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Why MIC let down Indian Student in Matriculation Issue?

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By Kalpana Devi

This is Not a Kolaveri…but a genuine effort by a group of concerned Malaysian Indians to protect the interest of highly deserving students.

The recent outcry by a group of Indian graduates  requesting relevant organizations to clarify the execution plan for the recent 1000 extra matriculation seats offered by the Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Najib Razak, has invited quite a mixed reaction from various groups.Many are unaware of the entire matriculation program and its importance. Some are surprised as to why this graduates are continuously harping for clarification on how the students are to be selected and where the matriculation program will be conducted for these Indian top scorers?

So why this sudden fuss about having a transparent selection and execution plan for the matriculation programme?

Matriculation is a program which was set-up more than 30 years ago to increase the enrolment of the bumiputera students in public universities. It was initially conducted by public universities and later taken over by the Ministry of Education to ensure uniformity of the program. However, a certain minimum number of seats were offered to the non-bumiputera students in the matriculation program.

The non-bumiputera students who are not offered matriculation program most often only have STPM as the pathway to pursue their studies further. Of course, we have students from financially able families who pursue foundation programs such as A levels, South Australian Matriculation and so on in private colleges upon completing the SPM examination. However, a big chunk of non-bumiputera students still hope to pursue their undergraduate degree in the public universities due to the more affordable tuition fee structure and PTPTN loan facility. To seek enrolment in the public universities, students who sat for STPM will need to compete with the students who completed the matriculation and asasi programs. We can generally conclude that a student who goes through the matriculation pathway has a better chance of securing a place in the public university compared to one who comes from the STPM pathway due to the high level of difficulty of the STPM examination.

 Since the meritocracy system was introduced several years ago, the enrolment of Indian students into public universities dwindled tremendously. Under the previous quota system, Indian students were allocated nearly 10% seats in the public universities. However, under the merit system, hardly 2-3% seats were offered to the Indian students (based on data obtained from Dewan Negara). Also, it is worth noting that Indian students’ enrolment into high demand faculties such as the medical, dentistry, pharmacy and engineering faculties has lessened incredibly.

As a result, many Indian top scorers are not able to pursue their education in fields which will reap high income in the future years such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, engineering and etc. Obviously, being top scorers, they will be accepted by top universities worldwide; but then the issue of funding creeps in.

It is of my opinion that for a top student who is equipped with strong financial strength, the matriculation program may not be the best option for them; due to the low recognition and poor international ranking that most of our public universities currently possess.

 However, for a top student from low income group, matriculation will be their best bet to secure places in public universities. Why can’t these students go abroad too? Due to their weak finances, most parents are unable to fund the high tuition fees in overseas universities. As a student who studies abroad cannot apply for PTPTN loan in their first year of academic studies, parents will have to find funding for the first academic year’s tuition fee and living cost, which could easily cost them RM40,000 – RM80,000, depending on where the child chooses to study.

Many parents take high interest bank loans or mortgage their property to meet the financial needs of the students. This factor causes the students to be liable to a huge amount of debt, even prior to starting their career! Most parents however do not have any collateral to be used to acquire bank loans. Thus, enrolling in public universities which has a more reasonable tuition fee structure will be a wise choice. With this said, following the matriculation track will be a wise choice for these students to increase the possibility of securing enrolment in public universities.

This is the sole reason numerous  NGOs has for many years  been requesting the government to look into increasing matriculation seats for  the Indian community.

Thus, our PM’s announcement during the Ponggal Festival in Kapar in February, to offer the Indian community an additional 1000 matriculation seats on top of the 500 seats previously available was highly applauded and brought hope to the Indian students. Sadly, the happiness was short-lived when various findings plagued the offer.

Firstly, a very mediocre private university college was found to have been openly claiming and promoting that the college has been awarded the project to conduct matriculation program for the top scorers.  This caused an uproar as a group of  graduates  questioned the credibility of the private college to successfully deliver the matriculation program for the 1000 top scorers, Also, the private college clearly stated that the students will be placed in public and private universities upon completing their matriculation program, a hint that places in public universities was not guaranteed for these students. Even more mind boggling was the private college’s act to remove all information regarding the matriculation program from their website within 24 hours from the time the questions were raised in a social networking site and the director denied that the college was  awarded the project by the government.

