Why education should not be based on a quota system

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.

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  • Its time Tun Dr Mahathir to step back and Change the Stupid Education and Other Ministers. Dont give reasons they are New Ministers in X Experience. We love and happy to have Tun Dr as our PM but maybe its to much political cloud around Tun.

    Posted 4 years ago by Danial Abdullah · Reply

  • Well written

    Posted 4 years ago by Lan Lan · Reply

  • Tun liked to quote " .... due to NEP, we enabled 2nd, 3rd and 4th graded students to become doctors ...". He should add it applied to academics too. We here have a fine example ;-)) .

    Now with an additional intake of 15,000 students, we add in 5th graded students. Would Malaysians wish to be treated by 5th (or E) graded doctors? Soon, visiting Government hospitals and clinics is like playing Russian Roulette. (But in these times of stagnant income and high cost of living, is there a choice?)

    PTPTN is struggling to recover student loans yet with an addition 15,000 of students yearly, its woes can only increase, no thanks to the Education Ministry which seemed oblivious to the problem.

    The formation of the Debt Management Office proved how desperate financially Malaysia is. We should try to reduce our debt not increase it.

    Employers are NOT stupid. Would they want to employ a 5th graded accountant or engineer? All things being equal, they may well chose those who possess STPM qualification, leaving truckloads of low class unemployed/unemployable graduates who may well end up as trouble makers.

    Posted 4 years ago by Malaysian First · Reply

    • ................ continue ..........

      Instead of increasing intake, we should drastically DECREASE intake (if we still want to keep the matriculation system).

      Why? Because the intake of 3rd, 4th and 5th graded students gave them (and their parents) a false sense of their intelligence and qualification. Rather than taking jobs they considered beneath them, they rather prefer to remain unemployed and spend their time on social media and cursing the world. At best, they become "entrepreneurs (BN definition)" selling economy rice, "nasi lemak" and "goreng pisang".

      However, if they are rejected by matriculation classes, they will accept reality and will instead learn a trade or vocation (Malaysia should build more vocational/technical schools) thus be gainfully employed and earn a decent income.

      In the '70s, the factories in Penang employed locals, so called "Mat" and "Minah" "Kilangs". Now many businesses in Malaysia employ foreigners instead.

      So by this measure, we raise the standard of tertiary education (only A and B graded students), reduce youth unemployment (thereby reducing youthful resentments) and reducing the number of foreigners.

      Posted 4 years ago by Malaysian First · Reply

    • ........ continue ........

      Onto languages ..............

      The Education Minister seemed "blurred" to the fact that in this globalized and interconnected world, the more languages one knows, the more advantages one has as we are dealing with foreigners who who used recognized "world languages".

      China is now the second largest economy in the world and Mandarin is used extensively in East Asia in trade and diplomacy and knowing Mandarin is an advantage.

      India is now the fastest growing economy among the largest and developing countries and is projected to overtake Japan as the the third largest economy in Asia in about 10 -15 years time. English and Hindi is used there in commerce and everything.

      So, in not the too distant future, English, Mandarin and Hindi will be commonly used in Asia. So what good if Malaysians only know BM?

      Posted 4 years ago by Malaysian First · Reply

    • Sorry ..... error ... " ...third largest economy in Asia..." substitute with " ..... third largest economy in the world ..."

      Posted 4 years ago by Malaysian First · Reply

  • Education beyond form five or O levels must be controlled by a minimum achievement requirement system and open to all equally. There must be some initial thirst for more knowledge shown by the learners via excellent or even good results in SPM examination. Lowering the in take grade to university education is the beginning of a chain reaction that require falsifying and manipulating the students' grades so that a respectable number of students complete the degree programme successfully.

    Posted 4 years ago by Citizen Pencen · Reply