Wednesday, April 02, 2008

'SLAB'ed in the face

This letter in Malaysiakini caught my eye today. The issue highlighted is the implementation of the Skim Latihan Akademik Bumiputera (SLAB) in regards to the medical profession. The views of this person is not unique. Check out related pots here and here. We've discussed SLAB in this blog here and here as well. The main issue of contention here is that this scheme is unfair and rewards people who are not as qualified.

When I did a google blog search on this issue, I came across a view from the 'other side', so to speak and I want to share it our readers. This post , written after the recently concluded elections, argues that Malays in Malaysia who are supporters of PAS and PKR have benefited from the NEP in many aspects, whether they were connected to UMNO or not. These include entry into institutes of higher education, scholarships for overseas education and yes, the SLAB scheme.

His views are, in my opinion, factually correct. Many Malays have benefited from the NEP, regardless of whether they were BN supporters or not. Some BN supporters and leaders might have benefited in a more direct fashion (contracts and such) but many Malays, regardless of income, would have benefited from the many social policies enacted under the NEP.

What I found quite interesting is the fact that the author is this view from the 'other' side makes no mention of the costs associated with these kinds of policies which others have pointed out. For example, is there a sacrifice in quality as a result of sending less qualified Malays for some of these scholarships? Would Malaysia benefit more from having a more merit base system of apportioning these scholarships? These questions go unanswered in his post. Perhaps these are issues which he is not concerned about. As long as the Malays benefit disproportionately from these schemes, he is not concerned about the quality of these graduates.

A more refreshing view I found was this letter in Malaysiakini, written by a more progressive Malay. He argues that it would be ideal if Malaysia could move to a multi-racial society where all are considered equal but current circumstances prevent this from happening, at least for now. He thinks that a better solution would be a slow move towards more progressive and merit based policies while at the same time, preserving the rights of the Malays in the constitution.

I am sympathetic to this view even though I'm not sure how exactly something like this might be implemented. One possibility which I envision is the slow removal of quotas in schemes like SLAB such that it can converge to a more merit based system in a defined period of time. For example, instead of giving junior Malay doctors fast track to SLAB while more senior non Malay doctors need to fulfill 4 years of service before they are eligible, policymakers can slowly decrease the 4 years needed by non Malays to let's say 2 years and increase the experience requirement for Malay doctors to 2 years. And instead of having a 90 / 10 quota, this could be slowly reduced to one that was more proportionate to the population of doctors e.g. 60 / 40.

I don't have major problems with recognizing the rights of the Malays in our constitution. But at the same time, there should be greater flexibility in interpreting and determining how these rights are implemented, especially in the field of higher education, where quality and scholarship ability are more important than the race of a person.

In regards to these kinds of issues, I would phrase the question as such: Would you prefer to be operated on by a doctor who is more qualified or would you prefer to be operated on by a doctor who is of the same race as you but might be not as qualified? Or, would you prefer your children at the university to be taught by a professor who is more qualified or would you prefer your kids to be taught by a professor of the same race who is less qualified?

I hope that the answer is obvious to most rational people.

19 comments:

lalala said...

It seems to me that the "other side" is worrying about the erosion of Malay polity, with Abdullah being moderate and receptive to the needs and demands of minority groups.

Therefore it is crucial that we continue to support Pak Lah in his moderate, liberal and sensitive leadership, in order to see further reform happening post-Mahathir.

I don't see other suitable leaders in UMNO that has the vision of Pak Lah.

daniel said...

Kian Ming, I have never studied the Malaysian Constitution. therefor can be considered ignorant in this subject. But what interests me is how the Malay rights as enshrined in the original Constitution became equated with the NEP? Were there amendments which made it become so?

Marsha said...

Merit system is the way to go but sadly, we are still stuck in a situation whereby one race is controlling the whole situation and not helping the country as a whole with the use of the quota system.

Each of us born in Malaysia has the right to education at every level (and other opportunities) regardless of race and religion as we are all Malaysian.

Anushia Senthe said...

I think the idea to move slowly to reduce the inequalities will be better than trying to completely undo the system overnight. AS a policy change though, someone better be monitoring it closely or as tends to be the case in Malaysia, it is in the execution that things go awry.
In this regard - maybe we should start framing our conversations and suggestions from the perspective of ensuring competence, credibility and leaping into the TOP 200 university ranking tables (given the reference to Medical lecturers' here)as opposed to looking at it through the lenses of one race gets all the others get nothing. Lets try to make the explanation for change palatable to all.
Which parent, sibling, aunt or daughter will argue with the logic of wanting the best possible doctor to treat their loved ones, as opposed to a doctor from the correct race.
Yes SLAB , NEP , Quotas etc etc all started with good intentions but have lead us down the path of mediocrity. Lets try to accept that and move on to fix it by not invoking similar race based logic. My worry is that by focussing on whats wrong so much and criticising all that has gone wrong we miss the opportunity to suggest and debate a range of solutions.

Anonymous said...

LKY has said it right. If we are to educate our people, we will be the biggest competitor to Singapore.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting if MOHE or the VCs in all the public universities give us data on SLAB performance to clarify the matter. Questions such as:
1 Number of years SLAB have been in operation
2 Number of candidates over the years taking SLAB
3 Percentage of successful completion of SLAB per year
4 Number of extensions
5 How many failed their PhD or Masters

cc: LimKit Siang
Tony Pua
UNMO
Lee Hwa Beng
Samy Value

Anonymous said...

