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MOE messing with our children

 | September 29, 2014

The Napoleons in the ministry continue to confirm parents' suspicions that our education system is chronically ill.

COMMENT

parents300All doting parents feel that their children are extensions of themselves. Although we may deny it, our children are our alter egos. They become vessels for the dreams we never realised. We try to give them what we ourselves never had. It gets terribly personal when the best course we can chart for them gets diverted. So when you mess with our children, you are really messing with us parents.

According to the Ministry of Education, Form Five students may no longer use the results of the SPM trials to gain entry into colleges and institutions running pre-university and foundation courses. The MOE has informed colleges and institutions through a circular that the forecast results will not be admissible as qualifying criteria for enrolment, and that only actual SPM results will suffice for admission purposes. It is understood that the trial SPM exams are not standardised and that secondary schools set their own exams to prepare their students for the real thing.

After SPM, students continuing their studies advance to either the STPM or Malaysian Matriculation curriculum. Placements for public schools doing STPM are limited as most are equipped only to offer SPM courses. The Malaysian Matriculation programme was introduced in 2005, and it is understood that admission into this is restricted by ethnic quota. Some local universities conduct their own (pre-university equivalent) foundation level courses which are tailored to specific fields of study complementing the degree courses they offer.

The Malaysian Association of Private Colleges has voiced concern that this new directive will disrupt the application process for many students seeking entry into institutions doing pre-university courses like the Australian Matriculation and the International Baccalaureate programme.

Those who have secured places in colleges abroad on the basis of their forecast results may have to wait till the SPM results are released in March or April to take up the offer. Or lose an entire year if the college will not allow them to join mid-way through their academic year.

The discontinuation of this practice, which was accepted for decades, has caused a lot of confusion and frustration amongst students and parents alike. Deposits may have been paid upon the acceptance of offers from certain colleges, and in some instances these may not be refundable.

If the MOE is aware that the trial exams are not representative of the actual SPM exam or of an inferior standard, then what has been done to correct the standard of the independently set papers? Is this a corrective knee-jerk response, to be associated with the lack of integrity in the test system as seen in the recent UPSR scandal? If this trial system is unsatisfactory as the directive implies, then why have it at all?

Waiting for answers

The MOE should have given parents and students some forewarning before taking such a drastic move as there are an estimated 30 thousand students sitting for the SPM exams this year. It is unclear why a practice that has been accepted for so long has become inadmissible overnight. What is clear is that parents are waiting for answers as to why such a critical decision has been made without consultation or discussion with the main stakeholders – the concerned parents themselves. Isn’t it fair that the public be entitled to know why that which has been “halal” for so long has suddenly become “haram”?

Malaysian parents think nothing of sacrificing a big chunk of the family’s resources to supplement their children’s education with private tuition, music lessons, etc. They feel that they are really investing in a future for their kids and equipping them to cope with the harsh and competitive workplace that follows schooling. They wouldn’t need to do this if they felt that the MOE and our public school system were adequate in the formulation, delivery and management of the standard curricula.

They want to hope that this investment of effort and resources is enough to get their child noticed in a world that increasingly emphasises academic qualifications as a first point of reference, just to get an interview for a place in a good university or for a job.

They simply assume there will be a level field, not caring even to believe otherwise. So parents selflessly sacrifice everything to prepare their children to compete in the harsh tomorrow, knowing full well that they cannot be there when their children finally step out alone into adulthood.

That so many parents continue to send their kids to private institutions or overseas for their tertiary education is testament to their confidence or the lack thereof in the education they can expect their children to receive locally. The Napoleons in the MOE continue to confirm parents’ suspicions that our education system is chronically ill. If it were a commercial enterprise it would need a total top to bottom revamp, just like MAS. Unfortunately, it would require much more than mere billions in cash to put right what these little Napoleons have messed up.


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