Matriculation woes - two strategies to put things right

Dr Harintharavimal Balakrishnan

17 Apr 2019, 7:49 am

Updated a year ago


LETTER |  I refer to the Malaysiakini article Have we gone wrong on the matriculation intake?

The matriculation programme, intended only for bumiputera students, began offering 10 percent of its places to non-bumiputera students since 2003/2004. P Ramasamy unequivocally questions the education ministry’s action plan on the rejection of high-achieving non-Malay students. The matriculation intake matter has been a sensitive and emotional issue, particularly among Indian parents.

The 2019-2020 KPM matriculation programme intake released on April 15 left many Indian SPM high-achievers and parents disenchanted when their applications were turned down. 

With little knowledge on the evaluation process and criteria, parents were quick to inculpate the Education Ministry which facilitated the selection process. So much for meritocracy when a string of As does not seem to be enough to secure a spot and no explanation given as to why.

I hereby bring to attention two main factors for the vexation. Firstly, in the era of big data, it is appalling to note that there are no available officially disclosed statistics by the Education Ministry on matriculation applications and intake numbers. Yet again, the lack of transparency involving the process of application, evaluation, selection, requirements and intake left many parties in the dark.

In 2018, the Education Minister Maszlee Malik reported that a total 4,068 matriculation seats were offered to the non-bumiputera. For the 2018/2019 session, a total of 84,891 applications were received including 20,040 applications from non-bumiputera students. It is baffling to note that with a known total of 28,000 seats, this number is 14.5 percent higher than the allocated 10 percent. 

Is that even allowable? This testifies the claim that he may be unaware of the complexity of the issue not to mention the numbers involved. So what are the numbers now?

This lack of statistical analyses has caused a rife among many parties with doubt on the pure intention of the government to create a healthy competition while strengthening national integration and racial unity. Such a practice is unjust and irreconcilable with our national philosophy for a transparent, corruption-free and fair government. 

Therefore, the Education Ministry and Department of Statistics should immediately clarify the student intake of matriculation colleges by disclosing transparently the application, evaluation and rejection processes involved.

My personal communication with former deputy education minister P Kamalanathan revealed that only 105 Indian students attained places in 2009, and the number substantially increased to 1,400 in the 2015 and 2016 intakes. Despite the increment, it is implausible to note that the number of seats filled did not match the offers. 

It is worth to mention that in 2012, only 900 out of 1,500 matriculation seats offered to Indian students were filled. Again in 2013, an astounding 6,185 Indian students applied for the 1,500 seats but only 892 students took up the offer. If the Indians fought for more seats, why discard them?

This leads to the second factor. The matriculation programme offers an affordable path to local universities especially for students who come from the B40 household income segments. A quick check on the current matriculation application process revealed that the information on household income was not validated with an official pay slip or income tax details.

This depicts that the selection criteria did not put enough importance to prioritise applicants from the B40 household categories. The distribution of seats to the economically less-deserving Indians is a waste as it leads to abandoned seats. Affordability allows these students to leave their seats in cases of overseas education opportunities. 

Therefore, serious consideration must be given to household income for the selection process. Notably, matriculation students are given RM 250/month allowances with a minimal course fee of RM 499/year. 

One shall not be deprived of the opportunity for quality education due to the curtailment of ethnic-based policies and racial politics.

For Indians, the opportunity for quality education is a basic right and fundamental for the development of its community.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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