Written by Tan Keng Liang
Sunday, 13 December 2009 22:00
I refer to the statement by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that the opportunities given to bumiputeras to enter public universities should not be disputed as a racist act that favours one race at the expense of the others. Our former prime minister was further reported to have stated that:-
1. The enrollment of bumiputeras in private institutions of higher learning (private universities) is low at only about 10% as the bumiputeras could not afford the fees;
2. If we conduct a census of the number of students in private universities, there are more non-bumiputera students in private universities. That’s why the government gives attention and more places to bumiputeras in public universities; and
3. The affirmative action policy of bringing bumiputeras into the mainstream of development in the country was not something extreme because although they made up about 60% of the population, the quota was only 30%.
With due respect to our former prime minister, I would like to state that:-
1. Majority of the non-bumiputeras Malaysian too cannot afford the fees of the private universities. A large number of non-bumiputera Malaysians have to take out loans to enter private universities and subsequently, they have to repay the large education loan (due to the higher education fees in private universities) upon graduation by instalments. This would be an extreme burden to the non-bumiputeras at a later part of their life. But what choice do these non-bumiputera Malaysians have if they persist in furthering their education?
2. As the number of places for non-bumiputera Malaysians in public universities is extremely limited, there are no other options for non-bumiputera Malaysians who wish to further their education in the country, except to enrol in local private universities. That’s the obvious and actual reason for the high rate of non-bumiputera Malaysians in private universities. On the contrary, it is cynical to state the existence of more non-bumiputera Malaysians in private universities would be a good reason for the government to give attention and more places to bumiputeras in public universities.
3. No doubt, Article 153 (8A) of the Federal Constitution permits the reservation of places for bumiputeras in public universities. However, I am doubtful of our former prime minister’s remarks that the bumiputera quota is only 30% for enrolment in public universities.
Tan Keng Liang
Kedah Gerakan Youth chief