Media Statement by Ko Chung Sen, MP of Kampar in Kuala Lumpur on 07th November, 2013
In my question dated 24th September 2013. I asked the Minister of Education to comment on the progress of introducing the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) in all 45 Mara Junior Science Colleges (MRSM) nationwide. Why is it that the daily secondary schools cannot offer the same program?
In his reply to me, the minister did not provide any answers to the questions concerned.
However, as reported in the news in July this year. The newly opened RM 80million MARA Junior Science College (MRSM) in Parit was the first in Perak and the third in the country to offer IGCSE. All the MARA Junior Science Colleges will implement a dual-certificate system – Sijil Pelajaran Malasia (SPM) and ICGSE by 2016. The first one implemented was in Pekan, Pahang in 2011.
We must ask why the MRSM colleges decided to implement the dual certificate system. Both the ICGSE and SPM teach similar subjects in science and mathematics except the language of instruction. Obviously, the MRSM colleges feel that SPM alone is not sufficient to prepare the students for the higher education and critical courses which are mainly conducted in English. The IGCSE is a world recognized examination. It is offered in many international schools in Malaysia for those who can afford the school fees up to sixty thousand ringgits a year. The students in MARA Junior Science Colleges now also have access to it thanks to our government. They can now continue their studies overseas earlier and easier with no transitional period required.
Currently there are 49 MRSM offering 9000 places in the country. This compared to the total of 462,940 pupils who sat for the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) this year. That is less than 2% of the total student population. There were 44,000 applications for the 9,000 MRSM places this year alone. This is not enough even with the four new MRSM and the additional 1,000 places by 2014.
Obviously, a very small fortunate and privileged 2% of all students will have access to English medium education and a better future. Many of those accepted are from rich and powerful families, the elites of the society. How about the other 98% of the students? It is unfair to deny them the same opportunities. The fact is, for our nation to achieve developed nation status, we must all advance as a whole. To have a world class economy, we will benefit from being fluent in English both in daily conversation as well as in technical terminologies.
If the ICGSE is good enough for MARA Junior Science Colleges, it must also be good for the rest of the country. It will be ideal if the dual certificate system can be offered as an option to the students in the government schools. Our SPM alone is not sufficient to produce enough human capital to meet the demand from multi-national companies, either local or overseas.
The PPSMI (Pengajaran dan Pembelajaran Sains dan Matematik Dalam Bahasa Inggeris ) was launched in 2003. It was meant to enhance the standard of English as well as the science and mathematics. However, it failed to achieve its objectives and was abolished in 2012. In fact, the performance of our children suffered in Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA). The main reason was that the standard of English of both the students and the teachers were not good enough. As we know, 70% of the 60,000 English teachers in Malaysia failed the Cambridge Placement Test as reported in June this year.
The dual certificate system as practiced in the Mara Junior Science Colleges is difficult to implement because of a few reasons. First it needs a very large extra budget and financing. Second, the extra demand of ICGSE on the students’ time can be overwhelming when they already have to cope with the SPM. The second option appeared less costly and more manageable from the student point of view.
The English medium schools were the norm before they were abolished in 1970-1982. Those were the glory days when the high standard of English in Malaysia was the envy of other nations. We very much respect Bahasa Malaysia as the official language which will always be important and compulsory. The English medium schools provide another choice for the other 98% of the Malaysians just like the Sekolah-sekolah Agama, International Schools and Independent Schools. Indeed, the country will be stronger in meeting the challenges of today’s global economy. I hereby urge the government to bring back the English medium schools in a few selected government schools, to improve the performance of our school children in the international assessments and the ranking of our universities, so we may truly become a developed nation.