Drive for excellence beset by roadblocks

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KUALA LUMPUR: Less than a month after the UPSR leaks fiasco, parents are again furious with the Ministry of Education — this time over its shock decision to bar Form Five students from applying for pre-university programmes using forecast results of the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM).

Parent groups said the ministry is preventing students from wanting to excel, and without giving any reason.

“These students use the forecast results because they want to enter college earlier. Our education ministry should encourage that kind of proactive, motivated attitude, not hold it back,” said Malacca Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin.

The Star reported on Sunday that the education ministry would no longer allow private institutions of higher education to accept SPM trial exam results for student admissions. The SPM is equivalent to the UK’s O-Level examination.

Students will now have to wait until March to receive their official SPM results before applying for pre-university programmes, which could push back their studies by a year.

“Proactive students are wasting time waiting for the official results. Some colleges only have intakes for January and September each year, which means a difference of eight months,” Mak told The Malaysian Insider in Kuala Lumpur.

“It makes us wonder what kind of officers we have in the education ministry. I really can’t think of any policies it has made that have benefited stakeholders,” he said.

The Ministry of Education, said Mak, has been committing one misstep after another, from abolishing the PPSMI (teaching of Maths and Science in English) in 2009, the confusion over the School Based Assessment (SBA) system, and the UPSR leaks that have forced Year 6 students to resit their exams next month.

“I am surprised that before coming out with such a decision, the stakeholders are not consulted. It runs contrary to the prime minister’s assurance,” said Mak.

“Each time the education ministry makes a decision, it will cause unnecessary anguish to all,” Mak said.

The Malaysian Association of Private Colleges is reportedly appealing for the decision to be reviewed. Opposition lawmakers also condemned the ministry’s decision, noting that it was done without any basis.

“Ultimately, the education ministry’s job is to ensure students get their education smoothly, not impose another roadblock,” said PKR’s Bayan Baru MP, Sim Tze Zin.

“This policy has far-reaching implications that will affect study plans by tens of thousands of SPM students. They sat for their trial exams in September, now that result has instantly become waste paper.”

DAP Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming said the ministry’s move is “unreasonable” and against traditional practice.

“In fact, many overseas universities use forecast results to make conditional offers to our students. This is an unreasonable move that is a waste of time for students,” he said.

Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chair Datin Noor Azimah urged the ministry to justify and explain its decision, and engage with stakeholders before making such a move. — The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on September 30, 2014.