Matriculation woes: Failure to address the elephant in the room

Dr Harintharavimal Balakrishnan


LETTER | The recent announcement to increase the matriculation intake to 40,000 attests the Education Ministry as being oblivious in addressing the elephant in the room.

Amid the recent kerfuffle on the transparency of the intake process, selection criteria and quota system, our lawmakers also overlooked the calibre of the matriculation programme for it to be correlated with the Malaysian Higher Education Certificate (STPM), which used to be the main recognised pre-university programme.

In order to maintain the standards and quality of STPM, the evaluation is coordinated by the Malaysian Education Council (MEC) and monitored by a representative from Cambridge Assessment (as per a 2012 New Straits Times report).

Thus, STPM is well recognised by international universities, especially those within the Commonwealth of Nations, United States and the Republic of Ireland.

Dissimilarly, the Malaysian matriculation programme was established in 1980s to grant ‘privileged’ university access for bumiputeras, in accordance with Article 153 (2) of the Federal Constitution on the special position of the bumiputeras.

Matriculation offers a ‘fast-track’ route with a one-year duration in comparison with the two years for STPM. The simplified academic syllabus and lenient evaluation will entice non-bumiputeras to enrol into the matriculation programme instead of STPM.

Consequently, increasing matriculation seats will merely be a complacency towards a greater number of ‘eligible’ students to be enrolled into local universities, while jeopardising the standards and quality of future graduates.

The pertinent question is whether the education system is being fair towards high achieving students through deserved education opportunities or are the candidates hurtled away from our top universities due to a meritocracy system purportedly pandered by ethnicity preference and racial politics?

Recently, DAP Youth’s university affairs bureau director Leong Yu Sheng urged the government to halt the practice of the quota system, which prioritises bumiputera students, as the number of STPM candidates dropped from 81,142 in 2005 to 42,655 in 2018 due to unfair and non-transparent public education route.

It is appalling to note that the favourable move towards matriculation will be the final nail in the coffin for the ailing STPM programme.

Those who went through STPM to get admission into local universities understand that it takes hard work, persistent effort and most importantly, they realise that there is no easy path towards success. It is imperative that we inculcate these values in younger generations for them to be able to strive to higher ambitions.

The people want a fair, transparent and merit-based intake system for the matriculation programme to avoid future misperception over the selection criteria. The increase in the number of matriculation seats is not a holistic solution.

Alternatively, the Education Ministry should uphold the STPM examination to bring back its popularity, unless it plans to feed the local universities with candidates with deplorable foundation qualification.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.