Malaysia: Reshuffling in the education system

The government recently announced a reshuffling in the education system by requiring students sitting for the SPM examinations to take a maximum of ten subjects from 2010 onwards. SPM, short for Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (Malaysian Certificate of Education) is the equivalent to the British General Certificate of Secondary Education. It is an examination for fifth form students before entering pre-university studies.

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin says, “We want to streamline this as it will also be an easier way to determine the awarding of scholarships.”

In recent years, however, there are students scoring straight A’s for as many as 17 and up to 20 subjects, prompting many Malaysians to query the grading system as well questioning whether students and parents are merely interested to break the record for having the most A‘s. summarizes the current education system and comments on the Education Ministry’s recent move:

Maximum subjects will go from unlimited to ten and to compensate for that, core subjects will go from six (Malay, English, Mathematics, Science, History and Islamic Studies/Moral Studies) to four to allow more space for electives. All the four core subjects are yet to be determined […] The fact that a limitation of 10 subjects was introduced in SPM also allows me to think it as an act to limit the intelligence of Malaysian citizens. If a student has the capacity to take 15 subjects and score A in every single one of them (scaled or not), let it be. Why limit their potential to excel academically?

The recent move came weeks after announcing that a local student, Nik Nur Madihah, scored 20 A’s in the SPM Examination 2008. Cyza Sector writes:

If you wonder who she is, let me briefly introduce her. Nik Nur Madihah is a fantastic, brilliant and superb girl who scored 20As in SPM 2008. She’s currently the national record holder for SPM candidate with the highest amount of “A”. She’s the oldest of 4 in a simple and poor family dwelling in Kelantan […] Nik Nur Madihah story of success and the way she lead her life should be an example to everybody, I mean parents and children.

Nik Nur Madihah's Memoir

Nik Nur Madihah's Memoir

While she is an inspiration to many students, there are other Malaysians who think otherwise:

Vaijanthi: 20 A's! My God! It's almost as if these government exams are becoming meaningless these days. Every other kid is scoring a string of perfect A's. Best part is there aren't enough spots in universities for them all, so I wonder what the point is sometimes.

Pakmet: Before Madihah, there was Nur Amalina, who got 17As (or was it 18? who's keeping count anyway) and she just disappeared. It's a good thing that they're trying to limit the number of subjects now, as these kids have more in them than just studying 24/7.

Alhariesz: She ACHIEVED! Hopefully she won't be having those bad dreams saying “I wish I could have done better,” while end up being a cleaning lady

MySarawak manages to get many viewpoints from Malaysians regarding this recent change in the Education system that will take affect only in 2010:

Teo Eng Hock, a father of three, gave his thumbs up to the move, saying it would benefit the parents as it meant less pressure on the students.“Having less subjects to study will help reduce the pressure and on top of that, can help parents save money as children need not go for additional tuition classes,” he added.

Single mother Catherine Loh, however, felt the move might not augur well for the students as it would deprive children of the opportunity to showcase their talent in their best subjects.With only 10 subjects to take, Loh said some students might have to give up their favourite subjects like Art and Chinese which were not under the compulsory subjects lists.

The Sanctuary questions the purpose of taking more than five subjects:

What do you think? 10 subjects not enough? Pfft. Some people couldn't even get 5 straight As. Yet you want more than 10 subjects? Well, for me taking more than 10 subjects such as Nur Amalina Che Bakri who scored 17 1As in 2004 and Azali Azlan, 21 As in 2007 is rather a personal challenge than to break a record in the country. I mean, 21 subjects? What for? At certain point, 9 As are enough to settle for a scholarship.

Malaysia Rocks agrees with the government decision as it is important for students to understand the subject he/she is studying:

It is time for the education ministry to limit the amount of subject that a person can take in the SPM examination. If swift action is not taken, students might be misled to believe scoring countless of A’s is the key to tetiarary success but the working world has proven it otherwise. I would rather have students scoring 10 A’s who knows and understand what he is studying rather than scoring 50 A’s just to break the previous students record.

Lastly, as scholarships are awarded based on SPM results, Observer thinks it is harder now to award scholarships to the most deserving students:

Let's say you have 2 students, one scored 10 As and another 16As. In the new system, both would score 10A's, does that make it any easier to distiguish one another? Highly questionable in terms of the logic provided.

As the new system will only be implemented starting next year, there will be at least a few students who will be trying to beat Nik Nur Madihah’s record as the top scorer and receive nationwide media attention. As the new system will eliminate the ongoing rife competition among each other, are Malaysian students really ready for the change?


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