The Barisan Aalternatif (BA) Education Bureau had its regular meeting a
couple of days ago. Among other things we discussed the issue of meritocracy
for entrance into the university. We wish to make the following
First. The BA has consistently held that merit should be given due
consideration, irrespective of ethnic background. We wish to emphasise again
that all students who achieve excellent results should be admitted to the
institutions of higher learning.
Second. Merit must be taken together, at tandem, with the other equally
important criterion, namely need, which refers to the economic, social and
educational backgrounds of the students. Generally, students who come from
poor families in backward areas where the educational facilities available
are not up to the mark are handicapped when forced to compete with their
counterparts from wealthy families in developed areas.
Third. If merit is the only criterion used for university admission, then
many students from poor families in backward areas, including Malay,
Chinese, Indian, Iban, Kadazan etc. will not be able to continue their
studies to higher levels. Further, the socio-economic gap between the rich
and the poor will be increased.
Fourth. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad appears to emphasise
only on merit, without giving due consideration to need. It has been
indicated that selective meritocracy will be applied to only Malays. If this
happens, poor Malay students from rural areas attending ill-equipped schools
will be discriminated against. The factor of need must be emphasised and
meritocracy should apply to all ethnic groups and not selectively for Malays
Fifth. Dr Mahathir seems to be pushing for meritocracy as a revenge against
Malay students, whom he alleges as neglecting studies to concentrate on
anti-government political activities. Granted that there are such students
(and we know that their number is small), is it fair for the PM to punish
future students for what the present students are alleged to be doing?
Further, is it fair for the PM to bamboozle his wish and by doing so take
away the function of the university to decide on student intake and at the
same time undermine university autonomy?
Sixth. Dr Mahathir is actually trying to use the meritocracy issue
politically to gain greater support from non-Malays. At the same time he is
also trying to provoke the Malays so that they will oppose genuine
meritocracy to retain the old quota system, which obviously has been abused.
We must not forget that not long before this, Dr Mahathir was proclaiming
the importance of Malay unity in order to defend Malay special position.
Obviously the PM is not at all sincere with what he does.
Dr Syed Husin Ali
Chairman, BA Education Bureau
9th August 2001