Dr Maszlee, famously known as the “Shoe Minister”, should be given a medal for his excellent job in shooting his own foot without fail. The “accidental” education minister gained fame after his proposal on July 20 last year to switch students’ white shoes to black. It’s a great mystery how Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad headhunted this exquisite talent from his PPBM party.
Less than a year after his black shoe fiasco, the education minister has done it again. In his rush to defend the discriminatory matriculation programme’s special preference for Bumiputera (son of the soil) students, he had argued that if the critics did not want the matriculation quota system, then job opportunities should not be denied to Bumiputera because they do not speak Chinese.
It was like former Prime Minister Najib Razak argues that if people want more free cash, then they should allow him to steal even more money from the national coffers. As silly and bizarre as the argument may sound that roughly describes how clueless and ignorant the Education Minister Dr Maszlee was when he made the threat.
Yes, Maszlee’s argument was not even a justification, but sounded like a threat. In fact, it was an extortion or blackmail – if the people wanted to get rid of the discrimination in the matriculation system, then Bumiputera should be given jobs in the private sector, even if most of those half-baked graduates could not speak proper English, let alone proficiency in Mandarin.
Earlier this month, Mahathir confirmed the dirty dark secret everyone has been suspected for decades. The matriculation programme was designed to help low-performing ethnic Malays enter local public universities. The PM admitted it was actually “back door” to increase university intake for the ethnic Malay. In essence, it was to make the Malays feel proud of having a piece of degree.
Mahathir said – “We decided to have matriculation classes because we found Malays did not take the Higher School Certificate and cannot enter the university. So we provided a back door for them. It was entirely meant as a back door for the Malays.” The now-defunct Higher School Certificate is now called Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) – taken by Form 6 students.
The HSC (now STPM) was the precursor to the GCE A Level in the UK. STPM is one of the two major pre-university systems for admission to Malaysian public universities. The other is the one to two-year matriculation programme. Since 2005, the selection process for matriculation programme is done through a race-based quota system, where 90% of the places are reserved for Bumiputera students.
Some might argue that the matriculation programme was created to help the poor Bumiputera, especially those from rural area. Indeed matriculation is one of the most sought-after pre-university programmes among Malaysians as it is an extremely cost-effective route into tertiary education. All you need to pay is the registration fee, ranging from RM580 to RM530.
Other fees and costs, including generous allowance, are subsidized by the government. While it’s true that matriculation provides cost-effective education option for poor Bumiputera students, the biggest advantage is the express-route to public universities for the so-called “son of soil”. Clearly, it was designed exclusively to discriminate against non-Bumiputera students who are forced to take the STPM route.
Because matriculation is applicable for SPM-leavers, non-Bumiputera students will be left fighting tooth and nail every year for the limited 10% places allocated. Going through STPM route will take an extra 2 years of study before they can apply to enter public universities. From the beginning, the ethnic Chinese and Indian students are fighting a losing battle just to get a decent education.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Education Minister Maszlee might be clueless, or he was just plain racist, but the fact remains that the billions of Ringgit spent on subsidizing the matriculation programme is derived from taxpayers’ money every year. According to Mahathir himself, 90% of income tax is paid by the Chinese. Yet, it’s 90% of the Malays who get the free seats to matriculation.
That’s right, unlike the minority Chinese and Indian, the majority “ethnic Malay” has the option of paying “zakat” as an alternative to income tax. The zakat paid will go to the Islamic cause while the tax the Chinese pay goes to paying the salaries of the 1.6 million civil servants, who happens to be mostly Malays, as well as other expenses such as the subsidy for matriculation.
When Dr Maszlee whines, moans and bitches that job opportunities should not be denied to Bumiputera because they do not speak Chinese, we assume he was referring to the private sector. Its extraordinary funny that the education minister didn’t mention about the bloated civil service where close to 80% of the jobs goes to Malays or Bumiputera – denying jobs for “Bahasa-speaking” non-Malays.
The private sector is often linked to businesses owned by ethnic Chinese community. But the primary objective of private businesses is to make profit. Perhaps the education minister hasn’t a clue of how the real business world functions. The business world has nothing to do with your ethnicity, but everything to do with your capability, education, communication skill, etiquette, soft skill and whatnot.
More importantly, unlike the matriculation programme, private sector does not get government subsidies to run their business, but depends on the stakeholders’ own capital and hard-earned money. If one of the requirements for a job is to be able to speak or write Chinese, that’s because the organizations require such skill set to improve customer service relationships due to their business clientele.
It’s the same case with the CIA’s recent career advertisement requiring proficiency in “Bahasa”. Perhaps Maszlee should criticize the CIA for being discriminatory in recruiting “Bahasa-speaking” agents. Can Maszlee explain why the employments within GLCs (government-linked-companies) prefer Malays, despite ethnic Chinese and Indian possess a great command of Malay language – both spoken and written?
So, it’s alright for civil service and GLCs to reject non-Malay job seekers despite them having excellent written and spoken skills in Malay language, but not alright for private sector to reject Malay job seekers because they could not speak or write Chinese, which is required to ensure competitiveness and functional of the business? Even promotions for non-Malay within civil service are very rare.
When Mahathir exposed that the Malays did not take the HSC and cannot enter universities, it’s as clear as crystal that the Malay students left to do matriculation are sort of rejected students who are not smart enough to further higher education overseas, of which is government-sponsored too. Hence, this category of low-performing ethnic Malays are given the second best prize – guaranteed local university degrees.
The real reason Maszlee could not give a satisfactory justification why matriculation still adopts discrimination and racism in its enrolment process is because the majority of the Malay students could not compete fairly with Chinese and Indian students. If matriculation is open to everyone without the quota system, it would make Malay students look inferior compares to other ethnicity.
Education Minister Maszlee was definitely a fool for linking the matriculation intake quota with language requirements for jobs as both are different issues. It would be a different matter altogether if “zakat” contributed by Malays are used to subsidize the matriculation programme. When you use taxpayers’ money to run matriculation, it’s hard to argue why 9 out of 10 students must be Malays.
Of course, Maszlee was playing the race card to portray himself as a hero of the Malay community. But that would make him indifferent from the racist UMNO politicians who had been toppled. He should be careful what he wishes for. Like Najib Razak, who used the wrong strategy, Maszlee may lose not only the Chinese and Indian votes, he probably will fail to attract Malay voters at the same time.
The simple-minded education minister also said many non-Malays were well-off and could afford to send their children to private schools. Obviously, the racist Maszlee fails to understand that not all Chinese or Indian parents can afford to send their children to private universities. Most often than not, they have to sell assets just to ensure their kids get a quality education.
More importantly, Maszlee’s shallow-minded and racist perspective in fixing the quota system will worsen the quality and marketability of the Malay students. It’s exactly people like Maszlee who contributes to the PTPTN (National Higher Education Fund Corporation) problems. How can they pay their loans when 1 out of 5 of 250,000 graduates produced every year – mostly Malays – is unemployable?
Instead of reforming the education system, Education Minister Maszlee plays with the colour of shoes and now racial cards. If he could not see the idiocy in linking matriculation quota to language requirements for jobs, chances are he is still waiting for the next clue or instruction from Mahathir on how to overhaul – even revolutionize – the existing broken education system.
Perhaps Maszlee, instead of beating around the bush, should ask himself this question – will the Malay students become more employable and valuable if they learn Chinese? The world does not revolve around Malays. The private sector does not owe them a living. Perhaps he still couldn’t figure out why more than 80,000 Malay school children are currently studying in vernacular “SJKCs” schools.
Source : Finance Twitter