Saturday, November 25, 2006

Meritocracy & Minorities

It has often been argued by those vehemently opposed to the meritocratic system in education that the system will result in students of poorer ethnic communities performing weaker in the system. I was in Singapore yesterday (and hence the lack of posts), and they have just released their latest Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), similar to our Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR).

We all know about how much Singapore has been praised and criticised for its "harsh" meritocratic system. Much to my pleasant surprise, the top three students from this year's examinations are all from minority communities, and two of them are Malay Muslims, who form not more than 14% of the population largely dominated by the Chinese community (77%).

Out of more than 50,000 students who took the examinations, the top 3 pupils in 2006 PSLE are (scores are out of 300):
  • Rebecca Margaret Ranee Jeyaraj, 281, Raffles Girls' Primary
  • Fadhli Mohamad Ikbal, 280, Tampines Primary
  • Nur Atiqah Azhari, 280, Northland Primary
Hence the pertinent question to ask then, is did they achieve what they did because of the meritocratic system or inspite of it? I'd like to argue that they have achieved what they did with the asistance of a quality and meritocratic education system, which will provide each individual, irrespective of race or background to shine. As reported in ChannelNewsAsia:
For 12-year-old Tampines Primary student Muhammad Fadhli Mohamad Ikbal, it is an astonishing dream come true. With 280 points, the school prefect is just 1 point short of the top scorer in Singapore. He said, "I was not really expecting (it). I thought I'll get 260 or something like that. So, I'm going to pursue my ambition to study medicine."

His proud parents say Fadhli managed his time well in spite of his busy schedule, which included representing his school in badminton, chess and Taekwando.

His mother Fawziah Wahab said, "His teachers' dedication, the school giving him exposure like taking part in competitions, representing (the) school in competitions...(this has) helped to motivate him to study even better so that he can make the school proud."

Over at Raffles Girls', the country's top PSLE student was also an all-rounder, playing netball and participating in community involvement projects. Rebecca Margaret Ranee Jeyaraj said, "I studied hard, I pushed myself. I also didn't stress myself out too much, I wasn't too caught up....a day before the PSLE, I slept early to make sure I have a fresh mind the next day, so I could focus more on my work."
The achievement of the two Malay Muslim children are all the more impressive as they both are obviously not from privileged background as they attended neighbourhood schools, and not one of the elite schools like Raffles. And certainly, nobody can take away any credit from them for their achievements in a meritocratic system for which they could only have done it fair and square.

I hate to put politics into posts in this blog, but who are the UMNO heroes who were trying to claim that marginalised in Singapore? Not in the education system, they certainly aren't.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget the 2005 top scorer at PSLE was Adil Hakeem Mohamad Rafee.

Anonymous said...

Instead of being just "Malay Muslim" , we should ask ourselves the income level of their family background. I am sure if we take into account, we might discern something. Are their family poor, middle-income or high income?

Anonymous said...

malay muslim...refer to mamak?
If they are mamak...its indian with islam religion and not a malay with islam?

Anonymous said...

One thing for sure is, Malaysia, or rather BN government, and more particularly UMNO, would never dare to attempt such meritocracy system in any area solely because they survive on the Malay Agenda. If they dare to say that all the current one-sided policies will be relinquished with immediate effect, they think they will loose the power. Notice that i use the word "think". However, it is not the fear of losing control, rather, it is the fear of losing their source of income.

Fighting for the Malays to achieve higher socio-economy status is just a slogan lambasted at the community, as a cover up of what they are doing at the back. Not only UMNO's politicians, MCA's and MIC's are on the same boat. Can someone tell me while there are so many people in "kampung" living below par, those higher ranking people are actually spending money for holidays overseas or even driving a cadillac or other luxurious cars? How many people has a million that can be used as a bond? As long as you have the connection, you enjoy your life.

Personally i think the current situation is even worse than practising meritocracy. While they say the latter will only benefit those who work hard, the current practise is even worse, benefiting those who only knows how to sweet-talk. Meritocracy not only allows the best to succeed, but functions as a motivation for people to work harder to achieve what you deserve.

My fellow country-men, please open your eyes wide. The government is not helping you at all. They are helping themselves. Don't get fooled by them anymore.

A migrated Malay

Anonymous said...

Thanks to you -- a migrated Malay for saying what is truth, and nothing but the truth..

Those people who want to preserve and keep preserving their overdue
ultra vires power are RENT SEEKERS.. Period.

How can a sedan car that costs RM35,000 in international markets
can be priced at RM80,000 in Malaysia? Why? Because of AP..

And tell us what is the salary in Malaysia?

Instead, they

To me, these rent seekers are trying to squeeze whatever the system could provide without putting first the national interest..such as losing our competitiveness..

Never mind what they think about themselves..

But do take note that people are watching..

And yes they do...

"...While Malaysia fiddles, its opportunities are running dry.." wrote by Micheal..

Check this out!

Wake up! Our beloved minister! Show us your leadership and political courage of correcting what is wrong and doing what is right!

Dont blame our low standing in international ranking when you are only able to give peanuts to our academics..

And you blame them when they join private sectors..

Think twice.. think thrice!

Who are the real patriots!

Anonymous said...

Please be open minded and accept that no one ethnic group or race monopolises excellent results, as long as everyone is given equal opportunities and the right incentive to study. No child should be left out of a good education.

and read the achievements of these beautiful children, and for once, ignore ethnicity.

