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LETTER | Paradox of quality and inequality in education

LETTER | Matriculation programme quota systems have been a point of contention in Malaysia for some time and with the recent announcement by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, the conversations on this matter have been reignited.

His speech announced that all students who achieve 10As and above in SPM will be guaranteed a spot in matriculation colleges, irrespective of their race or background.

This is aligned with the Madani concept and the United Nations Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs) under the pillar of Quality Education which underlines the objectives of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality educational opportunities for all.

This decision should be applauded as it would increase the allocation for non-bumiputera students and is a significant move towards creating a more inclusive and merit-based education system in Malaysia. However, this decision may also present several challenges:

Achieving holistic education

The focus on straight As and academic prowess is seen as the main criteria for admission and there is a need to include alternative indicators.

Incorporating the Madani philosophy of inclusive and equitable practices requires a holistic shift towards the admissions criteria, taking into consideration extracurricular achievements, leadership qualities, and community involvement.

In the long term, this will lead to a holistically balanced Malaysian human capital in achieving the nation's agenda.

Inequality of education

With the national urban-rural divide in Malaysia at 77 percent to 23 percent as of 2020, this new decision will further broaden the gap due to the lack of educational opportunities, infrastructure and quality education in rural areas.

In the recent Digital Competency Score (DCS), rural school students scored lower compared to the national average, leading to a disadvantage in digital skills needed in our technologically driven world today.

Inadvertently, a move to increase allocations in matriculation programmes will potentially pose a challenge to rural students with these systemic disparities continuing.

It is imperative that the government considers a more nuanced approach towards educational allocations into matriculation programmes.

This can be done by establishing feedback mechanisms to gather input from students, parents, academics, and other stakeholders to continuously refine and improve the admissions process.

The government should also develop clear guidelines and transparently communicate the criteria and process for matriculation admissions to all stakeholders.

By implementing these strategies, Malaysia can move closer to achieving a meritocratic education system that provides equal opportunities for all students irrespective of their race and socioeconomic status to be given equal opportunity to succeed based on their abilities and efforts.

PREMA PONNUDURAI is director of the Education for All Impact Lab at Taylor’s University.

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

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