KUALA LUMPUR, April 25 ― Education groups want matriculation and the Form Six STPM exam to be replaced with a single standard test for all students.
They pointed out that the government’s decision to raise the student intake for the matriculation programme by 60 per cent from 25,000 to 40,000 would only mean fewer admissions for STPM graduates if the total number of places in public universities remained.
“More successful matriculation students will win spots, and with a 60 per cent bump in matriculation intake, there'll be more high-scoring matriculation leavers, meaning competition for key courses like medicine, dentistry and law will heat up.
“And may be grounds for more top STPM students not getting their first choice,” said Praba Ganesan, head of Kuasa, an organisation that does democracy education.
He cited an STPM perfect scorer getting an offer for applied science, for example, instead of the desired medicine course.
He told Malay Mail that Malaysia should adopt a single examination to replace the current system of two different pre-university syllabi and tests comprising STPM and matriculation for entry into public university, with the former perceived to be much more difficult than the latter.
Although STPM is open to all Malaysians, matriculation is mostly reserved for Malays.
Non-Malays are forced to take expensive pre-university programmes at private colleges if they do not want to go for the difficult but free Form Six education in government school.
Public perception that non-Malays rarely get their desired courses at public universities, despite scoring excellent results, also contributes to their shift to private education.
Racial quotas for admissions into public university then, Praba said, should be dismantled in stages.
“Can't consciously separate the syllabus demands and then equate one as equal as the other. It's ludicrous.
“Maybe if the syllabus and examinations are the same, people won't lobby for matriculation spots other than for the boarding school feel,” said Praba.
Education Minister Maszlee Malik’s announcement yesterday to expand matriculation programmes retained the 90 per cent Bumiputera quota, a decision which DAP leader and Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy criticised.
When asked if the government should simply have all students take STPM if they want to enter public university, Praba said it was up to the Education Ministry to decide the level of difficulty for any standardised test it wished to implement.
Malacca Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin also called for a single standardised test for students who want to enter public university.
He pointed out that STPM students faced a tougher syllabus than their matriculation counterparts and that for co-curriculum marks, STPM students must compete at the district and state levels first, unlike matriculation students who can immediately compete at the national level that earns them higher marks.
Form Six education is also one and a half years long, compared to one-year matriculation programmes.
“Revert back to one common stream. From there, maybe give some leeway to the B40 (bottom 40 percent) to qualify for university,” Mak told Malay Mail.
He added that abolishing matriculation and using STPM only for everyone would spark uproar, even though the pre-university qualification ― which is accepted at private colleges and even foreign universities unlike matriculation ― used to be the only path to public university in Malaysia.
“Matriculations was created to help only Bumi and an easier path to university. If revert, there will be a hue and cry.”
Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chair Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said matriculation was not an issue because 160,000 university graduates, mostly from public institutions, were currently unemployed.
“The key problem which needs to be addressed is English language proficiency, in depth knowledge of a particular expertise, mediocrity, industry irrelevant and academic corruption among others,” she told Malay Mail.
“In the UK, students are turning away from enrolling in universities as apprenticeships have become more popular. The reason is because this channel appears to be a quicker avenue to secure a job and also to avoid being saddled with study loans.”
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