KUALA LUMPUR: Long-awaited government recognition of Chinese schools’ Unified Examination Certificate could be in sight, but political observers do not expect it to happen within the first 100 days of Pakatan Harapan taking power.
The Chinese education movement Dong Zong said it has sought to meet new Education Minister Maszlee Malik for discussions but has yet to receive a reply.
Political commentator Tang Ah Chai said there were still hurdles to overcome, including resistance from some groups, especially Malay scholars.
“They always object to the UEC, they say that it is against national education policy and they cannot accept UEC as an examination conducted outside the government system,” he told FMT when asked to comment on the possible obstacles to UEC recognition.
Previous federal governments have kept recognition at bay, but Pakatan Harapan chief secretary Saifuddin Abdullah has said that the coalition would recognise the certificate when it came into office.
Recognition of the UEC, the school-leaving certificate of independent Chinese schools, was among the election campaign promises of Pakatan Harapan and Pakatan Rakyat before. The certificate has received limited recognition as an entry qualification in Sarawak, Selangor and Penang but not by the federal civil service or national public universities.
Malay-based groups, such as Perkasa and Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung have objected to the UEC as an entry qualification for public universities, on the ground that the UEC curriculum was not in line with government education policies.
Despite such objections, Tang was optimistic that the new Pakatan Harapan-run government would be more receptive.
“Prime Minister (Dr Mahathir Mohamad) had abolished the National Council of Professors after he returned to office. This professors group was against the UEC,” he said.
He also had advice for Chinese education groups such as the United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong) and Jiao Zhong (United Chinese School Teachers’ Association) if they sought to have a meeting with the Mazlee.
They should not only talk about the UEC, because the ministry might think they are shallow, but they should also provide their views on how to improve Malaysian education in the future, he said.
Another analyst, Thock Kiah Wah was optimistic. “I think PH will recognise the UEC as they had spoken about it many times before. However, how long it will take to realise the hopes of the Chinese community will depend on whether the minister will be able to deliver PH’s promise,” he said.
Dong Zong president Vincent Lau urged PH to honour their campaign pledge to recognise the UEC.
“Even if the UEC is not in the list of what they wish to achieve in their first 100 days, Dong Zong do not see any more hurdles towards recognising UEC,” he said.
Lau said Dong Zong had already agreed to a PH condition that UEC students must sit for the SPM Bahasa Melayu paper.
He said Dong Zong had written to Mazlee last Tuesday, after he took his oath of office, to seek a meeting on the UEC but had yet to receive a reply. FMT was unable to reach Mazlee for comment.
The UEC was created by the Chinese independent schools 45 years ago, when the government stopped financing Chinese schools and preparing examination papers for them, because the school boards would not adopt Malay as the medium of instruction.
UEC holders can pursue degree courses at about 1,000 international universities and local private universities without having to attend pre-university classes.
State-owned institutions in Sarawak and Selangor have accepted the UEC as an admission qualification, and as an entry qualification to the Sarawak civil service, and to state-owned companies in Penang.