SPM BM is not about the Chinese


By Anony Mous

I have been keeping up with great interest on the much-debated controversy over the whole SPM BM for housemen melodrama. It truly does seem like everybody has their own two sens regarding the issue.

I have been tempted to write in because I cannot stress how much I disagree with Tay Tian Yan’s article where he says Malaysian Chinese should stop complaining.

Sir, with all due respect, it is not a racial issue and never has been so please, don’t make it one.

I am not a journalist by any measure or means but I will call out an incendiary post when I see one.

Is the Chinese community up in arms about this? I don’t think so.

About 11 out of 23 graduates who had the BM requirement relaxation were reported to be Malay – that’s nearly half.

This affects anyone and everyone with only the O-Level certificate – and that includes Malay, Indian, Chinese and foreign medical graduates.

I’m a fresh medical graduate. Yes, I took O-Levels, and no, I do not have SPM BM.

Before anybody jumps down my throat, I have already applied to sit for the SPM BM and will be doing so soon.

I cannot speak for everybody else but let me share with you how this will affect other grads who are in the same boat as I am.

I am aware that I need to sit for SPM to land a government position. Throughout my five years of medical school, I had already been enquiring about the requirements every year.

The story keeps changing, some people say I need to sit for six subjects, some say no need.

This “phenomenon” can be seen even between people within the same government department.

Trust me, I’ve tried.

I’ve spent hours on the phone with government departments while studying for clinical exams the very next day.

Thankfully, I had people watching out for me, and gave me advice to register anyway to play safe, despite being told I did not need it.

Do you know that there is only one time in a year that you can apply to sit for SPM? This is in the month of March. If you miss this, you must wait until the next year.

Now, what are the implications of this?

The new ruling regarding SPM BM became effective this month, July 2017. Plenty of medical schools produce their graduates in this time period.

We’ve been operating under the previous ruling where we can sit for SPM BM during housemanship (another ridiculous notion, what with 36+ hour work shifts and we’re meant to study the multiple puisi, cerpen, etc, in between).

So if I had not registered earlier in March 2017, I would have to wait for next year to apply to sit for the BM paper in June 2018.

Add another year of waiting for housemanship posting, I’m looking to enter the workforce in June 2019. That is, two and a half years after graduation.

That’s half the time it takes to get a medical degree. Keeping that in mind, let’s address the “Malay is our national language” issue.


I can speak Bahasa, easy. Certainly no makcik or pakcik has ever complained about my language abilities in five years of doing clinical practice in local hospitals, even in the district.

I’ve taken BM in O-Levels, as well as the Bahasa Kebangsaan A MPQ paper – which we were told would be accepted for public sector jobs back when I was in college by the way.

Not having SPM BM does not mean we know nary a drop of BM.

That’s a crucial concept that has been presumed and has led to many misguided views on the matter.

IELTS has been brought up by so many as a reason as to why the SPM BM requirement is justified.

English comprehension and mastery is essential as the world’s medical literature, notes, drugs, teaching, etc, are all in English.

This is true even in Malaysian hospitals – everything is in English.

However, IELTS does not require you to memorise literature, or write essays on the importance of farming.

It is meant to be a practical assessment of language functionality.

If there is an option as such for Bahasa Melayu, I wouldn’t be writing in to FMT as yes, it is vital to be able to converse and communicate with patients.

That has never been doubted.

SPM BM has been vouched for to be the gold standard of BM fluency.

Is it? Even comments from the general public all say that just with memorising, you’ll be able to pass – which brings it’s utility into question, doesn’t it?

Should we consider that there are other standards of Malay that can be taken into consideration?

Especially the ministry-approved Bahasa Kebangsaan, a subject that was mandatory for all college students without SPM.

If fluency is truly the problem, shouldn’t we make all government servants do language proficiency tests every now and then to make sure everybody maintains pre-required standards?

No, Mr Tay, SPM BM is not tough. Can pass. I will sit for it.

My question is, what for?

Anony Mous is an FMT reader.

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