End University Quotas Set Our Education System Free


From Murugesan Sinnandavar
Many dreams were either made or crushed at 12pm on Sept 25, when the results of public university intakes for the coming academic year were released online.
There was a sombre mood in my house when the results came out. My youngest daughter, with 4.0 CGPA and 9.2 points on her extra-curricular activities score, was offered her fifth and last choice of university courses.
Mind you, she did not even apply for the top 3 universities of Universiti Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia or Universiti Sains Malaysia for fear of being rejected. Even then, she was only offered a course that was inserted for the sake of filling in all the slots.
Now she has to decide whether to accept a course that is not in line with her dreams or pursue costly private education. At least she has the luxury of choice.
Some don’t have that luxury. The daughter of my late friend, also with a 4.0 CGPA and an outstanding co-curriculum score, was offered international studies despite having law among her two top options.
Now she has to abandon her dream of becoming a lawyer as her single mother can ill afford costly private education. She has a younger sister waiting in the wings. I just can’t imagine the turmoil that that family would be going through now.
Many of my daughter’s friends were offered courses that were their fourth or fifth choices, or courses that weren’t selected, despite exceeding the qualifying mark.
There is something terribly wrong in our education system when the dreams of our brightest youths are crushed on the threshold of their adulthood.
I am not writing this for my daughter nor her friends for they would have made their choices by the time this letter is published. I am writing this so that the next generation will not suffer the same fate.
My generation had suffered this, and now my daughter’s generation too. A parent’s pain is a hundred-fold when your daughter suffers the same fate as yours. If we don’t do anything about it now, my daughter’s daughter will suffer the same fate too.
The quota system in our education system has been strangling our nation since the 1970s. Year in year out, political parties will fight for more seat allocation for the racial community that they represent.
However, people with means will send their children to private institutions or overseas to continue with their studies.
For those in the Chinese community, many have opted for Mandarin education which has its own track towards higher studies.
People in the Indian community, realising that education is their best bet to uplift themselves, have poured all their life savings into the education of their children. Many have sold their houses and taken loans just to educate one person in their family.
Be that as it may, these are ways around the system, not a lasting solution to the problem. The system itself is the problem.
It is time we face the problem head on and abolish the quota system for higher education.
How can we foster true national unity when students at their most impressionable age are told that their efforts and scores mean less than their friends’? That they are not peers of equal standing despite all those slogans? That some are more privileged than others?
It is like clipping the wings of a hatchling when it is about to take flight. Imagine the psychological impact on the students.
The quota system is also unfair on Malay students. Many are hard-working and want to be recognised on their own merits.
But no matter how good they are in their own right, they have the nagging feeling that others will look at them as a product of handouts. Many of my able Malay friends feel they have this invisible banner hanging over their head.
Under the quota system, the crème da le crème of Malay students are identified early on and sent overseas to complete their studies. Those who remain have to compete against the best of all other Malaysian students, who have scored and performed better than them.
In order to lessen the disparity, local universities have lowered their passing marks to allow for more students to pass. Thus, the quality of our education has also suffered.
It is time we recognise that the policy has been slowly suffocating our nation.
To my Indian brethren, we cannot advocate quota system when it suits us and oppose it when it doesn’t. We must be willing to compete with the Chinese as much as we want to compete with the Malays. Let’s be fair to all.
Let our best and brightest compete for the best results and let them pursue their dreams. It is time to set our education system free. - FMT
Murugesan Sinnandavar is an FMT reader and a former secretary-general of MIC.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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