Good plan but there are still holes.

THERE may be more choices under the new subject package for upper secondary students that will begin next year.

However, the way this new system will be implemented still has many questioning if it will be feasible.

Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) honorary secretary Tunku Munawirah Putra says there seems to be more choices of mix and match subjects that a student can take under the packages.

“But whether the schools will be able to provide the subjects that can be categorised according to what the students may want to pick and choose ultimately depends on the subjects the schools offer,” she tells StarEdu.

“Hopefully in the long run, demand for certain subjects would pressure the schools to offer them,” she adds.

She points out that ultimately, the status quo remains in this new system.

“(There’s) no change except the renaming of the ‘streaming.’ Packages will most likely be offered under classes, and any extra elective would likely be offered after school hours.”

She also says that students will likely stick to the same school and pick packages that the school offers, rather than switching schools.

These are likely to be the same subject packages offered under the previous streaming system that was practised all along, she adds.

As for schools, Munawirah says it will be “business as usual.”

“STEM A is already in practice and they are the pure science stream.

“STEM B and STEM C is Sub-science and the schools would most likely offer the subjects that they are already offering under Sub-science.

“And Arts and Humanities is the Arts stream,” she points out in reference to the new package options offered in the system.

Interestingly, she says that pure science subjects (STEM A & STEM B – without Applied Sciences) are running the Dual Language Programme (DLP), for STEM subjects in English.

However, the Applied Sciences subjects are still in Bahasa Melayu.

“There should be a transition to teach Applied Sciences in English as it was announced in 2015 that Applied Science subjects are categorised as under the DLP programme.”

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education (Magpie) chairman Mak Chee Kin says there is an ambiguity in the way the extra two subjects are considered for SPM.

The circular states that students can take up to five electives yet an extra two can be included.

“Are these subjects just for learning at the school level or can students sit for them in SPM?

“Clarity is much appreciated here to prevent suspicious and negative assumption,” he adds.

“I may not know about others but as far as Chinese Language and Accounts are concerned, many good STEM students will opt for both of them. But looks like now they have to choose between them,” he explains.

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan agrees there would be logistical hiccups for students who want to switch schools due to their current school not offering their preferred package.

But other than that, he believes there would not be any new problems that were not already there.

Schools and teachers have constantly been facing parents deciding for their child what subject package to take, based on what they think is the best career for their child.

The system is still essentially the same though, he points out, with subjects still grouped into fixed packages.

Taylor’s University School of Education head Dr Logendra Stanley Ponniah says more needs to be done to coordinate efforts to locate schools that offer niche electives in areas where there is a high demand or need for them.

“For example, schools with strong Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) emphasis can be in neighbourhoods that can benefit from it.”

He also says there must be a district level plan.

“So that we do not duplicate efforts and at the same time, students have access to their choice.”

He adds that on the plus side, students will now be able to exercise a freedom of choice and important subjects, such as Mathematics, Science and History, which promote quantitative, scientific and critical issues, remain as core subjects.

Although he welcomes the move, SMK Assunta Parent-Teacher Association chairman Alan Goh says: “To what extent it can be carried out depends on each school.”

“Each school will have their own problems specific to the availability of teachers and school facilities,” he adds.

He also says to expect teething problems but believes it is a great idea to give students more choices to pursue their studies according to their capabilities and interests.

“Hopefully one day, students will have a choice of education which is truly liberal.”

Students about to undergo the new system seem to be optimistic.

Wong Pei Shyan, 15, feels the new system is designed to not make the students feel segregated or less intelligent.

In the past, those in the science stream were seen to be more intelligent than those who joined the arts stream.

“The packages offered in my school feels as if science stream and arts stream are still clearly evident.”

Ikha Fatima Abdul Hakim Mordani, 15, believes this new system is better as students have more subject package choices.

“This system definitely is closer to preparing students for the future,” she adds.

Samantha Hernadez George, 15, says the new system is much better as it “provides students with more study options based on their interests.”

She believes students will excel in their studies if given the option to select their preferred subjects.

Welcoming the streamless system, Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Steven Sim said the move was necessary as we are training our next generation for a world that is yet to exist.

“The removal of the false dichotomy between arts and science will encourage people to think more holistically in terms of education.

“(You cannot) draw, paint, make music, write poetry and manage a business without skills and knowledge of the latest technology. The real world doesn’t operate that way.

“Likewise, engineers and scientists will benefit from thinking like an MBA manager. Welcome to this new world of gig economies and start ups,” he said during a TVET event to develop stronger academic, technical and work-ready skills among Malaysian youth on Nov 19.

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