Thursday, August 11, 2005

Matriculation Colleges: Boon or Bane for Bumiputeras?

The Malaysian matriculation colleges, which offers one-year pre-university course for entry into universities (particularly local ones) have always been privileged and slightly controversial institutions as they cater largely towards bumiputera students at the expense of the other ethnic communities.

These colleges are “controversial” for two key reasons:
  1. Proponents of a “true” meritocratic system believe that the matriculation colleges provides a “loophole” in which the bumiputera students have an easier task of qualifying for university education by enrolling into the matriculation colleges. The alternative, which the bulk of the rest of the student population seeking to further their university education in Malaysia goes through, is via the two year Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) Form 6 programme.

    By having 2 separate examination and university entry qualification, the system becomes inherently subjective, and potentially open to abuse or distortion. It has been commonly argued as well as widely perceived that the STPM programme is significantly more rigourous in academic content, more extensive in its syllabus as well as more difficult in its examinations. Not many would doubt that it is easier to score straight ‘A’s in the matriculation course compared to the STPM certification.

    The unwritten rationale behind the disparity is to ensure that the bumiputeras do not then “lose out” to non-bumiputeras in the local university places, and their admission hence, “protected”.

  2. The matriculation colleges are controversial also in the fact that its students are almost entirely made up of Malay students. It was only in recent years that the entry requirements for matriculation colleges are “relaxed” to admit up to 10% non-bumiputera students.

    Such a policy is in actual fact a racial segregation policy in our education system whereby the “elite” bumiputeras will attend the matriculation colleges while the others will take the normal STPM route. Such a policy will inevitably lead to diminished national integration amongst the students of different communities in Malaysia. Not only will it reduce interaction between the communities, it strongly encourages dissatisfaction, polarisation and intolerance which will breed racially biased and prejudiced thoughts.

    The policy clearly runs counter to some of the objectives our current administration is attempting to achieve – for e.g., student unity through the RIMUP programme, encouraging national type schools as the choice of education for all communities as well as promoting tolerance and understanding within multi-racial and multi-cultural Malaysia.

The above are fairly well documented criticism and opinions with regards to the matriculation college system in Malaysia.

However, I believe that while the above criticisms are important, the more critical question for the authorities and policy makers to ask, is whether these colleges are actually helping the bumiputeras achieve the objectives they were set out to attain. Are these colleges helping the bumiputera community improve their lot by enabling more to achieve academic excellence, gain valuable knowledge and skills, as well as increasing their marketability and employability?

I’m of the strong opinion that these objectives are not only not made more achievable by the matriculation college policy, they are in fact more likely than otherwise, to be retarded by these same policies. This means that by providing the bumiputeras with the special privileges under the matriculation colleges scheme, they are actually losing out in terms of academic excellence and employability.

I have conducted many interviews with Malay candidates for positions in my company. Many of these candidates are shortlisted because they have achieved good results for their SPM. They have also attended the matriculation colleges. One of the candidates who I hired graduated in Computer Science from a respectable university from the United States. However, she admitted that her “matriculation years” were “easy” and that she did not have to study very hard for her matriculation examinations. As a result, she had an initial tough time coping with her first year in university. In fact, she was the only one of the batch of matriculation students studying at the university who did not eventually switched to other “less challenging” courses.

I had an interview with another Malay candidate with outstanding SPM and PMR grades, and speaks impeccable English last weekend. However, she fared relatively badly in her degree in computer science from Universiti Malaya with a CGPA score of 2.69 (2nd class lower). It is very rare to find candidates who had very good scores in SPM graduating with CGPA less than 3.0 in university. I asked her what happened, and not surprisingly, she was a product of the matriculation college system.

My argument for the Government and the education authorities to do away with the matriculation college system has less to do with the fact that it gives the bumiputeras an unfair advantage in admission into the Malaysian public universities or the fact that these colleges admit very few non-bumiputeras. The government should serious consider reforming the matriculation college system and synchronise the system with the standard STPM process, to ensure that the potential of these excellent young bumiputeras who have fared well in their SPM examinations are not hamper in their academic growth and development.

The matriculation colleges are hampering the development of the bumiputeras because of a few reasons:
  1. 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.

  2. 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 impact may result or have resulted in longer negative effects post-graduation as they may be used to getting more with less.

  3. 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.
Hence, without even taking into consideration the issues with regards to a non-standard university entrance mechanism as well as national integration issues, the government should seriously reconsider the policy of maintaining matriculation colleges.

The interests of the Malay Agenda, or the proposed revised New Economic Policy (NEP), will be better served if the top Malay students are enrolled into the top national schools for the STPM together with the to non-bumiputera students. The “simple” change in policy will produce within a few years, bumiputera students who will perform better at universities, be less complacent, more hardworking and ultimately, be able to capture a larger proportion of the enlarged Malaysian economic pie.


fishtail said...

