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'Meaningless and deceitful': Anwar slammed over 'guaranteed' matriculation spots for non-Bumis

A rights advocate and an education pressure group say the 10As caveat means that nothing will change in the plight of non-Bumiputera students denied entry to public universities.

3 minute read
Critics say the prime minister's recent announcement creates another barrier of entry for non-Bumiputera students into universities by keeping off high achievers who did not obtain 10As in the SPM.
Critics say the prime minister's recent announcement creates another barrier of entry for non-Bumiputera students into universities by keeping off high achievers who did not obtain 10As in the SPM.

An education pressure group and a rights advocate have slammed Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's announcement on lifting the racial barrier in the admission of students into the country's matriculation programme, saying it is full of "beautiful words" but does not address issues and criticism on racial discrimination in Malaysia's education system.

The Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) and Lawyers for Liberty said the caveat on non-Bumiputera students scoring 10As and above in their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination showed that nothing had changed.

PAGE said most SPM students sat for a maximum of nine subjects, and that not many non-Bumiputera students were vying for places at matriculation centres.

The groups's chairman Noor Azimah Rahim said going by the current quota system, there would be about 40,000 places at matriculation centres.

Of that number, 90% are for Bumiputera students, 5.5% or 2,200 for Chinese students and 3.5% or 1,400 for Indian students.

"Based on this quota system, it is highly likely that outstanding 10A students who apply for matriculation will already be ensured a place," Noor Azimah told MalaysiaNow.

"So the assurance that was given is all beautiful words to soothe the eyes and mind, and does not address the issue."

LFL meanwhile said that considering the small number of spots open to non-Bumiputeras, those who achieved 10As would already have secured a place under the current quota system.

"This begs the question as to how this announcement remedies or ameliorates the unjust quota system," said LFL director Zaid Malek.

"It merely creates yet another barrier of entry for the non-Bumis into tertiary education. And what about outstanding non-Bumi students who get 9As, 8As or 7As? Anwar’s announcement leaves them out in the cold."

Anwar recently said the government would guarantee that all SPM leavers regardless of race who obtain 10As or more will be offered a spot to further their studies at the matriculation level starting this year.

He described the decision as "easing the racial tension" faced by the education ministry.

However, the caveat on 10As has sparked criticism, with many taking to social media to say that the announcement changed nothing and only perpetuates a racial polemic about matriculation programme admissions policies.

Noor Azimah said many non-Bumiputera students who achieve straight As dream of scholarships from the Public Service Department to pursue their studies abroad, and placements for the pursuit of medicine.

"We have the opportunity to find solutions and prevent this 'brain drain' crisis by providing equal offers to all outstanding students," she said.

She cited as example the Asean scholarship programme by the Singapore education ministry which targets outstanding students every year.

Zaid meanwhile said that Anwar's announcement had been "sold as something new and progressive".

"It is greatly disappointing that the ‘reformist’ PM has shown no concern for the structural racism embedded in the matriculation programme as a result of the current racial quota."

He said the announcement was not only "meaningless" but also "deceitful" due to the constitutionality of the quota system.

"There is nothing bold about this decision by the Madani government as it cowers in fear of Malay conservatives, to the detriment of non-Bumiputeras as they perpetuate the same violation of Article 153 of the constitution as their predecessors."

Anwar's announcement came almost a year after he was criticised for the way he had handled a question from an Indian student about race-based quotas in the education system.

In a "Meet Anwar" session with young voters ahead of the six state elections last year, the prime minister tried to cut off the student's explanation several times.

"If you had followed the previous 'Meet Anwar' session... someone already asked that question and I have answered it. Next time come along," he said, before accusing the student of being unfair to Bumiputeras in rural schools.

Anwar then said that if he fulfilled the request to do away with the quota system, it would cause him to lose the elections.

Matriculation is one way of entering public universities, apart from taking the Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia examination set for Form 6 students.