MP SPEAKS I read with aghast and disappointment the press statement issued by the Higher Education section of the Ministry of Education (MOE) to refute the pointers I had made regarding this year’s intake of students into public institutes of higher learning (IPTA). 

When MOE issued the statement on August 2, 2013, I was on a working trip to Beijing, China with my fellow party leaders. I have just arrived home today and therefore it is necessary for me to issue a response to correct the rebuttals by the MOE and to set the record straight.

NONEReferring to the second paragraph of the press statement issued by the MOE that only 39 students with a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 4.0 failed to receive any offers from IPTA, I hope that the MOE will not oversimplify the problem. 

MOE’s statement is truly unjust to students who scored the perfect CGPA of 4.0 but were offered courses that were not their chosen option, more so when the applicants had clearly indicated their interest by choosing critical courses as their top priorities during the online application.

In addition, MOE did not take into account the problem encountered by CGPA 4.0 students who applied for dentistry and pharmacy. The existing system requires students to select at least six options (two courses from research universities and four courses from non-research universities). 

The number of existing IPTAs which offer these courses (dentistry and pharmacy) is fewer than six, thereby forcing students to apply for other courses in the system.

I believe the Higher Education section of the MOE has been evasive and did not look into this matter comprehensively, thus leaving top scoring CGPA 4.0 students in a serious dilemma.

‘Why falling IPTA enrolment rates?’

With regard to the fourth paragraph of the press statement which alleged that I had claimed that “only 19 per cent of Chinese students received offers to IPTAs, but many Chinese students with a CGPA of 4.0 did not receive any offer”, this is utterly baseless. 

I urge the MOE to verify their sources of information as I have never uttered such a remark before. There might have been a severe wrong translation of what I said. I also request MOE to carry out a detailed investigation and not take my words out of context.

What I had said was, “in the past four years, the enrolment rate of Chinese applicants fell from 92 percent to 88.2 percent, followed by 86.4 percent to only 75 percent this year.” The above data was obtained from the MOE or Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) then.

The sixth paragraph was irrelevant and failed to justify the so-called “baseless allegation made by me (as shown in the fifth paragraph of the MOE press statement) which claimed that the number of Chinese students who successfully obtained critical courses had declined over the years. 

I have provided the statistics published by MOHE or MOE before, to substantiate my claim. These facts and figures cannot be disputed by anybody.  

The sixth paragraph of the MOE press statement states that this is the first time that MOE has published the statistics. We as outsiders have no access to the privileged information and cannot confirm if the statistics are accurate. Most importantly, the said statistics do not explain why the percentage of Chinese applicants enrolled into IPTAs drops year by year. 

I had mentioned that before the government first implemented the meritocracy system, the percentage of successful Chinese applicants entering IPTAs was 32.3 percent but this year, the percentage has fallen until 19 percent. 

Can the MOE deny these facts? Again, the statistics which I had referred to were those which were published by the MOE.

‘MOE owes students explanation’

The seventh paragraph of the MOE press statement claims that only one percent of students with a CGPA of 4.0 did not receive offers and MOE even listed out the reasons including “the applicants’ having stated they would decline programmes other than the ones applied for, and being at the low merit level as the co-curricular activities’ marks were low.” 

I believe the MOE does not comprehend the points raised by our MCA Youth i.e. there is a difference in the evaluation system for co-curricular activities between the STPM and matriculation applicants.

Also, the information as prepared by MCA proves that there are at least two students with a CGPA of 4.0 who are willing to accept courses which were not selected by them. Again, they failed to obtain any course. Can the MOE kindly provide an explanation on this?

With regard to paragraphs 8 to 12, I wish to stress that for the past 10 years, MCA Youth education bureau has been helping MOE and the Ministry of Higher Education to conduct outreach programmes and providing guidance talks to students on improving their opportunities of entry into IPTAs based on the criteria set by the MOHE/MOE. 

In fact, we have been explaining the eight selection criteria to more than hundreds of thousands of students since 2000. If the intake results (reality) do not match the selection criteria set, MOE owes the students a reasonable explanation as to how their applications have failed to fulfill the MOE’s requirements.

‘MOE response not serious’

I wish to emphasise that if any of the doubts raised by MCA Youth are inconsistent with the facts by the Higher Education Section, we welcome the MOE to correct us. However, I cannot comprehend and/or accept that the MOE could simply release a token press statement without delving into the said matter seriously. 

MOE had also failed to furnish any explanation as to how students with a lower CGPA were offered critical courses as opposed to top scorers with a CGPA of 4.0. Moreover, MCA Youth highlighting the deteriorating trend of the percentage of Chinese students into IPTA was not given adequate attention. 

Another issue is that the students are unhappy to see the number of places for critical courses on a declining trend and sad to say, MOE or MoHE has never come up with any reasonable explanation.

MCA Youth is not trying to start an argument with anyone but our wing does hope to help students resolve their problems. The MCA Youth education bureau is willing to sit and discuss with the MOE on how to overcome this situation, and we hope that the IPTA intake issue will be settled once and for all.

Meanwhile, I wish to inform that the problem addressed by MCA Youth was not deliberately manufactured by our wing. I would like to remind MOE that the rakyat hold grievances with the student admission system and MCA Youth is merely assisting students to resolve this problem.

I wish to reiterate that when I served as the Deputy Minister of Education from March 2008 to May 2013, IPTA intakes did not come under the jurisdiction of the MOE but were under the purview of the MOHE.

I am utterly shocked that the press statement said that I was the deputy minister for this Ministry as though the IPTA intake was my jurisdiction. The intention of the said press statement is absurd as the relevant party who issued the statement clearly did not do adequate homework on the aforesaid.

‘MOE should return to dialogue’

I wish to add that when I first helmed the MCA Youth education bureau in 2000, a dispute broke out with the then Education Minister Musa Mohamad. However, after holding a dialogue session with the minister, MOE then solved the problem immediately.

 Therefore, if MOE can return to dialogue, this will indeed provide a positive outcome for the affected students. I am only speaking the truth to address the root of the problem, just as I did as deputy minister then.

For instance, last year, in the capacity as MCA Youth chief as well as being the deputy minister, I spoke up for many top-scorers (CGPA 4.0) regardless of race, thus assisting them to obtain approvals from the cabinet in granting RM49.3million in scholarships to help them get enrolled into private institutes of higher learning (IPTS) to pursue their desired courses.

In conclusion, permit me to say that if parents and students are satisfied with and are willing to accept the explanations outlined in the MOE press statement dated August 2, then MCA Youth will be spared from the tediousness of ever having to handle this problem.

Last but not least, I wish to reiterate that these students have certainly toiled for years to achieve such excellent results. Equally, their proud parents have also sacrificed so much all these years to nurture such bright students. People’s futures are at stake. Do not trivialise the seriousness of this issue.

WEE KA SIONG is MCA Youth National Chairman, MCA Education Bureau Chairman and Ayer Hitam MP.