However, the public found video clips of Memorandum of Understanding being signed by the said private college and the press statement made by the Vice President of MIC, Y.B  Dato’ S.K Devamany stating that a private college has been awarded the project to conduct matriculation program for 1000 indian students. What was more alarming was the fact that the MOU and press release was made in September 2011 itself, approximately 6 months before our PM made the official announcement. When the question was thrown to MIC, some of the you-tube video clips linking MIC to the issue went missing from the internet!!! Thanks to some ‘responsible individuals’ the videos are now back in circulation. The M.I.C leaders must realize that this outcry is not an attempt to challenge the party or the leaders. Instead the graduate group is raising relevant questions and looking at the issue at various angles; perspectives which M.I.C could have missed when the matriculation issue was mooted and discussed.

 With the good intention to seek clarification from the relevant party, the graduate group approached four leading tamil newspapers to bring the matter to the attention of the public and MIC. The news was published on the 11th of May 2012.  Sadly, to-date there has not been any acknowledgement or clarification from the political party.

Based on the survey made by a group of graduates, there seems to be many top scorers who have not been offered a place to pursue matriculation in the recent 2012/2013 intake. Some of the students rejected were 10 A and 9A students!

Hence, the public is still awaiting clarification on the following issues from the government/relevant body:

  • Is the 1000 additional matriculation seats offered to the Indian students a permanent offer which will be implement yearly from now on or is it only valid for this year (the election year)?
  • How many Indian students have been offered the matriculation seat in the recent 2012  / 2013 intake (results were released in April 2012) ?
  • How many science, accounting and technical studies seats are allocated for the 1500 matriculation seats exclusive to the Indian students? We need to know the distribution of students among the three matriculation disciplines to ensure a balanced intake to the public university is assured.
  • Where will the Indian students be placed to pursue the matriculation program? The Indian community requests the government to place the additional 1000 students in public institutes to pursue their matriculation. If space is a constraint, we request the government to award the project to top private higher learning institution such as AIMST.
  •  If the students are to be placed in top private higher learning institutes to pursue their matriculation program, will they be guaranteed a place in the public universities if they meet the required CGPA. ( The entire concept of enrolling in matriculation program is to secure opportunities in public universities and not the private ones)
  • What are the criterions used for the selection of students for the  matriculation program? We have evidence of numerous 10 A/ 9A students not being offered matriculation seats in the past and also in the current intake. We need transparency in the selection process. We have evidence whereby some 10A and 9A students were not awarded matriculation but the 5A and 4A students were offered. What is the justification for this? Is this to reduce the non-bumiputera students’ competitiveness level in the matriculation program?
  • Many Indian students failed to apply for matriculation when they are in Form Five due to the fact that they have been made to believe that matriculation is a programme exclusive for the bumiputeras. How can a top scorer of SPM 2011 who did not apply for the matriculation program in July 2011 appeal now to be considered for the matriculation program? When will the deadline for the appeal be?
  • As for the selection of the students to IPTA upon completing their matriculation program, will the additional 1000 university seats offered to these 1000 additional matriculation students affect the enrolment of Indian students who apply through the STPM pathway?
  • The current rate of Indian student enrolment in the public universities has dwindled tremendously. Previously, under the quota system, we had an average of 10% allocation of seats for the Indian students in the Public Universities. Currently, under the merit system, we barely have 3% of Indian students enrolling in public universities. What is the government’s strategy to increase participation of the Indian students in local public universities?

The prime reason this group of graduates are relentlessly pursuing this matter is to ensure that the deserving students are not denied an opportunity to grow and excel in life. We have to play an active role to assure the Indian community does not lose out in the transformation of the nation to be a knowledge-based economy. We must not be left out in the nation’s transformation to be a high income nation. It is time we took responsibility for the development of our community at large. It is now or never. Time has come!