3:37pm 09/08/2023
Don’t shut out poor students from our public universities
By:Sin Chew Daily

While we do not expect the government to outright remove the university admission quota, at least B40 students should not be shut out from public tertiary education.

Syed Saddiq, the president of Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA) recently proposed to increase the university admission quota for students from B40 families and revise the existing quota system to one that is based on household income.

Syed Saddiq said indeed university admission quota has always been a sensitive issue, but that does not mean it cannot be resolved peacefully through sensible discussions.

We should stop seeing university admission quota as a taboo subject, claiming that it it entails the highly sensitive racial and religious issues.

While we do not expect the government to immediately revise the quota system, nor do we insist that academic results should be the one and only criterion for university admission, if we take into consideration the students’ fair right to education, urban-rural education resource gap, economic conditions of the students’ families, as well as the talent need for the country’s development, perhaps we should really consider revising the existing quota system and adopt a more diversified solution.

If we were to compare the students’ SPM performances all these years, we should see that students from B40 and rural families do not normally perform as well as those from T20 (or even M40) and urban families.

The question lies with the inequality in education resource distribution, otherwise rural families would not have abandoned their homes for better prospects in cities and towns.

Education could be a luxury for B40 and rural families, in particular those with large numbers of children at school age. Such a dilemma exists in all ethnic groups of this country. And very often, finishing SPM is almost the utmost such families can financially afford.

In a survey released by UCSI in June, 51% of SPM candidates had no intention of furthering their studies citing various reasons, which could include financial means and the prohibitive quota system.

It is said that education can reverse a person’s fate, but what if students from non-bumi B40 families have been denied entry to more affordable public universities owing to the quota system while private college tuition fees are way beyond their means? Bear in mind that the difference in tuition fees between public and private universities could be as much as ten times!

While education may not necessarily promise much better pay in future, at least the professional knowledge learned will open up additional windows of opportunity!

Sadly, the country’s education quota system will first wipe out some of the non-Malay students from B40 families, and these are the people denied of their fair access to education.

Sure enough there are students from T20 families stopped by the quota system, but their families can afford to send them to private colleges which are out of bounds to the B40 community.

Syed Saddiq’s proposal is to increase the admission quota for B40 students, and that such quota should be based on the students’ household income, not race or religion.

The race-based quota system was first implemented in 1971 during Tun Razak’s time as a preferential treatment for the Malays and bumiputras encompassing areas like university admission, government scholarships, housing and awarding of government projects, among others.

While such a system is perceived by many as unfair, few people or political parties are willing to discuss it openly.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has on several occasions said in reply to questions on university admission quota that the Unity Government will not abolish the quota system but will through other ways ensure that all outstanding students irrespective of race will get support from the country.

He said tension would ensue if the government were to abolish the bumi quota policy, and this could even be exploited by irresponsible quarters into a political issue, adding that the Unity Government would lose all elections if the quota system is abolished.

The university admission quota has been in place for over half a century now, and it has been proven that this policy not only will not effectively help a specific community improve, but has remarkably brought down the country’s tertiary education standard and caused massive brain drain which is detrimental to the country’s development.

While we do not expect the government to outright remove the university admission quota, at least B40 students should not be shut out from public tertiary education.


Syed Saddiq
racial quota


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