I T was reported recently in the Tamil press that the Indian community was shocked at the low two to three per cent intake of Indian students into public universities.
Indians are faring badly under the meritocratic system used for university intake. Previously, under the quota system, about five to 10 per cent of the students were Indians.
Indian community leaders had agreed to a meritocratic system, thinking that more Indian students will be able to enter universities.
But it must be noted that Indian students are mostly average achievers.
The mostly average results in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia and Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia examinations are not enough to secure places in public universities. In fact, Indian students did well in these exams when English was the medium of instruction, and that was a good 40 years ago.
The remove class system is also partially to blame for this as well as the high number of school drop-outs in Form Three.
The remove class should concentrate only on Bahasa Malaysia and English, and not on other subjects, which will be learnt when the students go to Form One.
All the five to six hours in school should be allocated for these two languages to improve students' proficiency in the languages that are mainly used from Form One onwards. The syllabus of the remove class should be revamped to emphasise more on English and Bahasa Malaysia.
Deprived of public universities, Indian students have no option but to opt for the costly private universities. Even a diploma programme now costs between RM30,000 and RM50,000, and how many Indian parents can afford these hefty sums?
MIC should ask the government to reinstate the quota system for Indians as it was an affirmative action policy to help the community.
Community leaders need to have the foresight and vision. When can the Indian community prosper if only a small fraction make it to tertiary institutions?
Another issue concerning Indians is scholarships. When the issue of scholarships is brought to the fore after the results of SPM and the STPM are announced, there is a lot of controversy and criticism surrounding it.
The government must ensure that there are two categories of scholarships -- one for academic excellence and the other for affirmative action.
Very few Indians make it into the excellence list and their best chance is in the second category. The second category is to help students with average results (a few distinctions) who need help for social mobility for themselves and their families.
Nowadays, it is the well-off students who are scoring top results and availing themselves of the scholarships. For poorer students, it is a big deal even to score a few distinctions given their pressing circumstances.
The government has to set aside 1,000 scholarships for the merit category and at least 2,000 for the affirmative action category.
The government can reduce costs by opting for local public and private universities for the scholarships as a number of well-known foreign universities have opened their branch campuses here and the quality will be the same as in the parent universities.
The government must ensure that government-linked companies and the corporate sector are fair in issuing scholarships.
Very few Indian students get these scholarships and it is mere tokenism that is practised here.
Even the plantation firms, for the development of which Indians slogged for more than a century, hardly give scholarships for deserving Indian students.
Indian community leaders need to be proactive and farsighted to ensure that all impediments that hamper the progress of Indian students are done away with.