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SCMP: Kelamkabut Isu Kuota IPT
By Ian Stewart

13/5/2001 7:18 am Sun

[Minggu lepas kementerian pendidikkan menjadi sasaran kritikan berikutan lapuran perangkaan yang menunjukkan 7,000 tempat kosong yang dikhaskan untuk bumiputra dalam IPT tidak terisi sedangkan ramai pelajar Cina yang yang berprestasi tinggi tidak dapat memasukki IPT. (3/5/2001)

Memang ribut akhbar Cina mengenengahkan isu ini. Tetapi tiba-tiba pada hari Selasa baru-baru ini menteri pendidikkan, Musa Muhammad mengatakan kuota bumiputra itu sememangnya sentiasa dipenuhi pula. Lapuran terdahulu yang tersiar itu dikatakan tidak lengkap. (8/5/2001)

Tetapi yang menariknya PM telah memberi komen sebelum lapuran terbaru itu - seolah-olah kekosongan itu memang benar berlaku. (7/5/2001)

Akhbar-akhbar Cina menyerang hebat kementerian pendidikkan (atau menterinya?) kerana mengharu-birukan keadaan. Satu kolumnis di Star yang pro MCA menyifatkan cara kontroversi itu ditangani amat bercelaru sekali dan mahu sistem pendidikkan dirombak semula. Sin Che Jit Poh pula mengatakan tidak masuk aqal bagaimana kementerian telah 'melahirkan' pelajar bumiputra untuk mengisi kuota itu. Akhbar itu menyifatkan kementerian telah memperbodohkan rakyat Malaysia dan PM sendiri. China Press pula mengatakan kementerian telah gagal memberikan alasan yang menyakinkan serta boleh diterima bagaimana pelajar Cina yang cemerlang gagal memasukki universiti. Ia juga mahu sistem kuota dikaji semula.

Kalaulah benar lapuran asal itu silap, mengapa Menteri Pendidikkan terlalu lembab bertindak (5 hari lamanya). Takkanlah ia tidak mempunyai nuombor talifon akhbar? Lagipun ini zaman teknologi - ia boleh memaparkan sahaja pembetulan di laman webnya tidak sampai 5 minit sahaja. Setidak-tidaknya hantarkan emel sahaja kepada semua akhbar. Sudah banyak kali menteri pendidikkan gagal menangani isu yang sensitif sejak dilantik oleh Mahathir sendiri. Kali ini penyokong BN sendiri sudah tidak dapat berdiam diri lagi. Mahathir telah teraib oleh orangnya sendiri... - Editor]

The South China Morning Post, HK
12th May 2001

Mixed signals sent over ethnic quotas for university places

IAN STEWART in Kuala Lumpur

Days after Malaysia's Chinese community was led to believe that a quota reserving 55 per cent of university places for Malays and other indigenous groups might be relaxed, they are facing the possibility that it will be increased.

Malay activists called for the quota to be raised to 66.1 per cent, reflecting the proportion of indigenous races in the population, after the Education Ministry said it made a mistake when it released figures showing Malays did not take up all the places reserved for them.

The latest developments in the quota issue have sparked angry editorials in Chinese newspapers, reflecting the community's concern that young people should have the opportunity to pursue university studies. In the three decades the quota has been in place, many Chinese families have sent their children to study overseas, but rising costs have limited the option to wealthier parents.

More than 500 Chinese with the highest academic qualifications were refused entry to Malaysian universities this year by the quota system, which allocates 35 per cent of places to Chinese and 10 per cent to Indians.

Figures supplied by the Ministry of Education last week appeared to show that more than 7,000 places reserved for Malays and other indigenous people, who are grouped together as bumiputras - sons of the soil - were not taken up. But on Tuesday the Minister of Education, Musa Mohamad, said the bumiputra quota had always been filled and a ministry official apologised for not supplying complete statistics.

Before the ministry provided the revised figures, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia could not afford to have a brain drain caused by other countries "pinching" Malaysia's best students. "If Malays or bumiputras are not interested, we will give the seats to others who can meet the requirements, irrespective of whether they are bumiputras or not," he said.

But after providing the new statistics, the Minister of Education said the ministry was "not budging" on the quota.

A columnist in the Star newspaper, which has links to the Malaysian Chinese Association, the second largest party in the government coalition after the dominant United Malays National Organisation (Umno), said the handling of the controversy had been a mess and called for another look at the education system. Other Chinese newspapers were more sharply critical of the authorities.

The Sin Chew Jit Poh said it was absurd that the ministry had "given birth" to extra bumiputra students to fill the quota. He said the ministry had made fools out of Malaysians and the Prime Minister.

The China Press said the ministry had not provided a reasonable explanation of why top Chinese scholars had been unable to enter university. It said the quota system must be changed in the long run to help Malaysia achieve its aims.

But Malay activists strongly oppose any modification to the quota system. Zainal Abidin Wahid, who advocated raising the quota, accused Umno leaders of "being too clever with their statements" before the future of Malay children was secure.

The Sunday Star
11th April 2001

Need to take another look at our education system

Comment by Wong Chun Wai

A MESS--that's the only way to describe the handling of the controversy over the failure of our top SPM students to get places in our universities.

