Indians in Malaysia neglected from the mainstream education and development of the country.


The new economic policy was launched by Malaysian Government after the aftermath of racial unrest in 1969. The main goal of NEP is to create national unity through eradication of poverty and restructuring Malaysian economy and society by eliminating the identification of race with economic function. Government implemented many affirmative actions (AA) to close the gap between Bumiputra and the more affluent ethnic in Malaysia, Chinese.

Education
Education was one of the major strategies or AA to achieve the above objectives by enlarging access to all levels of education for those disadvantaged groups especially Bumiputra students who were at that time left far behind compared to other ethnic groups. In early years after independence the number of Chinese students in University Malaya, the only public university then was more than other ethnic groups. However, the number of Bumiputra students in UM increased in early 1960s, almost a decade before the pronouncement of NEP, and the number accelerated once NEP implemented in early 1970s. However during the earlier years (after NEP) the ratio of Bumiputra and Non-Bumiputra was 55:45…but the ratio transformed drastically after 1990.
Provided below is the statistic of students in public universities for the past 50 years.

Percentage of students Enrolment in Public Universities in Malaysia
Year Bumiputra Chinese Indians Other TOTAL
1960 20 60 20 0 100
1970 53.7 38.3 5.3 2.7 100
1980 59.7 32.1 6.3 1.9 100
1990 65.3 28.6 5.5 0.6 100
2000 67.2 26.3 5.0 1.5 100
2010 75 12.6 2.5 9.5 100
(Derived from Various Reports and Malaysia Plans)
Many will doubt the numbers given above, but that is the reality. Currently we have 20 public universities including University Teknologi MARA (UiTM) which is only for Bumiputra; the enrolmen in UiTM for year 2006 was 94,931 and the total enrolment in 18 public universities (in 2006) was 331,025, therefore percentage of students in UiTM itself in year 2006 was 28.6% and if we include all other 17 universities, the number Bumiputra in Public Institutions would have reached almost 68 or 69% for that particular year. As a result, the percentage of Indian students in public institutions has diminished drastically over the last 30 years.
In 2010 Indians in public universities constitutes only 2.5% and even the “others” are more than Indians in the public universities at the moment. If this trend continues we will be the minorities among the minorities in the next 20 years in the Malaysian public universities. There is an argument that there are more Indian students in private colleges. Yes there is a big group of Malaysian Indian students who are pursuing tertiary education in private colleges.

This scenario happened after mid 1990s after the liberalisation of education in Malaysia. The enrolment of students in private higher learning institution was further boosted by the introduction of PTPTN – not sure whether it is a boon or bane for the community. There are significant differences between public and private education in Malaysia.
  1. The fee in private institutions are very much higher than public institutions, therefore the graduates will become heavy debtors upon completing their courses
  2. The employers especially the Government prefer students from public institutions due to the standard of education and qualification in public institutions
  3. Some courses offered by private institution are “seasonal”, therefore many graduates are left unemployed after certain period of time due to lack of opportunities or too many graduates in that particular field (supply surplus)…like nursing at the moment
  4. The facilities in public institution are far more superior than private institutions
Therefore it is not fair to compare public and private institutions in Malaysia.
Intake of students into Critical or High End Courses in Public Universities in year 2011
The intake of Indian students into the critical courses in public universities was at a respectable or proportionately justifiable level before year 2000 but now we are left far behind compared to other races. Let us see the intake of students into critical courses for 2011/12 academic year in public universities in Malaysia.

Academic Year
Bumiputra
%
Chinese
%
Indians
%
Others
%
TOTAL
Medicine
581
59.1
339
34.5
50
5.1
13
1.3
983
Dentistry
91
52.3
77
44.3
4
2.3
2
1.1
174
Pharmacy
151
53.3
125
44.2
7
2.5
0
0
283
Chemical Engineering
648
70.5
217
23.6
45
4.9
9
1.0
919
Electrical Engineering
923
79.4
209
18.0
18
1.5
13
1.1
1,163
Mechanical Engineering
1251
78.1
311
19.4
20
1.3
19
1.1
1,601
Law
221
60.2
105
28.6
37
10.1
4
1.1
367
Accountancy
509
63.3
269
33.5
18
2.2
8
1.0
804
TOTAL
4375
69.5
1652
26.2
199
3.2
68
1.1
6,294
(Borneo Post, July 11, 2011)
The number of Indian students in critical courses at public universities is dwindling to a level whereas we will be grouped with others in near future. If this trend continues, the number of professionals among Indians will be at a deplorable level in the next ten years. I must stress here that, we are looking at the intake of public universities in Malaysia, which are considered as the most prestigious universities in this country, therefore there are only two reasons for this situation:-
  1. Indian students do not meet the minimum required points to pursue the high end courses
  2. Indians students are denied the opportunity to pursue high end courses
Both reasons are related, Indian students are denied to pursue high end courses because many of them failed to obtain minimum required points to pursue the courses mentioned above. WHY?
The reason is clear, the difference between STPM and Matriculation….the Pre University education in Malaysia.

Look at the figures below as reported by the Director General of Ministry of Higher Education last year.
3,108 students Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) 4.0 had already been placed in Public Universities last year. All of them would definitely been placed in high end courses. In 2011, only 343 students who took STPM in 2010 managed to achieve CGPA 4.0, where the rest 2,765 from – either matriculation or the foundation are studies at the respective universities. Therefore it is definitely illogical to mention that STPM and Matriculation are equal. It is a demoralising situation – we can’t expect that all top scorers will get opportunity to pursue critical courses in public universities because they are not competing on a level playing field.

Let us revisit NEP, the objective was to bridge the disparity among the different ethnic groups in Malaysia to ensure social justice…but what is happening at the moment…the disparity between Indians (the 3rd biggest ethnic in Malaysia) and other ethnics is widening and it is not socially justifiable situation especially in education. (see the table above)

The Opportunity to Pursue Matriculation
The recent announcement by our Prime Minister, that additional 1000 places will be given to top indian students in addition to 559 places which was already provided earlier, is a commendable move for the educational development of Indian community. It will definitely help the top students to compete fairly with others. No doubt that these students can achieve good points, which will help them to pursue high end courses in public institutions. The authority must ensure that this initiative is implemented effectively.

There is a need for total transformation in Higher Education for Malaysian Indians. The current trend is worrisome and if it continues the Indians in Malaysia will be neglected from the mainstream education and development of the country. We must ensure that the future generation attain the education that they deserve; otherwise they will become the socially and economically discriminated society in this country.

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