Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik once again literally put the shoe in his mouth when he announced the Cabinet had approved an increase in matriculation places from 25,000 to 40,000 while retaining the 90:10 quota system.
What followed was furore from civil societies and even Pakatan Harapan legislators which necessitated intervention from Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who said the matter will be studied further.
The issue of bumping up matriculation placements touched on quite a few sore points which once again reflected Maszlee’s tendency of announcing new policies without first undertaking stakeholder engagements and detailed studies.
The issue highlights Pakatan Harapan’s talk about meritocracy without an iota of intention to fulfil what it promised to Malaysians. It also shows the adverse impact on the education industry which is not ready to accept the 60 per cent increase in intake.
A sudden increase means classes will be 60 per cent more crowded. If you have 50 students in class previously, this will increase to 80 students. Will teachers be able to cope?
Given that physical infrastructure remains the same, this means students will be seated close together. Is this even optimal for learning?
Are colleges prepared for the increase in intake? Even Majlis Amanah Rakyat (Mara) institutions are operating at maximum resource utilisation. How will the additional capacity be accommodated?
Will the increase in students impact quality of learning?
Teachers are already stressed with the current intake quota of 25,000. This new intake increases workload – i.e. marking of papers, extra tuition, and paperwork. Teachers will need to review their methodology of teaching to larger groups for more effective delivery.
Expanding facilities takes planning and years, not to mention financing. Does this mean that Mara will get a bigger chunk of government allocation to deliver free matriculation to bumiputras? The burden of free matriculation with 60 per cent higher intake may well mean a doubling or tripling of public funds for Mara colleges and others in this ecosystem.
Is this demonstrative of PH’s value of meritocracy or perpetuating “race-based” policies which it criticised BN for in the last general election? Why are we having 90:10 allocation of seats instead of “needs based” enrolment, or merit-based intake? Further, we already have Mara for this purpose .
Malaysia’s population is 65 per cent Muslim bumiputra, 23 per cent Chinese, eight per cent Indian and ‘Others’ making up four per cent. Why must 65 per cent of a certain segment take 90 per cent of matriculation places while the remaining 35 per cent from various communities fight for the 10 per cent quota?
There are some 45,000 students pursuing STPM and another 25,000 in matriculation who together, are all chasing 41,573 placements in our public universities today.
Currently, there are 16,573 placements left for the 45,000 STPM students which means one in three will get public university placement. But with the new equation of 45,000 chasing 41,573 placements, are there even placements left in public universities for these STPM students?
For STPM graduates, will their higher education route now be restricted to private universities or studying abroad? This will seriously impact the ability of parents to provide their children with adequate education?
It must be pointed out the increase in matriculation also means increase in demand for National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loans. Parents from the B40 group could also be forced to fork out more for their children to study in private universities.
By focusing on matriculation, we are increasing streaming of graduates towards science courses. But are there enough jobs for science graduates in our economy today?
While the industrialised economies are gearing towards Industry 4.0, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT), Malaysia is still stuck in manufacturing as SMEs are struggling to transform and adapt to automation and global e-commerce.
Many Malaysian businesses have closed their operations due to the current economic downturn and this has exacerbated the issue of unemployment among graduates today. Therefore, unless the PH government delivers on its promise to provide one million high-income jobs before the next general election, a higher matriculation intake will create an even larger pool of graduates competing for limited job opportunities.
The 93 per cent of Chinese voters who voted PH should ask DAP why PH is still maintaining race-based policies.
Obviously, the 10 per cent matriculation quota discriminates the 35 per cent of non-Muslims in Malaysia. How much Sabah and Sarawak will lose out under this new matriculation policy?
Some legal experts have even highlighted that the matriculation 90:10 quota is one example where the implementation of affirmative action policies had clearly gone beyond the limits of Article 153 of the Federal Constitution which grants the Yang di-Pertuan Agong responsibility for “safeguarding the special position of the ‘Malays’ and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities. Was the King or Conference of Rulers consulted before hand?
No one can dispute that the right to education is of vital importance to human resource development and therefore, technical and professional education must be made available to all and it must be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
This is a right that is guaranteed to every human being under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.