Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Limit on SPM subjects to 10 not a good idea

NILAI: The days of students taking up to 20 subjects in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination are over. Next year they will be allowed a maximum of only 10 subjects.[NST, 4/6/2009]

The government's decision to cap the number of subjects taken in the SPM examinations to 10 has received a myriad of reactions from the public. In the wake of mounting public dissatisfaction over how public scholarships are offered, the government has attempted to restore some 'quality' to our education system rather than allowing the 'quantity' of A's to continue to dictate one's level of success. But is limiting the number of examination subjects the best solution to the problem?

In Malaysia, students who have completed their fifth form education are required to take the SPM or the Malaysian Certificate of Education examination. It is equivalent to the British O-Levels.

The current rule of thumb among students is that the more A's you get, the higher your chances of getting a scholarship. Here, the 'quantity (of A's)' is of higher importance when really, the 'quality' of one's overall achievement is what merits a coveted scholarship.

Limiting the number of SPM subjects may seem as a plausible remedy to the problem but I feel it is a short-sighted solution which may not bring the intended results in the long run. The government's decision is a good one but certainly not the best in my books.

Firstly, I do not see why it would be a wise move to stop students from learning more. Learning should be an expandable act where every student should have the freedom and liberty to learn as much as they want and can. It is nothing wrong for a student to take 'extra' subjects in school and with that, I would also like to say that I do not believe that students who have gotten 17 or 21 A's (a ridiculous amount I'd say) have committed a crime. Thus, I feel the government should not punish them of their own success. This is very important if we believe in a progressive society.

In my opinion, the real solution lies not in the students but the system itself. Why treat the leaves when the root has the problem? If this whole conundrum is caused by the criteria being used by the Public Service Department when granting scholarships, then it is only logical to fix that - not the students. Instead of capping the number of SPM subjects, I would suggest a standardized evaluation of a student's work. A Grade Point Average(GPA) system would serve both the students and government's best interest.

A GPA system allows students to take as many subjects as humanly possible but his or her overall scores are standardised to an average value - thus providing an even playing field to students who do not have the privilege of taking as many subjects in the examination. When such a system is in place a student who has scored, say 10 A's out of 10 subjects would have equal chances with one who has 17 straight A's when they both apply for scholarships.

That being said, I feel we should not discourage students from outdoing themselves by capping the number of examination subjects. Instead, the government should strive to improve the quality of our education system and review redundant subjects that serve no purpose but to produce 'parrots' and 'tape recorders'. I would not say the Malaysian education system is abysmal but neither would I boast to the world it is world-class. But what the government can do is to inspire students to push their intellectual limits and at the same time, lobby to better our books, teachers and schools.


  1. noobie said...

    i don't think it's as bad as it looks. i feel that there should be a limit of subjects to take, or at least a maximum number of subjects to be considered i.e counting the best 10 subjects only.

    TBH, if there isn't a limit, it's just a matter of time before a "genius" gets 21 A's. CGPA system is alright but it's still unfair when someone gets 15 A's compared to another who gets 9 A's.

  2. jonathan ong said...

    I think you have missed the point, noobie. I feel having the CGPA system would be fair to all. Regardless of whether one takes 17 or 10 subjects, their scores will be standardized to say, X/5.0.

    But it does goes to mean that students with the ability to take more than 10 subjects have the advantage in having a better CGPA score. But if that student is capable of doing so, why stop him or her. Being smart isn't exactly a bad thing and if someone is smarter, then it's his/her gain.

    And the reason why we have so many 'geniuses' scoring ridiculous amounts of A's could also imply that we ought to dig deep and at least understand why are there so many of these 'geniuses' in the first place. So I think a review of the quality of subjects being taught in school should be the priority. We all have been through the hells of memorizing pointless "Moral Values" and honestly, I don't see what I've gained from subjects like Pendidikan Moral

  3. noobie said...

    well, when someone scores 17A's and another scores 9 A's, cgpa is the same but who would score a better chance for a single spot scholarship? that would create another argument isn't it?

    STPM is currently using the system that i replied just now if im not wrong, you're allowed to take 5 subjects but only the best 4 is considered. again, this system also has its flaws, someone could take 17 subjects and score 9 A's and fail the other 8, but if only the best 9 is considered then he's safe.

    you raised up an interesting point that the quality of marking scheme/ quality of the paper should be the one getting reviewed and not the pointing system itself. my parents always said that their exams were way much toucher than now. That would be the easier alternative, stick to the current system but produce more quality papers?