The Johor Umno Liaison Committee Saturday criticised the meritocracy system introduced by the government, saying that it resulted in a fall in the achievement of Malay students and is a form of discrimination and oppression.What? Hello? Does this statement even merit a response? Can the argument be any more oxymoronic?? Gosh... and that's all my respect for the Johor menteri besar (MB) down the drain (not much of it left anyway, since his recent comments on UMNO money politics).
Its chairman, Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman, who is also the Johor Menteri Besar, said it had adversely affected tens of thousands of Bumiputera students in the rural areas who had been denied quality education in view of the "uneven competitive field".
Datuk Abdul Ghani's contention was that "the system had resulted in a fall in the number of Malay students inmedicine, engineering, pharmacy, dentistry and other competitive fields... citing the situation at the University of Malaya where the number of Bumiputera students who studied medicine, pharmacy, law and buisness had declined." He added that:
"Although there was an increase in the number of Malays in accountancy, architecture, law and other fields from 1970 to 2002, the Bumiputeras account for only 20 percent in accountancy compared to the non-Bumiputeras, medicine and dentistry (36 percent), engineering (26.5 percent) and registered lawyers (35 percent). Hence, Malay graduates who were jobless or working below their capacity had increased in 2003."
Let's get a few facts straight:
- If a student, irrespective of race, is unable to obtain the necessary grades to qualify for a "complex" faculty, for e.g., medicine, even if granted special exemptions, will likely perform poorly and become a lousy, say, doctor.
- Similarly, if these poor "jobless" graduates (who are likely to have obtained a degree from the Business, Social Science and Computer Science faculties) can't get a job in a fairly decent job market, putting them through to medicine and dentistry will just likey make them drop outs - or worse, incompetent dangerous "doctors".
- Meritocracy in itself, does not and cannot cause "a fall in the achievement" of anybody, whether a Malay or an Indian or a Chinese! Meritocracy is defined as "a system in which advancement is based on individual ability or achievement." Instead, the fact that Datuk Abdul Ghani recognises the concept of "achievement", is acceptance of the definition of Meritocracy.
- How in the world does Meritocracy cause "discrimination and oppression"? If Datuk Ali Baba is a good businessman, he makes more money than a less astute businessman, Mr Harry Lee, is that "discrimination and oppression" against Harry? Datuk Abdul Ghani is obviously an achiever, and hence he is the MB of Johor, but does that mean that its discrimination and oppression against Datuk Shahrir Samad who remains just an MP of Johor Bahru? Is Datuk Abdul Ghani now promoting the socialist-communist concept where "all animals are equal" irrespective of talents, achievement and intelligence?
- Even the Johor MB's use of statistics is selective. Read my blog post "Some Interesting University Entrance Statistics" to see that Bumiputeras easily outnumber non-bumiputeras in courses such as medicine. In addition, the rate of increase in Bumiputera intake is much higher than that of non-bumiputeras.
- What's this "uneven competitive field" that Datuk Abdul Ghani is talking about? The fact that the Bumiputeras enjoy special privileges which makes access to the public universities easier, such as through the matriculation colleges, does indeed make our education system an "uneven competitive field". But it's definitely not in the favour of the non-bumiputeras. Does Datuk Abdul Ghani want to make "even" the competitive field by lowering marks for bumiputeras to obtain "A" grades, and making it more difficult for non-bumiputeras to obtain a even a "C"?
Make no mistake - I do recognise that there are limitations to a 100% meritocratic system - for e.g., I believe that students from low income backgrounds should be given certain privileges. If these "tens of thousands of Bumiputera students from rural areas" are from the low income backgrounds, they should be provided with special assistance for their primary and secondary school education to enable them to compete for university placements. I would even go so far as to endorse a minimal affimative action based on race to ensure that all races will be significantly represented in our public university system.
But what Datuk Abdul Ghani is whining about just flies in the face of what both our Prime and Deputy Prime Minister have been preaching in recent months - "Don't blame fate for failures" and "Don't be mere brokers".
We can only hope that the Prime Minister who is expected to close the two-day Johor Umno Convention attended by 579 delegates from 26 divisions in the state, will knock some sense into the Johor MB.