SEPT 28 — We refer to the article published in The Malay Mail Online titled ‘Beyond blanket quota’ by Mr Kalaivaanan Murty published on 25th September 2017.
We are pleased to read your comments regarding student intakes in public universities and employing strategies beyond quota system and meritocracy. And, we just couldn’t agree with you more.
As you can see, we have framed the Blueprint to operate from a new depth of understanding. The Malaysian Indian Blueprint (MIB) seeks to address the entire multitude of spectrum as you have mentioned, the feeder groups, which we have identified to be from pre-school to secondary education. Truth is, in between a child from a IB40 family and the barrier to his/her enrolment into a public university, is long-term poverty, and the deprivation of educational and social support from a very early age. It is a much more complex problem.
In line with these realities, the MIB was structured as a wholesome initiative where it addresses Basic Needs, Livelihoods and Education, encompassing the very essence needed for an individual or student to achieve what you have envisioned in your article.
Each chapter in the blueprint funnels towards one main aim, to empower our children and the Malaysian Indian community towards better economic and social standing:
1. Chapter on Addressing Foundations – To ensure a child and his/her family is alleviated from poverty, housing issues and family instability.
2. Chapter on Realising each Child’s Potential - To close gaps and ensure a minimum level of educational attainment spanning from preschool to tertiary education for all Malaysian Indian children.
3. Chapter on Improving Livelihoods and Wealth - To cover employment and entrepreneurial opportunities as well as wealth and asset ownership among the various income segments of the Malaysian Indian community, diminishing financial constraints that keep a child bogged down from excelling in his/her studies.
4. Chapter on Increasing Social Inclusion – To highlight distinct issues related to integration and inclusion into the wider society, thus increasing a child’s self-esteem within a multi-racial Malaysia.
5. Chapter on Delivering the Malaysian Indian Blueprint – To finally ensure that efforts taken to close the gap between the Malaysian Indian community and the national average is ‘mainstreamed’ into all relevant Government ministries and agencies, becoming part of their targets and mission in the long term.
In recent years, serious efforts have been made to ensure proportionate Indian enrolment in institutions of higher education. Annual seat allocations and targets for Malaysian Indian students have been set in Government skills training institutes, matriculation colleges, polytechnics, and universities. Scholarships, cash grants and study loans have been awarded as well via both Government bursaries and private foundations.
Except for skills training institutes however, filling up seat allocations for Indian students in other types of higher education institutions has been a challenge. In terms of applications for public institutions of higher education (IPTA), the latest data (2014) shows that Indians represent only 4.5 per cent of the total number of applicants. This is foreseeable considering that the percentage of Indian students who pass all subjects in their SPM examinations is much lower than the national average; for example, in that same year only 46 per cent of Malaysian Indian students passed all subjects compared to the national average of 56 per cent.
Of those who apply, only 79 per cent qualify or fulfil the IPTA requirements compared to 91 per cent of Bumiputera applicants and 93 per cent of Chinese applicants. Further, only 58 per cent of qualified Indian applicants were successful at entering the IPTA - better than qualified Bumiputera applicants (52 per cent) but worse than qualified Chinese applicants (71 per cent).
Meanwhile, approximately 50,000 Indian students continued their further education in private institutions of higher learning in 2014 though this is likely predominantly represented by students from middle or high-income households.
Although much has been achieved to uplift the educational attainment of Malaysians overall, the educational attainment amongst Malaysian Indians reveals much room for improvement. Young adult Indians provide a stark illustration: 9 per cent of Indians in the 20-24 age group have low educational attainment (i.e. only up to lower secondary), compared to 6 per cent of Malays and 5 per cent of Chinese. Similarly, for the slightly older cohort aged 25-29, 13 per cent of Indians in this age bracket have low educational attainment (i.e. only up to lower secondary), compared with 9 per cent of Malays and 7 per cent of Chinese.
The relatively low rates in applying and qualifying for IPTAs corroborate the fact of underperformance among Indian students at secondary level and even primary level. Improving Indian performance at these levels will help towards improving enrolment levels at tertiary level.
However, performance in examinations is just one facet of the problem. Students and parents also need to be guided on higher education options and the procedures involved as early as is feasible.
Many secondary school Indian students do not know where to go or what to pursue after they leave secondary school and many from IB40 households in particular do not have the benefit of parental or community guidance on this score. To address this, Sedic has funded several information dissemination and guidance initiatives to support students in preparing their tertiary level applications and these efforts will continue.
As you have mentioned, the low rates in applying for IPTA places is also due to a combination of low educational performance and financial constraints. Many students who perform at a low-to-middling level do not proceed to higher education in favour of working to support the household. To make ends meet. To make sure there’s meal on the table, at least once a day. Yes, harsh realities.
Thus along with other early stage measures, to increase the proportion of Indians in tertiary or further education and training, the Blueprint aims to achieve the following targets:
Target 1: Enable and facilitate at least 7 per cent Indian enrolment in all Government colleges, universities, polytechnics and other tertiary/further education institutions, without compromising entry standards, within 10 years of MIB implementation
Target 2: Ensure deserving cases of Indian youth in financial need are supported by scholarships or loans.
Here are some of the initiatives identified to fulfill the targets set;
IB40 Educational Performance Initiative
As part of improving Indian educational performance at the secondary level, the Initiative will include programs to prepare and guide students in Form 4 and Form 5 on higher education and career options, including application procedures. At the tertiary level, the performance of students will be monitored to reduce dropout rates and to provide support.
Higher Education Financial Support Program for IB40 Students
A database profiling IB40 students requiring comprehensive financial support (beyond tuition fees) will be established, with funding pooled from public and private sources.
Ensuring and Tracking Allocations
Tracking to ensure that seat allocations are filled. These comprise: 7 per cent of places in Government skills training institutes; 7 per cent of places in IPTAs and other public tertiary institutions; 10 per cent of places in Government polytechnics; 7 per cent of places within TVET Malaysia institutions such as ILP, Adtec, GMI and others; 1,500 places in Government matriculation courses; and 7 per cent of JPA, Federal & state scholarships.
Rest assured, we are doing everything we can as we strive to ensure progressive and lasting growth for the Malaysian Indian community towards the betterment of Malaysia. And, we are very pleased to receive all your feedback and suggestions as we continue to work for the people. For more information on the Malaysian Indian Blueprint , please visit www.mib.my.
* Datuk NS Rajendran is director general for the Socioeconomic Development of Indian Community (Sedic) in the Prime Minister’s Department
* *This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.