KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 — Only excelling Bumiputera students should be exempted from repaying their federally-funded National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loans, Malay groups suggested today after noting the ubiquity of high-scoring non-Bumiputera scholars.
The convention of Malay rights group also alleged of a possible conspiracy among private institutions of higher learning (IPTS) to grant non-Bumiputera students higher grades, which it claimed could escalate into a racial issue that can disturb national unity.
“The Malaysian government must study the reasons behind the academic decline of Bumiputera students in public tertiary institutions, compared to non-Bumiputera students,” read a draft of the memorandum prepared during the convention today.
“The Malaysian government must also study whether this exemption should only be given to Bumiputera students, suitable with Article 153 in the Federal Constitution,” it said, referring to the article which safeguards the “special position of Malays”.
The National Unity Convention today was organised by a coalition of 58 Malay non-governmental organisations, and was attended by over 300 groups, to debate and pass a National Unity Memorandum draft to be delivered to Putrajaya and the Malay rulers, among others.
The convention noted that students owe PTPTN RM1.1 billion in total, and that the ethnic Chinese have the most number of graduates with first class honours degrees who are exempted from paying their loans back.
“PTPTN’s action has created some questions. First, how and why cannot Bumiputera students compete with non-Bumiputera students? Secondly, is PTPTN’s action caused by the IPTS’ ‘lenient’ marking system and curriculum until they don’t have to pay back their loans?” the memorandum asked.
“Thirdly, are Bumiputera students not the ‘cream of the creams’ [sic]. Fourthly, is there a hidden agenda of some parties in IPTS, enabling a lot of non-Bumiputera students to be exempted from repayments?”
In the statistics supplied by the National Unity Convention, 8,818 ethnic Chinese students were exempted from repaying their PTPTN loans as at December 31, 2011.
In comparison, 2,347 ethnic Malay and 456 ethnic Indians students were exempted.
In November last year, Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said a total of 412,245 borrowers did not service their PTPTN loans, with Malays forming the largest number of defaulters at 328,550, followed by the Chinese (55,445) and Indians (28,250).
There are currently 1.24 million PTPTN borrowers according to the latest figures.