STUDENTS have the right to complain about the unfair matriculation programme
Klang MP V. Ganabithrau in a recent article in Free Malaysia Today (FMT) raised the issue over the current fuss about the quota system of entry into matriculation. He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was right in pointing out the existence of a social contract system to the student.
Ganabithrau agreed with Anwar that the quota system of entry is something sensitive and should not be the focus of the Indian students.
Touching or criticising the quota system might make the Malays angry as it would be the breach of the social contract. Alternatively, he asked Indian students not to waste time but instead try to focus their attention on the STPM system of university entry.
He emphasised that the STPM system is higher in quality compared to the matriculation programme – something that is universally recognised.
But I beg to differ. I think that the 18-year-old female Indian student raised an important question to Anwar. Whether Anwar answered the question faithfully, honestly and responsibly remains in doubt.
For Ganabithrau to say that Indian students should not waste their time questioning the quota system of entry into the matriculation programme might not be accepted.
I must admit that the route to university education has multiple entry points such as SPM, matriculation and others. But whatever said and done, there is no running away from the matriculation programme given its lopsidedness.
Funded by taxpayers’ money, Malaysians have all the right to question the system including Indians.
The matriculation programme is justified on the grounds of its integration of the affirmative action principle but with 90% quota set, how can this be anything but an ethnic formula.
Affirmative action has minor role in the intake of students into the matriculation programme. It is an ethically biased system that pits the Malays against the non-Malays.
The non-Malays in the country want a gradual relaxation of the preponderant ethnic quota for entry into the matriculation programme. I don’t understand a honest question about the ethnic quota would unsettle the Malays.
In fact, there are Malays who think that the matriculation is unfair to the non-Malays. It is not fair to ask non-Malays to shift their focus to other university entry requirements other than the matriculation programme.
Ultimately, it is up to the students to choose whether they want to pursue the path of the matriculation programme or seek the STPM alternative. Some may choose the matriculation programme because of its duration, costs and most importantly it is a public educational programme.
Whether they will be restricted by the ethnic quota system is altogether a different matter. Students have the right to apply and complain when they are not selected because of ethnic discrimination.
Unfair yet sensitive
Anwar rather than invoking the matter of political expediency or his apparent uneasiness in spooking the Malay nationalists, left the question in abeyance. As a politician, he should have simply said that the government would look into the problem to see how it could be rectified, if there was a necessity.
Whether the government is going to seriously examine the one-sided nature of the matriculation programme is left to be seen. A programme that is rationalised in the name of affirmative action might be difficult to defend.
But one thing is certain: questions and queries about the unfair nature of the matriculation cannot be curtailed on the grounds of its sensitiveness. There is nothing sensitive about the blatantly unfair and ethnically biased matriculation programme.
The normative approach of asking Indian students to focus on other entry programmes other than matriculation is hardly the solution to the present predicament faced by thousands of non-Malay students with high qualifications.
Anwar is not a mere politician but a leader of the government and the country as a whole. His unity government has brought disparate political parties under the fold.
Providing educational opportunities for students is his top priority. As leader who is steeped deep in reforms, the unjust past in the form of the dubious or nebulous social contract cannot be invoked to ward off genuine reforms. – Aug 9, 2023
Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the former DAP state assemblyman for Perai. He is also the former deputy chief minister of Penang.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.