(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): The special formula and explanation given by the
director of the Higher Education Department of the Education Ministry, Professor
Dr. Hassan Said to match the matriculation results and the Sijil Tinggi
Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) grades for the merit-based university entrance
selection system this year has given meritocracy a bad name and failed
completely to make a convincing case that it is not an exercise akin to
comparing an apple with an orange – and therefore highly unprofessional,
arbitrary and unfair.
The facetious and fallacious remark by Hassan
that in the special formula used, STPM holders have an advantage over
matriculation students and that it is the matriculation students who should
protest against the formula used, and not the other way round, to try to score a
cheap but non-existing point has fallen flat and
was in very poor taste which
served only to undermines the
credibility of the formula and explanation.
If the STPM grades have an “advantage” over
the matriculation results in Hassan’s meritocracy system, is he going to
recommend to the Cabinet that the bumiputra students should henceforth be
sitting for the STPM examination while the matriculation courses should be open
to all other students so that the bumiputra students can enjoy the
I am sure that would be furthest from Hassan’s
mind – which itself demolishes his facetious remark that STPM holders have an
advantage over matriculation results.
Hassan’s argument is also based on the fallacy
that the government has discovered a fair and just formula to compare the
results of two completely different examinations.
Hassan’s contends that STPM holders have an
advantage over matriculation students because “a weaker grade in STPM gets the same points as a
higher grade in matriculation” – as for instance, the minimum requirement
for STPM, which is an E, is put on
par with the passing grade for matriculation, a C, and both awarded two points.
I am shocked as to how a professional like
Hassan can make the unprofessional comment that STPM holders have an
“advantage” over matriculation results simply because STPM’s E is put on
par with matriculation’s C, when both are the respective minimum pass marks
– as if E in one examination is automatically lower than C of another
Whether the STPM’s E is lower, equal or higher
in standard than matriculation’s C does not depend on the alphabet chosen to
describe the minimum pass mark, but on the actual comparative academic standards
attained by the students at their respective minimum pass mark.
For instance, at the highest scale of the two
grades, matriculation “A” is equalized
with STPM “A”, both given four points; while matriculation “B”
is equalized with STPM “C” at three points.
But is the
matriculation “A” equal to the STPM “A” in academic standards
attained? If so, Malaysia has
chanced on a miraculous education programme which should be the boon to the world, as an one-year academic programme meant to assist
academically weaker students to enter universities have turned out to be a
superior programme as to match the two-year STPM course, acknowledged as one of
the most internationally difficult examinations in the world!
is the matriculation “B” equal to the STPM “C” as both are given
three points, or should one think like Hassan that the matriculation
grade is higher than the STPM grade simply because B is higher than C?
May be the best way to resolve this conundrum of
the comparability of the STPM and matriculation grades used in the “special
formula” is to hold a test whereby 200 students each from STPM and
matriculation grades at each level with 4, 3 and 2 points respectively take a
common examination so as to determine from
the results whether there is comparability or whether the special formula used is an exercise
comparing an apple with an orange!
It is quite absurd to compare the results of the
STPM and matriculation courses as they are completely different systems, with
different kind of evaluation procedures. The
STPM is a well-tested, open and standardized system with external moderation and
affiliated with the Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, while American-based
matriculation system is a totally different creature altogether, with
evaluations based not just on the final examination but on attendance,
assignment, presentation and with lecturers having a greater say in determining
the grades in the 22 matriculation centers.
The special formula and explanation given by
Hassan is most disappointing, as he failed to give information on many pertinent
aspects of the selection system, as for instance, the cut-off points for the
various courses and why 16,765 applicants, comprising 12,389
bumiputra, 2,952 Chinese and 1,424 Indian students, were rejected for not
meeting the requirements of the “special formula” for the merit system, when
all those who had made their applications would have met the minimum conditions
for university admission.
DAP calls for a common
university entrance examination for all public universities in Malaysia as
the present merit-based selection system gives meritocracy a bad name,
making Malaysia a national and
international laughing stock.
The common university
entrance examination can be achieved either by having
only STPM or matriculation for all university-bound students, or
establishing a common university entrance examination for all pre-university
students vying for places in the public universities, whether from the STPM or
The introduction of a
common university entrance examination will end the decades-long division to
national unity and nation-building caused annually
by the issue of university
admissions and is long overdue 30 years after the New Economic Policy and
National Development Policy – almost half-way to Vision 2020.