OUR education minister, who responded to a question about possibility of loosening quota for matriculation students, was quoted as saying that “If we want to change, if we say in Malaysia Baru, there is no need for a quota system and so on, then we must also make sure job opportunities are not denied to Bumiputeras just because they don’t know Mandarin.”
Quota system or meritocracy?
Having our education minister make such statement, it is indeed saddening and worrying for Malaysians who voted for Pakatan Harapan wherein the direction of our education system is moving backward and not even one step forward in this New Malaysia.
Why is it so? Our education minister has failed to appreciate the distinction between a quota system for Bumiputeras and Mandarin requirement for a job – both could never be at the same equilibrium.
Having a quota system for Bumiputeras would amount to discrimination. Let’s analyse and examine why it is so.
Having a quota system for matriculation would actually mean that Bumiputeras are protected, having the higher number of students being able to enrol in the matriculation programme as compared to non-Bumiputeras would have a limited space for this pre-university programme.
This would actually mean that the education policy is still mainly based on your skin colour and not meritocracy. Worse, Bumiputeras being the majority in the country are protected, if there is such protection, isn’t the minority who should be subjected to such protection?
Education is important as every child from every family goes to school to learn and develop himself, from an innocent child who knows nothing to leading the country one day.
Education is more than a piece of paper to provide you with a qualification. It shapes a person’s knowledge and soft skills before he steps into the workforce.
Hence, protecting the majority at the expense of minority would definitely be a backward policy.
The question arises, if one enters that programme which is based on quota that is allocated to them and not based on their qualification and merits of their results, how high could the standard be?
What is the real difference from a communist country where certain amount of food is allocated to each family – what is the point of working hard?
Drawing the same logic and principle to the quota system for the majority, can we imagine that even in this New Malaysia, who will be able to enter the university is based whether they are Bumiputera or not and not based on competition and meritocracy, what is competitiveness of a student in Malaysia?
How high is the standard when one is able to enrol in a particular programme because one is part of a quota system?
How could we rely on youth to be a future leader just because one group has the right skin colour while not the other?
We have seen how the quota system for Bumiputeras would affect the direction of the country and education system in the country, as it is not based on meritocracy because there are higher number of Bumiputeras being able to enrol in a programme that they opt for while non-Bumiputeras might not have a chance.
As a result, the quota has changed the fate of many.
On the other hand, a Mandarin requirement would not and could not in any way be discrimination. Why? Mandarin being part of the job requirement is merely for employer to look for someone who fit in their business model, which works differently as compared with a quota system for Bumiputeras.
While one is part of an education policy which dictates the quota of Bumiputeras and non-Bumiputeras in an education programme, the other is a requirement for some job which does not in any way look at the colour of one’s skin.
Hiring those who would be able to speak Mandarin is still based on meritocracy. This is due to the fact that Mandarin is a language which could be learned by everyone irrespective of your race, religion or nationality – be it Malay, Indian, Chinese, Iban, Kadazan.
As a Malaysian, I believe you have seen Indian, Malay and Indonesians who are well versed in Mandarin while there are Chinese who are “banana” and don’t understand any Mandarin.
Hence, why doesn’t our education minister urge everyone, irrespective of race, to learn an extra language as it would only be beneficial and not a detriment for the country.
It would only make sense for our education minister to look at the two distinctively – a quota system for Bumiputeras in education would get Malaysia and its people nowhere, the country is not moving forward but backward with such race-based policy.
It is at the utmost importance that every policy and decision is made without putting race and religion as the priority.
The quota system as part of the education system should be abolished. It is important to establish a meritocracy system and provide equal opportunity for each and every student irrespective of race and religion but based on merits and how capable one is.
The education minister should create a policy in line with the PH’s ideology, if not, the confidence in the PH government in this New Malaysia would be affected.
This would also in a way avoid brain drain as some students might have all the qualities, results and merits but because they could not enter their desired programme or even university due to the quota system, they end up contributing their talent to other country.
Quality education is crucial for the country to achieve one of the sustainable development goals. In New Malaysia, it is the wish of every Malaysian to see a progressive Malaysia wherein race is out of the policy and decision-making process. – May 21, 2019.
* Teoh King Men is a law graduate and youth advocate, passionate about youth empowerment, climate change, social justice and quality education.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.