Although much of the focus of yesterday's forum was on the financial perspective, the NEP is not just limited to the economic sphere in Malaysia. No discussion on the NEP will be complete unless one evaluates its impact in the country's education system. The NEP for the past 30 years have discriminated against non-bumiputeras in their access to education and particularly, quality education with the unreasonable quota system. I've written about these policies in various post over the past two years, and I thought it might be useful to coagulate some of these thoughts to debunk the perceived benefits which bumiputeras received from the implementation of the NEP.
Let's first take the matriculation colleges which provides easier access to universities for bumiputeras, and where non-bumiputera enrolment is limited to less than 10% of the total intake. Yes, it's unfair and discriminatory against non-bumiputeras. However, it can be argued that this NEP-inspired matriculation system does not benefit the bumiputeras. In fact, more likely than not, it even retards the bumiputeras ability from achieve their full potential!
The “watered-down” syllabus and the “easier” examination structure of the matriculation colleges fail to enable the bumiputera students to fully achieve their potential. As a result, many of these students fail to cope fully with the subsequent university education. It is hence not surprising that the top students of most local universities comprises largely of non-bumiputeras. The government has in fact, inadvertently, left the superior STPM education channel to the non-bumiputeras.
The ease at which many of the matriculation students are able to gain entry into the local universities will understandably inculcate a culture of complacency, as they do not need to work as hard in order to achieve their “dream” of entering university. This has resulted in longer negative effects post-graduation as they may be used to getting more with less.
And due to the nature of the matriculation colleges whereby the teaching staff are largely defined by their ethnic group rather than their teaching abilities, it is plausible that the standards of teaching may not be as good as some of the top national type schools. Hence the top Malay students are actually offered an inferior education stream.
Which brings us to the next example – the fact that non-bumiputera academics and academic wannabes at our local public universities have much fewer opportunities of sponsorship for postgraduate and doctoral studies at universities overseas compared to bumiputeras under the NEP-inspired education system.
Given that these sponsored non-bumiputera candidates will have to return to their respective Malaysian universities to contribute their knowledge, wisdom and expertise to the younger local Malaysians - who will include a large majority of bumiputera students, is the policy of disadvantaging non-bumiputeras here, a clear case of cutting of ones own nose to spite ones face?
By discouraging talented non-bumiputeras from pursuing further education at reputed institutions overseas, doesn't it then result in fewer qualified lecturers for the Malaysian public universities, which will then retard the local universities' abilities to provide quality education for our local undergraduates, who are largely (more than 65%) bumiputeras anyway?
What may be regarded as a discriminatory affirmative action policy to support the "weaker" majority ethnic group in the country is paradoxically and ironically, at the end of the day, resulting in the very objectives of the policy not being met. By denying the benefit to a few non-bumiputeras from further education, the higher education policy is in effect denying the delivery of better quality education to thousands of bumiputeras over the years. The impact cannot be insignificant.
Hence, clearly in the case of the Malaysian education system, all the money has gone into building sub-standard matriculation colleges producing substandard students for our local universities which in turn sponsors substandard academics for overseas postgraduate programmes. The ultimate losers in these NEP-inspired policies are not only the non-bumiputeras but most of all the bumiputeras themselves!
I thought it'd be useful to make reference to a lengthy quote made by Sdr Lim Kit Siang last night from an article by Tunku Abdul Aziz on "Be Race Blind for Educational Excellence".
In the last four years, I have delivered two speeches to undergraduates at Harvard University on corruption and ethics issues. There were large numbers of Chinese students from Singapore, Hong Kong, a sprinkling from Malaysia and even China. I did not see a single Malay.And even the key architect and "partner-in-crime" for our version of NEP-inspired "Malaysia Inc" in the 1980s and 1990s appears to have repented, short of seeking forgiveness for his misdeeds. ;p
In the United States, Mara and other government-sponsored students, nearly all Malays, could at best be placed in mediocre state universities which are less fussy about standards.
The Malays have somehow become the unintended victims of misguided Malay chauvinism disguised as nationalism, the handiwork of over-zealous politicians with a keen eye on popularity.
Tun Daim Zainuddin, former finance minister argued as at the end of last year that the future transformation of the Malays hinges on education and not so much on accumulation of wealth. He said during his speech last September on “Issues Facing the Malays” that:
“The natural second phase to social and economic transformation of the Malays is only through education, not equity participation. You take care of education and they will have enough to participate in the capital market.I think it is time for the government to recognise this and the fact that the current high-level educational policies being pursued are retarding the process of becoming a fully developed nation. Government officials and UMNO politicians should not wait til post retirement like Tun Daim, before deciding that their entire career was built on fallacious grounds.
The NEP has always concentrated on equity participation of the Malays. The poor Malay's route to success will not be through having shares in the KLSE.”