Malaysiakini NEWS

Right to education must cut across all backgrounds

Maria Chin Abdullah  |  Published:  |  Modified:

MP SPEAKS | The recent controversy over the matriculation intake shows us that it is time we start moving towards meritocracy when it comes to education.

Education is a universal human right and after 61 years, it is high time we think about our obligation as a nation to provide equitable access to higher education for all Malaysians.

Although affirmative action in the admission process is important to ensure that marginalised communities are not being overlooked, it is unacceptable to have race-based affirmative action as the way forward. It reeks of discrimination.

The current 90 percent bumiputra quota for matriculation means that there will be a lower benchmark for matriculation colleges when it comes to grading as compared to other pre-University entrance qualifications like STPM.

This also means that bumiputra students who go through the matriculation process will eventually suffer the most in universities and later in employment.

This is because they will likely be outperformed in university by those who have been subjected to higher standards of grading and therefore obtained a place at university because of much higher academic success.

When it comes to getting a job, matriculation students will ultimately be pushed aside compared to the better performing STPM students.

Must not leave anyone behind

The way forward for the Education Ministry is to work towards free universal education at public universities as seen in countries like Germany.

This means meritocracy would be valued and the argument that someone is too poor to attend university will no longer be valid.

We should not be creating inequalities in education, which disproportionately limits the opportunities available for students who have “perfect scores” or fulfil the requirement to enter into local universities.

This not only undermines the fundamental human right to education, but has real and dire consequences for our development, and entire generations of children.

While it may be necessary to set a quota for now, it must be a temporary measure to only off-set those who are unable to access education.

In the long run, we must not leave anyone behind as a result of quotas in education.

If we continue to reject a child’s ability purely based on ethnic criteria, we are continuing an outdated policy that no longer benefits its intended target group.

For sure then, we are clearly on the wrong path.


MARIA CHIN ABDULLAH is the MP for Petaling Jaya.

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

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