Malaysia Uncut

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Umno’s meritocracy myth

Umno’s meritocracy myth
Product of the System

The annual intake of our local universities is best summarised as the epitome of Malay supremacy. It is Umno’s style of sending the message that above all else, the Malay factor is still the most weight-bearing of all. The recent annual announcement and de-briefing sessions by Professor Hassan Said regarding the methodology of assessing one’s CGPA, co-curricular activities and point system are merely an annual Umno sandiwara – produced, directed and edited to fool the gullible Malaysian voter. Yearly, the pro-BN media publishes statistics of successful applicants into the ‘crucial courses’ of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, engineering and law, broken down into bumiputeras, Chinese and Indians.

These numbers are first of all, false. From 2001-2004, Universiti Malaya’s Faculty of Medicine accepted additional students into its Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) course by means of a so-called twinning programme with the then Perak College of Medicine (now the Royal College of Medicine Perak). In 2003, for example, the number of additional medical students taken into the medical course totaled 90, of which all but three were students of Malay ethnicity.

When these 90 students are added to the formal intake, the percentage of non-Malay students are even lower than during the quota system era. Not surprisingly, the number of these additional students was never divulged to the public, fooling the non-Malay parents/voters into believing that perhaps true meritocracy does exist. In short, Umno’s message is that by hook or by crook, Malay students will dominate the student population.

Even the title of ‘bumiputera’ as stated in the Ministry of Higher Education statistics is deceitful. It implies that the bumiputeras of Sabah and Sarawak – the truly socio-economically disadvantaged Kadazans, Dusuns and Ibans – are receiving an equal share of the education pie. The reality is far from it. The term bumiputera merely serves as a cover for Umno to conveniently conceal the number of successful Malay applicants.

I will use the medical course as a template. Under the quota system, the number of non-Malay bumiputeras entering the UM medical school was rarely less than six. When ‘meritocracy’ was introduced however, the number of non-Malay bumiputeras crashed to zero in 2003. Since then, the annual figure has never exceeded three.

So, yes, when the BN media states that the number of bumiputera students has decreased, it is true, but very much at the expense of the bumiputeras of Sabah and Sarawak with the number of Malay students hardly affected. I’d have more respect for the Umno government if they’d stop hiding under the vague veil of bumiputera-ship and break down the students into Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Iban, etc. We are after all, a racist nation under a racist government.

Falsifying statistics are sometimes less indecent than concealing them. Hassan Said did not reveal the breakdown of successful applicants by their entrance route – STPM or matriculation. During the racial quota era, STPM applicants formed at least 40 percent of the student population. In 2004 and 2005 – the era of pseudo-meritocracy, the number of STPM students gaining entry into UM medical school numbered only 36 and 17 out of 168 and 207 respectively. In other words, from a decent figure of 40 percent, the number of successful STPM applicants crashed to a mere 8 – 21% of the annual intake into UM medical faculty. It goes very much without saying who forms 90 percent of the student population – matriculation candidates.

I have not once believed that the Umno government was ever sincere about improving the quality of our tertiary education. While weak students are found in every ethnic group, there are resounding cymbals proclaiming the consistently poorer performance of ‘bumiputera’ students in general. Umno is not ignorant of this unspoken truth. Evidence is abundant.

The retained students of UM’s MBBS finals from 2002-2005 were all bumiputera Malays with the exception of one Indian Malaysian student being retained for ‘disciplinary problems’ in 2004. In the 2006 final MBBS exams, 17 students failed – 15 were bumiputera Malays, one a Dusun and the last an Indian Malaysian. Of these 17 students, three have spent at least seven years in UM, while another two at least six years. These figures are the truth and their consistency over the years is no coincidence.

I believe a not-so-different scenario exists in the other faculties. In effect, the message from Umno is loud and clear: We knowingly take in weak Malay students to become doctors/dentists/ pharmacists/engineers and we’d rather fail them, retain them for years, and eventually pass them, than to take in non-Malay students who are more likely to complete the course in the minimal duration. Undergraduate or postgraduate, education and beyond, there was never a consideration of quality, genuine meritocracy or even a sincere affirmative action plan to help the socio-economically disadvantaged. The only issue from the beginning was only of Malay hegemony and Islamic supremacy.

Now I wonder where the MCA, MIC, and Gerakan are at this time of the year? Oh yeah, they are passionately making profits from their respective private universities – thanks a million to the abundant number of public university rejects.

Source: http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/52874

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006 - Posted by | Issues

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