However, we (and that probably includes the officials themselves) all know that we are only kidding ourselves if an 'A' in the matriculation entry system is completely equivalent to an 'A' from the STPM examinations. As highlighted by an insider within the University Malaya Medical faculty in an email to Sdr Lim Kit Siang, the students who fail in the university examinations at the faculty comprised entirely of matriculation students.
But I'm writing here not to debate further about the above issue - I really don't think there's much left to say, which won't be just a regurgitation of common knowledge. Instead, I'm interested in highlighting potentially blatant and opaque unmeritocratic practices, even within the "managed meritocracy" framework we have today. That means that assuming we accept the Ministry's premise that both university entrance systems are completely equivalent, I believe that unmeritocratic practices are still pretty much entrenched in the system.
Based on what I've read and discovered over the past few days, there were persistent questions as to why a candidate with results such of 3A and 1B for STPM is unable to gain entry into courses of his or her choice, especially since he or she avoided the wildly popular choices such as medicine? I blogged about this issue here.
As expected the above candidate wasn't an exception in the system. The New Straits Times reported that
...1,796 applicants are particularly upset. They did not get seats as they had earlier refused the option of any other subject, other than the eight they had picked in the application form.Hence, there are clearly many students with very good results who have not been able to secure any seats in our local public universities. Note however, that some of these students may have indicated that they were only interested in medicine, and nothing else.
They are particularly irked as they had good results, with most scoring a CGPA of 3.6 or 3.7.
On top of that, we read that CYP, in a letter published in the Star that he was rejected for a place to study Mechanical Engineering despite having a perfect CGPA of 4.0, and participated in the National Service programme which contributed additional co-curricular points. He was instead offered his 4th choice of Environmental Engineering.
The above cases only leads me to one conclusion - while students are offered places at our universities "meritocratically", placements at the various faculties and universities appear to be conducted in an opaque fashion with mysterious criteria.
How can a student with near perfect university entrance scores be denied a place in say mechanical engineering at presumably Universiti Malaya (UM) unless the Ministry can substantiate that all the students accepted for mechanical engineering at UM and other universities of CYP's choice, had equivalent or better scores?
This leads to the next question for our Minister of Higher Education - if not by university entrance scores which comprised of a candidates CGPA for his examinations (90%) and his or her co-curricular activities (10%), what other criteria were used to determine which faculty or course a candidate is offered?
In seeking greater clarification on the supposed meritocratic system of course and faculty placement, the Ministry of Higher Education should publish statistics of the highest and lowest university entrance scores accepted for individual courses by university. This way, if the candidate with the lowest entrance score accepted for Mechanical Engineering at UM is say, 75, then it is proof that even our "managed meritocracy" system cannot be taken at face value.
And if indeed our "managed meritocracy" is a bit of a farce, the Ministry of Higher Education should come clean with the exact criteria used to determine faculty and course placements - are we looking at some "innocent" but sophisticated random calculator or some classified and sinister social engineering programme?