Modular system to make STPM attractive
KUALA LUMPUR: THE future looks bleak for Form Six.
Of the more than 400,000 fifth formers who sit the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination each year, only eight per cent will take the Form Six route. The rest will be jostling for seats in tertiary institutions to pursue courses such as A levels, matriculation and diploma.
Teachers doubt that demand for places in Form Six will rise any time soon, judging by students’ perception of the pre-university course.
Sobri Tajul Aros, who teaches Islamic History at SMK Taee in Serian, Sarawak, acknowledges that students “lack confidence in Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) as the right pre-university course to enter universities”.
This seems to be the sentiment of many who participate in Internetforums which weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of Form Six. They believe that public universities prefer matriculation students to sixth formers.
Malaysian Examinations Council chairman Professor Tan Sri Dzulkifli Abdul Razak assured that “this is not true” when he announced the 2010 STPM results recently. It remains to be seen whether or not this will allay students’ fears.
But it will be difficult — and slightly unfair — to persuade students to narrow down their options to only Form Six.
“Students like to keep their options open. They enter Form Six because they don’t want to waste time at home while waiting for offer letters,” says Roziatulakmal Hasan, who teaches Pure Mathematics at SMK Taee.
She believes teachers are not at liberty to dissuade students should they decide to leave Form Six.
“Sometimes, sixth-formers would ask teachers for advice or help to apply for jobs or other programmes. We help them the best we can even though that means losing them.”
SMK Taee is one of the schools in Malaysia which not only has low student enrolment but also a high Form Six dropout rate.
Only eight students registered for Lower Six Science class last year.
When five students left, the class was down to three.
Judging by the national STPM statistics, SMK Taee’s experience is no different from that of other schools which offer Form Six as an option. Only 50,576 sat the exam last year, the second lowest enrolment in the pre-university programme’s 29-year history. The lowest was 46,798 candidates in 1997.
There is little prospect of improvement in STPM enrolment trends if drastic measures are not taken to remedy the situation.
Calls to revamp Form Six have been sounded as early as 1992.
At a seminar on Malaysian higher education in 1994, educationists proposed that Form Six be a separate entity similar to Singapore’s junior college programme.
Although there was no follow-up to the suggestion, parents and academicians kept the issue alive by writing letters to the media.
The Education Ministry is now banking on a modular system to be introduced this year. It takes into account components such as extracurricular activities and open book tests, which would help teachers evaluate students’ performance throughout their 18-month period.
The assessment methods of the modular system, which include psychometric tests, extra-curricular activities and yearly examinations, will assist teachers to assess students holistically. This will replace the current terminal system which has been in use since 1982.
Teacher Roger Tan welcomes any effort to bring change to the 29-year-old system, which he says is “stuck in a rut”.
“Not much has changed with STPM since the 1980s; students still go to school and follow the same system and set of rules.
“I think we have to make Form Six attractive, maybe do away with the dress code and introduce flexible learning schedule,” says Tan.
Teacher Phyllina Diana Morison welcomes the new assessment method but hopes that teachers will be given ample guidance.