I think something must be done here. I found out the for some universities the requirement is a CGPA of 3.0 to qualify.

Another thing, some under this scheme are given money to undergo language training (even in English) and they have allocation to for them to take GRE or GMAT. I have to pay from my own pocket for my GRE.

Honestly I would not want to sent my kids to public university.

tzarina said...

Can someone tell me how offering MAs, MScs, PhDs, accelerated medical, law, etc trainings help to narrow the economic standings between Malays and non-Malays?

The "NEP" has long surpassed its scope to "help the poor". It is now simply a tool to promote Ketuanan Melayu.

Swallow the pill people, for it ain't gona get any sweeter.

Anonymous said...

NEP was seen to help the rich Malays rather than the poor Malays, but was used as propaganda each time to get votes. The other races were the bogeymen to cause fear and consternation since the reign and autocracy of Dr M. Dr M ruled with an iron fist, that fist is now applied after his reign and now he is saying that it is wrong. After all it is his fist that he is calling resistance against. So it is really a case of pot calling the kettle black. Give the Badawi administration a chance really and we need a check and balance in the education system now that the composition within the system has more checks. He came in with a system that was checkered with worms and rotting to the core. Give him a chance to get it to a cleaner slate.

juraiza said...

Either way...I don't trust myself to go to a doctor anymore..

Anonymous said...

I remembered in the 70s at UM the lecturers were really good and know their stuff and the students were "mutants" and are really good.

Not now.....:((

I only go to see doctors if :
1 They are pre 80's medical graduates
2 If they have degrees from Singapore, Australia, UK ( not UKM!)
3 If they have MRCPs or FRCS not Masters in surgery, ENT, or watever from our local universities
4 If SMS aka 'space passenger'is my doctor I would run away from him

Leslie said...

"And instead of having a 90 / 10 quota, this could be slowly reduced to one that was more proportionate to the population of doctors e.g. 60 / 40."

Hmm... how is any quota---be it 90/10 or 60/40---justifiable in a merit-based system?

Anonymous said...

just support UMNO, end of story!!!

Dr.M said...

The writer of the letter is obviously not in touch with the latest schemes.Things have change and please get out of your rigid and suspicious mindset. I suppose it is fun to question and play with racial sentiments post 838. There is something called SLAI now - not exclusively for bumiputera. refer : https://online2.mohe.gov.my/eSubmission/

It is for a fact that UM Medical Faculty has employed generously non bumis in this scheme recently compared to SLAB.And i have to add in that , what makes a good and effective doctor / medical-surgical specialist is not about the grades ; more about one's ability to understand and communicate well with the patients.
I suppose the letter was written out of his own personal frustration and fury.

kbguy said...

1.Seriously, what's the difference between Public Uni and Private uni ? Public Uni is so much cheaper.
2. For and Engineering Course ( Mechanical and Chemical),anyone can suggest which Uni is better ?
I am also considering Uniten and UTP. Any suggestion out there ?

Anonymous said...

join unisel or oum!

Anonymous said...

I heard someone ask about Federal Constitution. So here it is Art 153 is the pertinent. I extracted the relevants here.

153. Reservation of quotas in respect of services, permits, etc., for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak.

(1) It shall be the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article.

(2) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, but subject to the provisions of Article 40 and of this Article, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall exercise his functions under this Constitution and federal law in such manner as may be necessary to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak of such proportion as he may deem reasonable of positions in the public service (other than the public service of a State) and of scholarships, exhibitions and other similar educational or training privileges or special facilities given or accorded by the Federal Government and, when any permit or licence for the operation of any trade or business is required by federal law, then, subject to the provisions of that law and this Article, of such permits and licences.

etc

(8A) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, where in any University, College and other educational institution providing education after Malaysian Certificate of Education or its equivalent, the number of places offered by the authority responsible for the management of the University, College or such educational institution to candidates for any course of study is less than the number of candidates qualified for such places, it shall be lawful for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong by virtue of this Article to give such directions to the authority as may be required to ensure the reservation of such proportion of such places for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may deem reasonable; and the authority shall duly comply with the directions.

If one takes the time to read article 153(1)carefully, it merely says special position of Malay/Natives BUT also legitimate interests in accordance with the provisions of this Article.
So any special position is limited to those stated in article 153.

If we look at Art 153(8A), it allows the Agong to do something upon candidates qualifying are MORE than the seats available and quotas must be reasonable. In short, if there are 100 qualified candidates 60 chinese,20 indians, 10 malay and there are 20 seats, then what is a reasonable quota to protect Malays' special position ? The key here is qualified means anyone will 50 marks and above. And this is probably wrong as if the 10 malays got 51 marks each and the 60 Chinese got 100 marks and the 20 indians got 90 marks, then the Malay are no less qualified. So what has been happening in the last 30 years is simply to lower the marks so to make all Malays qualified in order to satisfy this article. Then you could have 90 percent Malays at University, get it. Therefore, meritocracy may be ultra-vires as meritocracy distinguishes qualified and more qualified as it basis.

Anonymous said...

for me .....Malays Muslim always great nations. I doing my master degree in UM and manage to get CGPA 3.5 which is flying colour. SLAB for me..is very helpful. Malay communities always great nation inline with Islam. We are the chosen one by Allah SWT to be a muslim.

Anonymous said...

Aren't you guys satisfied? What else do you want to steal from us? And the sleeping malays, please wake up. You may end up sleeping in the ocean because we don't have any jungle to be in already. Everything is taken up. They are still not satisfied.

Fed up!!!