What you wrote is very true of course, but it seems to me the people in the relevant ministries are right now more interested in the short term than in the long. If they don't get the numbers into the universities, they won't be seen as doing their job. 4 years later, if the graduates cannot find jobs, just blame it on the universities.

Anonymous said...


The concept of lowering the bar to generate the quantities to get into the universities will adversely affect the quality of graduates is known to the government. The critical consideration is politically motivated where racial quotas need to be met.

Faced with this problem, it would be better for the politicians to NOT do what is right but to play to the gallery and achieve glory (albeit on the surface) and immediate popularity which is what wins elections. Let the devil pay for tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

As a product of STPM last year, I actually wish to thank the Education Ministry for offering me the best pre-U program ever, Form Six and STPM despite the denial of any places in any public universities. I've learned one important lesson after the experience I've had in Form Six-there is no shortcut to success. The extensive syllabi has really taught me to strive harder in the future.

Anonymous said...

I went through STMP with reasonably good results... but was denied entry to local university. I took an alternative path elsewhere and obtained my masters degree. Now, I have no problem facing strong challenges anywhere in the world, I am already glocal malaysian. The tough path provided by the government have trained me to be a more useful person. The government can achieve more glocal malaysian faster by improving the standards of matriculation programmes to match the STPM.

I have many malays friends who is competent did not go through the matriculation programmes. Some working overseas are very competent locally as well as globally (those are glocal malaysian). Unfortunately for malaysia, they do not want to come back to malaysia to work because they said the government is not fair to the bright malay students.

Those protection policies are hinders to the malaysian future economy (indirectly). Expertise leak out to other countries, two major groups of people have sought to serve other countries due unfairness, namely the non-malays and the bright malays.

I also agree with the others that this article will not change anything because the key performance system (kpi) in the government is a major problem. Someone influential has to change how the government work is measured instead of looking a quantity only.

There are certain department of the government has a better KPI measuring system which looks at quality as the priority instead of quantity. I hope the government cope up faster than it should.

If you intend to make any difference, there are another area you need to cover i.e. suggest a better KPI measuring system for the government policies implementer for universities (especially the head of department or division). Otherwise, your blog will be just a waste of time.

Good luck to your effort against better quality of education in malaysia!

Anonymous said...

i am currently a student in one of the matriculation colleges up north. IMHO, the syllabus isnt "watered down". one has to take into consideration of the fact that this is a 10month program, whereas STPM is 2 years long. i guess, we do learn a little less compared to stpm graduates, but that does not mean matriculation isn't challenging.

one thing that can't be doubted is that matriculation is a semi-simulation of university life. we are given a certain amount of freedom. it's just that some students abuse their new-found freedom and skip too many classes. and because there's only 2 major exams - unlike in form6, you have to show your parents your report card every 3 months or so - some of us just slack off too much.

but here's a confession. I definitely payed more attention back in high school. even though i do attend lectures, i'm actually better off studying myself because I just can't absorb in lecture. until i learn the kedah loghat properly, i will really connect with my tutorial mates and lecturers.

Anonymous said...

its a shame 2 c dat malaysia lost it top students to other countries due 2 da current standard of our local education system.

once da students obtain their degree, masters, or phd at overseas, (mainly singaypoh, aussie, uk or da US & A) y would they wan 2 come back here 2 work when they can earn lucrative salaries at overseas???

Anonymous said...

i think both of stpm and matriculation are the same.As we know bumi and non bumi must have a good result in spm to entre matriculation there is no doubt that matriculation student are the best.they been trained to adapt to pre u enviroment,far away from their parents,compare to form 6 student.i think we should stop compare the matriculation and stpm student.

Japheth Lim Gene-Harn said...

I am a matriculation student and i have lotz to say about this, owh well, just incase you have googled matriculation and wondering what is it about, i have post a post in my blog about it from head to tail. Matric is awesome, depends on how u see it.Many things you cant learn in academic in matric if you compare with STPM, but there are many life lessons you'd probably miss out if you are comparing both and seeing from the view of stpm.

Anonymous said...

i dont know about the matrix it really easy..i dont think so....they have very high standard and tough exam..but i dont know why there is still failure among the matrix graduate when they enter the universities.

Anonymous said...

how to apply to entry this college? can i have the form?

curiousineverything said...

no,matriculation DOESNT need a good result to get into it,all malaysians knew what is the main factor.In fact many of my bumi friends are in matrics now,some of them even got less then 5As in their SPM,is that the "good result" for you?Besides,i would not compare matrics to STPM,as the contrast is too distinct.

Anonymous said...

this is really unfair!! is our country gona be like this for the next 10 years????!!!!! why non-bumis dont get the chance at all?? in fact, non bumi's are better than bumi's!! (mostly)