Anonymous said...

that minorites can do well in S'pore's meritocratic-based education system partially explains the high global rankings of NUS and NTU. The protectionist educations policies in M'sia, instead of 'helping', have actually caused M'sian universities to slide. And if the quality of a nation is directly related to the quality of the graduates that its universities produce (who become its intellectuals), where does M'sia stand?

Anonymous said...

Erm, may I ask - so? UMNO (or in Singapore, PKMS) complaints have been that Malays are underrepresented in things like top streams, universities and polytechnics - not that they lack abnormally top scorers. Not to say their criticism is justified or valid, but nontheless, this have nothing to do with their criticism.

Perhaps a better judge on that is actually measuring things like how many Malays (and other minorities) getting into universities or even specific faculties in universities like Law and Medicine.

Anonymous said...

For the record, I am all for meritocracy. But Tony, I think you got things wrong. You are saying here that in Singapore, Malays and Indians are the minorities and they have faired well even in a meritocratic system. So a similar system in Malaysia should not marginalise the Malays. Then again, the Malays in Malaysia aren't the minorities but the majority. The affirmative action plan is assisting the majority and NOT the minorities. This is ironic considering that the US has such plan as well and its for the minorities.

I don't think the case that Tony mentioned is strong enough for generalization as we need to also look at secondary and university students as well. But if what Tony is pointing out is of any indication, it shows that the minorities are well integrated into Singapore's education system. If that is the case, then the ones who vehemently opposed to meritocracy in Malaysia can only indicate that educational integration has not taken roots reflective of the polarization of Malaysian politics.

Anonymous said...

From TheStar

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government aims to ensure that at least 40% of Malaysians between the ages of 17 and 23 possess tertiary qualifications by the year 2010, as part of the Higher Education Ministry’s drive to provide equal access to higher education.

This is one of the ministry’s two focuses, the other being to increase the quality of higher education.

Currently, about 29% of the young people in the country have had some form of tertiary education, said Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed.

“One of the aspects of a developed nation is the percentage of its workforce that has tertiary qualifications.

“However, we cannot sacrifice quality although we want to increase the quantity,” he said after officiating at the International University College of Technology Twintech’s (IUCTT) fourth convocation ceremony yesterday.

Mustapa urged all higher education institutions to strive for the best quality, as it was pointless to produce graduates who did not have the necessary knowledge or skills for the workplace.

“We have to wake up to the reality that the work place is global now. We’re not just providing the workforce for local companies, but multinational companies as well.

“If we don’t emphasise quality, (our graduates) will not be able to compete,” he said.

On the number of unemployed graduates, Mustapa said that about 5% of graduates were unemployed.
It seems that they are still very obsessed with the amount of graduates as an indication of how developed we are. Although Tok Pa did mention of not sacrifising quality in the process, i am very sceptical about it. We will see what happen.

Anonymous said...

The affirmative action is really about assisting the disadvantaged, and not necessarily the minorities (or in the case of Malaysia, the majority). While Malays are general thought as the economically and educationally disadvantaged, many of the more priviledged (read: undeserving) Malays are reaping the benefits of the affirmative action policy. A great majority of JPA and MARA scholars studying abroad are from PJ/KL middle class families. Affirmative action may get more less advantaged Malays into school, but it won't get them very far. Also, it does nothing to patch up Malaysia's race relations.

Anonymous said...

Hye everyone...

Honestly, the reality in Malaysia is:

The meritocracy system is not fully adapted. As a student studying in all-bumiputras university, I know that the meritocracy system is being used together with quota system.

Correct me if I am wrong but there is still a quota system for Malays, Chinese, Indians and other races to enter elite schools or universities as well as for scholarships.

For example, if the quota for Malays is 40%, then the meritocracy is among the Malays. And things are the same for other races.

Meaning, meritocracy is still blurry here. And for the minorities, they will have to stuggle a lot to enter anything that is 'public'. Right?

As a Malay, honestly I do not want the 'tongkat'to be remained. Although it helps us, Malays, a lot, but we have to remember that other races will think that we depend a lot on the 'tongkat'. As if the 'tongkat'is no longer exist, the Malays cannot excel.

Thus, we have to revive the system. If other people can success, why not us? Do not depend to much on help, but improve ourselves to cope with the real meritocracy system.

Yes, meritocracy and minorities...

What is minorities actually?

We are one bangsa right?

Bangsa Malaysia!


vincent said...

I think you have to look further than the results of the top scorers to be able to gauge if a system is working.

Perhaps you can share some statistics and percentages of how all the students fared according to their ethnic or economic backgrounds?

Anonymous said...

The plain truth is this - there is no system that will ensure equality. No system even meritocratic will result in equality. Because equality is unachievable, there is two goals to shoot for 1) A fair system for all and 2) A mechanism whereby those who are at-threat from dropping out of the system completely be brought back in.

The rational for the NEP is not the 1) but the 2). The propaganda that the NEP is for 'rebalancing' society or 'bring Malay on equal' to other races is a myth. The myth is highly popular but its a lie. As far as 2) is concern, the NEP has done its job and add a huge cost as we are seeing now today. To ask the NEP to achieve a mythical goal is just irresponsible politicking not government and service to the people.