There have been enough heartache stories over the past one week in our newspapers about our bright young talents being denied places.

Even before the plight of 500 non-bumiputra SPM applicants can be resolved, a controversy over figures relating to places for STPM applicants surfaced.

On May 2, Higher Education Department (HED) director Prof Dr Hassan Said had announced that over 30,000 students would be offered places at public universities.

He was quoted as saying at a press conference that "not enough students meet the minimum standard."

At an interview later, Dr Hassan said non-bumiputra applicants could not be offered more places because there were not enough qualified bumiputra students to make up the 55:45 quota if the projected figure of 38,000 was maintained. (Click here for The Star's report on May 3.)

But the situation changed on May 8 when the Education Ministry produced new statistics to show that all available places to public local universities had been filled.

Apologising for the mistakes, Dr Hassan said all bumiputra places for the academic session had been filled and that in fact 11,376 qualified bumiputras did not get places. (Click here for The Star's report on May 9.)

Dr Hassan was honest enough to admit his mistakes. It is not something unforgiveable; to err is, after all, human.

In an interview with a local daily, which also appeared on May 9, Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad said the issue did not arise because there were no vacancies.

He was quoted as saying the total intake for applicants with STPM was about 40,000 a year and the target this year was 38,000.

He said that in November, the ministry took in 5,761 matriculation students and another 2,600 matriculation students from the International Islamic University, making it a total of over 8,000.

With the 8,000 plus the 30,800 students who were accepted in May, the total number was about 39,000, which exceeded the target.

Musa said the problem started when this newspaper deducted 30,800 from the targeted 38,000 figure and ended up with the 7,000 plus figure.

The report, he added, gave the impression that there were no bumiputra students to fill these places.

Musa said the ministry wanted to reply to The Star in the form of a Letter to The Editor, but before it was done, the matter was already politicised.

The former USM vice-chancellor's reply is not likely to satisfy many segments of Malaysians.

Even the figures are confusing. In the interview, Musa said there were 4,433 places for SPM applicants, not including the additional 160 places for the top non-bumiputras.

In the press statement, read out by Dr Hassan, the figure given was 4,998 places.

If the report was wrong, the ministry could have easily telephoned, sent a letter through the fax or sent an e-mail for a correction to this newspaper.

No explanation was made until Musa's interview in the newspaper.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, meanwhile, had to answer questions from the media on the issue. (Click here for The Star's report on May 7.)

The original topic on the plight of the 500 students had degenerated into a debate on whether the quota system should be abolished.

Several Barisan Nasional and Umno leaders then proposed that these unfilled places for bumiputras be opened to non-bumiputras.

The Umno Youth must be commended for its statement that students with excellent results, irrespective of their backgrounds, should gain admission into local universities.

It said the quota system should be maintained but unfilled places, be they for bumiputras or non-bumiputras, should go to deserving cases.

In a letter to a newspaper, Umno Youth exco member Affendi Zahari urged the Education Ministry to use its discretion and to compel local universities to accept the high achievers into the faculties of their choice.

He said these students must be admitted because they were potential first class students and that "we must show that we are above anything petty" and that "we must spare no efforts to be flexible to accommodate the interests of the non-bumiputras."

Affendi said: "It only goes to show that the policy to assist bumiputras is not done at the expense of the non-bumiputras" and that "it shows a sense of fair play."

"These brilliant students of whatever race are our hope to propel the country to greater heights and they must be accommodated," he wrote.

The official stand by Umno Youth reflects well on the party. It reaffirms the party's commitment to the politics of accommodation and its reasonableness and boldness.

The Government must also be commended for insisting that all applicants with 10As and above be automatically accepted into universities.

It shows the question of limited places can be resolved if we have the political will.

Our educators have tried to explain the rationale for the rejection of these applicants.

These include the quota system, the competition among non-bumiputras and the preference among non-bumiputras for only choice disciplines, such as medicine and engineering.

The Education Ministry has given details on the criteria on the selection of applicants.

But this has given rise to more unhappiness and even confusion.

The issue here is the denial of our cream of the crop into universities and that we are in danger of losing them to universities overseas.

They are all Malaysians, irrespective of their race, and for them to be denied fair play in a system created by the bureaucrats is a crying shame.

At the same time, those who debate the issue must never forget the quota system was set up to help the disadvantaged Malays. We must stress that the system is necessary.

But we should be mindful of calls to lower qualifying standards to prevent mediocrity.

Not all non-bumiputras, we must accept, can afford to send their children to local colleges or overseas as poverty does not recognise race.

The rejected applicants must also not give up hope as they can still go to Sixth Form or join Tunku Abdul Rahman College where discounts are being given to top students.

What is more important now is for our educators re-look our overall education system and the university entry system and take into account the quota system, fairness and flexible implementation.

A way out of this sticky situation would be for the Public Services Department to offer scholarships for our top scorers who have obtained places in private colleges and overseas universities.

It will be a win-win situation for all because the top scorers would have an option, while the quota for bumiputras would not be upset.

As the Education Ministry cleans up the mess, the bureaucrats should learn the 3Rs--reason, rationality and responsibility.

We should not mess up the future of our bright and young Malaysians who have so much hope in the country.