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Lamenting, yet again, on education in Malaysia

You might have read that a recent survey done by the well-known pollster Pew Research Centre has shown that in Malaysia, Muslims are considered the most educated compared to the rest of the population - formal education, that is.

According to the survey, it was found that Muslim men received an average of 10.6 years of formal education. This is slightly higher than men of other religions such as Buddhists, 10.4 years, Hindus, 10.3 years, and Christians, 9.6 years.

Similarly, Muslim women received on average 9.8 years of formal education, which is slightly higher if compared to Buddhist women, 9.2 years, Hindu women, 9.1 years, and Christian women, 8.4 years.

The Pew survey also found that the average schooling period is 9.9 years. When broken down, women received an average of 9.4 years, while men received an average of 10.4 years of schooling.

Before we move on further, it needs to be noted that data collected for this survey was from the 2010 national census and three groups were surveyed according to an age bracket - those born between 1936-1955, 1956-1975 and 1976-1985.

Why is the result so?

The majority of Malaysians are Malay, and by definition, all Malays are Muslims. So it wouldn’t be surprising to see that there are more Muslims showing up on the survey. But of course, I’m sure the survey takes a percentage comparison rather than the actual number.

Now the fact that there is a bumiputera quota when it comes to tertiary education should also be considered as an element of influence. The systematic affirmative action that is implemented in the country ensures that there are more bumiputeras in universities.

According to the Federal Constitution, Malays are bumiputeras and since bumiputeras tend to get more allocation in educational institutions, it would probably be why there are more Muslims who have more formal education than the rest.

This is a contentious issue seeing that it has been many years now where Malaysians have questioned if it would be better to have the local universities accept students based on meritocracy rather than on a racial quota.

What if the quota system is abolished? Would we see a decrease in Muslims having tertiary education and a boost in non-Muslims? And the next question is - would that even matter since it would be based on meritocracy and the best Malaysians would be graduating anyway?

I went to a fully residential boarding school and then received a scholarship and completed my tertiary education at a local university. I’m not saying that I’m not grateful, but it does sting a whole lot thinking that it could just be because I am registered as a Malay in my birth certificate.

Of course, during that time, I was just an apathetic teenage idiot. But after that, I realised and started thinking that maybe I have something to prove. So I went overseas - a neutral ground - and see if I could hack it. Thankfully, I didn’t flunk out and came back with a Master’s degree...

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