottom up.
Fong Gillian: Wake me up...I'm dreaming, dreaming an impossible dream!
Catherine Lee: I also went to the University of Hard Knocks...none the worse than the wannabes in self-denial mode.
Malaysian Citizen: Aiya Mariam, don't like that la, why you always embarrass our ministers and leaders one?
They syiok syiok feel so great every time they manage to cook up such wonderful world class declarations.
Yet you must go 'ching-pou' (reveal) their story and drop their water face!
Amat memalukan you know or not?
Nikki: Talk is cheap. Not even one is in the top 200 universities in the world and all of a sudden comparable to top three. I think when Idris said ‘soon’ he might have meant light years away!
These comments are in response to the article, "Watch out Oxford, our Pondok University will outperform you" published on April 23.
- See more at: http://theantdaily.com/Main/Still-not-too-late-to-...
4. Disaster in our education system – Koon Yew Yin