EXAM SUBJECTS: An SPM cap may not be the best way:NST


EXAM SUBJECTS: An SPM cap may not be the best way:NST

By LIONG KAM CHONG, Seremban

 

 

2009/06/23

ALL students sitting the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination can take a maximum of only 10 subjects from next year. The rationale for the decision is to ensure that students have more time for extracurricular activities (“10-subject limit for SPM starts next year” — NST, June 18). I find the argument too simplistic. Either the Education Ministry officials have not thought through the issue thoroughly or they have lost touch with reality. Let’s probe deeper.The announcement on capping the number of subjects will most likely bring about the unsolicited decision by all, if not most, SPM candidates to take 10 subjects from next year.In all these years, the number of students taking more than 10 subjects has been far smaller than the number of students taking fewer than 10 subjects. The Education Ministry has estimated it to be about 10 per cent.

So, if all or most students are to take 10 subjects next year, in essence, there will be more students taking more subjects (from fewer than 10 to 10) than students taking fewer subjects (from more than 10 to 10).

If the ministry’s rationale holds water, we will have a situation where more students are “taking more subjects” and, therefore, more students will have less time for extracurricular activities.

As for students not having enough time for extracurricular activities, I suggest we go and visit during, before and after school hours those cybercafes, shopping malls and eateries that are near schools to gauge the real situation on the ground.

The students you meet there are most likely those taking fewer than 10 subjects for SPM this year.

There will also be Penilaian Menengah Rendah students who take only seven or eight subjects. Fewer subjects does not necessarily translate into more time for extracurricular activities.

Now, school extracurricular activities include mainly sports and games, uniformed units, clubs and societies.

Any teacher will tell you that for students to be effective and performing in any of these activities, they need to start young, probably right from Form One or even earlier.

For example: to be a King’s Scout, you need to be a junior scout when you are in lower secondary.

To represent the state in swimming or athletics, you need to start training even before you are in secondary school.

No one becomes a champion in Form Four or Form Five without going through the rudimentary training in earlier years.

So, if “more time” is needed for extracurricular activities, do we also cap the number of subjects to be taken at Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah and PMR level?

There are some who may be more active and performing while in lower forms but fizzle out when they need to face the SPM examination, but they are not those who take more than 10 subjects in SPM.

What should worry the ministry is, how do you get schools to have a larger base of students truly engaged in meaningful extracurricular activities right from Form One in the case of secondary schools and maybe from Year Two in primary schools?

How do you make extracurricular activities more appealing to pupils? Why is the present system of administering extracurricular activities less than effective?

A top SPM student, who has also won a Public Service Department scholarship, has this to say: “I was really involved and learned more from extracurricular activities in my three months with the National Service than in all my five years in secondary school.”

It is food for thought for our officials in the Education Ministry. Capping is neither the way to produce Ivy-League scholars nor the way to produce Olympic champions.

 

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