Wednesday, June 20, 2007

University Entrance Problems

Each year, we go through the same problems. Each time, the government says that it will sort things out. However, nothing gets done about it and we go through the same problems again the very next year.

Every year, we have students who are dissatisfied with the results of university applications. They either don't get any offers at all, or they end up getting weird offers that they do not want. The simple problem is that there is no transparency at all in the selection process.

Although our government has been claiming for many years, that the placements are based purely on merit, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that it isn't, purely from empirical data. What the government should do is to have a transparent selection process. At the present moment, it just seems entirely too Monte Carlo to me.

I had always been lucky in this respect as I'd gotten my first choice from all the university offers that I had gotten. However, I've also seen friends with good results who had been sidelined. However, during my days, we were under the quota system and not a merit based one. So, we could always blame it on that fact. But now that the system is different, the results should be different as well.

The fact that students with weaker results are able to get places to study in universities while students with better results don't even get an offer, is evidence enough that there's a failing in the selection process. The simplest method of fixing it would be to just rank all the students in the country, based on results. They should have no problems doing that as all the results are computerised anyway. Then, they should just work down the list and offer the students their highest choice available.

This will fix the problem of better students losing out their spots to weakers students in the very same courses that they applied for. The government cannot really hide this as it's too easy for the students to find out what courses their weaker friends had been offered. And if the weaker friends got one of the courses on the list, they'd immediately know that some Monte Carlo was in effect. The point is that the situation now is cakap tak serupa bikin and it's just too blatantly obvious.

The technical aspects of implementing this solution isn't difficult at all. It merely involves using a database that can handle several hundred thousand records, which is trivial for any modern database. FOSS solutions such as MySQL, PostgreSQL and FirebirdSQL are just some suitable examples. Then, a suitable sorting algorithm is chosen to sort the records, which is again trivial as all the major databases come with built in sorting algorithms. Finally, the offers are made from the available choices and the number of available seats in each course is decremented by one. With present day technology, it should only take a normal desktop computer several hours to sort it all out. If we borrow the power of MyREN, it'll probably be done in a jiffy. Quod Erat Demonstradum.

This is one example of a problem in our country that can be instantly solved by the correct employment of technology. There really isn't a reason that it should persist. The fact that it does merely symbolises the utter failing of our present government in addressing problems of the rakyat. If it's truly merit based, then make it merit based. If you wish to skew the odds in favour of the dominant race, change the weights in a transparent manner. Don't tell people that it's all fair and then screw them after. It just leaves a bad taste behind and a lot of resentment.

*** photo from TheStar ***


vizard said...

Why am I not surprised? Simply put, where there's a will, there's a way. If you *want* to change how things go, you *can* do it.

This incident is definitely my N-th deja-vu.


Shawn Tan said...

our government sucks.. this is an education problem that shouldn't even exist, much less need fixing..

of course there are people who will be disappointed under any system.. but at least give them a *real* reason to get disappointed.. make the system transparent..

i don't see how problems like these serve to encourage the students to do well in school.. whether or not one works hard is not important when it's all so random..

KC said...

I read your post with great amazement and amusement especially with regards to the employment of technology to solve the university allocation problem. We all know it is not that our government do not have the money to implement such technology, but the problem is something else? So, how do solve the 'something else'?

Shawn Tan said...

What to do.. I'm an Engineer!! Hehe..

As for the 'something else', I don't believe that any system is fair. So, instead of insisting on perfection, I'll settle for transparency.

I just hate governments that lie to the people. Unfortunately, that's the very definition of politics.

KC said...

How only can we get more transparency in our country?

Shawn Tan said...

I think that there's only one way: demand for it.

KC said...

One more question. If let say U r given the full autonomy to allocated RM 3million for research for any local universities or colleges. Which one would you give it to

Shawn Tan said...

ooo.. difficult question.. if it was totally up to me, i would give it to the one with a good research direction, preferably in an area that i'm interested in.. however, 3 million doesn't go very far when it comes to chip design..

KC said...

Haha...Anyway, just a suggestion. Maybe you should put up a link on your blog showing the latest comments. That some of your interesting and controversial older posts which might be missed by a number of your ardent readers ;) It helps too to keep track of your interesting replies.

KC said...

Oh yea, I didn't state my preference for the university that I would want to give the funds to. It will be UTAR...despite a lot of drawbacks for doing so.

Shawn Tan said...

I've added a "latest comments" thingy in the sidebar.. (: