Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Race and Religion on PMR Slips

Departing from the usual discussions, I want to know what our readers think about this issue. It was revealed today in the Star that the PMR examination slips still contained a person's race and religion (as well as gender).

(Tony P: A quick recap of the exact same thing last year - Deputy Education Minister, clueless Datuk Hon Choon Kim said he "was unaware of this development but said he would look into the matter, then the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate (MES) claimed that it's for the purposes of identifying religious studies subjects (!). Subsequently, MES director, Dr Salleh Hassan backs down and said that “it would no longer be the case next year for all public examinations… The public has spoken and we have responded.” Well, they clearly have, with their fingers at your face.)

I think there are good administrative reasons for including race and gender in the exam slip since these can be used to prevent cheating. But aren't there currently safeguards that are already in place to prevent this kind of cheating? Some of our readers who have children who have taken the PMR would know this - Are students who sit for the PMR exam required to show their IC to the examiner(s) on duty? Are the same procedures in place for the UPSR exam?

The other question that I would ask is whether the details on the examination slip can be seen by those who mark the exam scripts since there is a potential for discrimination if this information IS revealed to the marker(s). If it is purely for identification purposes and the markers cannot see this information, I would have less cause for worry.

However, I do have a problem with the inclusion of religion in the exam slips especially since it only state "Islam" and "Bukan Islam". I don't think the reasons given by Deputy Education Minister, Hon Choon Kim, for this inclusion are sufficient.
Deputy Education Minister Datuk Hon Choon Kim told The Star after speaking to the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate (MES) that students are still being identified by their identity cards (IC).

“Because their IC states the religion, it is repeated onto the slip,” he said.
Religion is just one of the many information parameters available in an IC. A person's NAME and ADDRESS are also included in the IC. Why not print that information on the exam slip as well? Even a relatively IT-unsavvy person like myself knows that the Ministry has a choice when it comes to including or excluding certain information parameters such as RELIGION. Hence, this reason is certainly not valid.
Hon added that this is also for identification purposes when it involves Islamic-based examinations.

“If a non-Muslim student wants to sit for an Islamic paper, then we need to make sure that they have had their parent’s consent to do so. This is so that there is no sensitivity,” he said.
Again, I find this reason unconvincing. Shouldn't the schools or the ministry deal with this potential problem BEFORE the exam slips are printed out? Are the examiners supposed to ask for a non-Muslim's parent's consent on the day of the examination if it is found that a non-Muslim student is taking an Islamic paper? Are non-Muslim students who are taking Islamic papers required to show a letter of declaration or permission of some sort on the day of the exam itself?

Related questions - If a Christian student wants to take a Hinduism or Bhuddism paper, does the school or the ministry need to obtain permission from this individual's parents? How about if a Muslim student wants to take a Christian Studies, Hinduism or Bhuddism paper? Is permission from the parents required as well?

I don't know if there are many such cases out there but if any of our readers know something about this procedure, please enlighten the rest of us.

It seems strange that these cases, which I'm quite sure involve a very small percentage of students, could be used to justify the printing of one's religion (as Muslim or non-Muslim) on the exam slips. In any case, like I stated above, these potential problems should be dealt with way before a person actually sits for the PMR and shouldn't have to be included in the exam slip.

Again, this goes back to the issue of whether markers are allowed to view this information since it can be potentially used in a discriminatory fashion.

The conspiracy theorist in me (very small part) thinks that something fishy might be going on. To avoid any doubt that such information might be used in a discriminatory fashion, I would argue that a case can be made that no such information (RACE, GENDER, RELIGION) be included in an exam slip and that other ways to safeguard the integrity of the exam taking process be used. If some of this information is used, it is absolutely crucial that exam markers SHOULD NOT be able to view this information.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nah, i think those security measures are just excuses. The race and religion are for the markers to identify who to give good grades and the opposite. I don't need to explicitly say who here, else will consider "destroying" the current "peaceful relationship" in the country =)

what a joke....

nerd said...

As the papers markers are not known publicly and the whole marking process is confidential, we can't possibly comprehend what's behind the scene during the marking. The Deputy Minister's answer, hitherto, did not seem convincing and assuring enough. But what can he do? He's just an assistant to the Minister, just like the poor Higher Education Deputy, Datuk Ong Tee Keat to toe the line of his superior's instructions and has no power to express his dissatisfaction.

Since the voters put the present Government in place, we have no other choices but to comply. Unless we can change their mindsets and clear up their blinkered views that enough is enough, the cycle tends to repeat itself, just like history plays out the stories again and again. :)

spm98 said...

[off topic]

During my time (SPM 1998), we took only one English paper but were given 2 grades (1119 and 1332). We were told that the papers were marked by one marker using 2 marking scheme.

C4(1119) = A1 (1332)

...

Going by the same analogy, if we can have 2 set of marking scheme for a single paper,
we can also have 2 set of marking scheme for 2 set of different people taking the same exam paper. Afterall, this is part of the NEP implementation in many areas (housing, uni entry, license etc). So, what the big fuss here.
...

My major concern is that by clearly and constantly segregate the students based on race and religions in many official works, we are slowly inculcating to these young minds to polarise among themselves.

Chris said...

No, the examiners won't know the religions of the candidates. However, from the school code (part of the candidate identifier) it is possible to identify the type of school the candidate comes from (bog-standard SMK, MARA college, residential school etc.), so I guess there is the theoretical possibility of discrimination.

As for Hindu Studies and the like being taught in schools, well, the fact that no religion apart from Islam can be taught within the school timetable puts paid to that concept. There is a Bible Knowledge paper, but lessons have to be taught outside of school hours, and even then if the pupils are lucky enough to find a sympathetic teacher willing to conduct the classes.

Lastly, with regard to the Hon Deputy Minister's statement - what else could he say? I bet they even asked him (as a so-called 'minority rep') to speak about this issue so as to 'soften' the blow. National unity, bah. Hypocrisy of the highest degree.

Anonymous said...

Everyday life in this country is being overwhelmed by race and religion...

At least during my time, at school I was shielded from this segregation. I was even selected to represent my (Malay majority) school at a BM pidato competition, much to the chagrin of my Malay friends.

Anonymous said...

All these policies are the responsibility of the politicians in control of education. We should leave education to be headed by professional educationist. Let politician just run the country and provide funds for education in Malaysia. Same goes for Sports.

Recently, one teacher commented: This is how they kill you off, at grassroot level. Whether in academic or sports.

Adam "The Random" Dewind said...

Chris said...
National unity, bah. Hypocrisy of the highest degree.

This country thrives on hypocrisy.
While those in higher positions preach of unity and a "one Malaysia", all their actions dictate elsewise.

I agree wholeheartedly with Kian Ming.
This shouldn't be of any relevance, and the reasons given for it just doesn't cut it. However... I sincerely doubt that it will change. This country is just pushing itself farther into seperation. :(

Anonymous said...

The markers will only see the candidates' id number. I doubt there's any malice intended just a case of bad administration. I have even seen official forms used by the governments today which look and spelled as if its from the 70s! So difficult to update forms, ha?

Fed-up-taxpayer said...

Both Deputy Education Minister Datuk Hon Choon Kim and MES know nothing and tried to bluff the general public.

From recent events, we can easily conclude that Deputy Education Minister Datuk Hon Choon Kim is useless and collects buta gaji.

The inclusion of race and gender in the exam slip is just another consistent practice of the BN government to divide and rule the nation and to create meritocracy along racial line through the use of a global command with software. Like people of a certain religious group: + XXX marks.

This divide and rule practice also means that the NS exercise is a total waste of time, energy, and money as it will never achieve the objective of national unity regardless of race and religion. However, the NS charade is still on because it is an excellent program to enrich special individuals who are awarded lucrative contracts during the NS program. More activities (like handling of firearms) are planned - the more the merrier as there will be more leakages of fund, leading to more easy overnight superrich kaki.

S-Kay said...

I think it's for statistical purposes. I do not believe that students are discriminated upon by the markers.

But the excuses given by the ministry are rather odd.

What irks me most is that there are many people in this country who would bring in the race and religion issue every chance they can. I mean, why the need to create unnecessary stir along racial lines about an exam slip unless there is a proven high chance of students being discriminated upon through it? Like what "anon" before me said, I think it's just a case of bad admin.

Anyway, at least the ministry have responded and hopefully, we will see no such thing in the future.

The part about religious studies and what not. If you think logic, the time allocated in the school timetable for Islamic Studies is balanced up by Moral Studies, which is taken by non-Muslim students. But if you were to have Bible Studies classes during school hours, it would be unfair to Muslim and a majority of non-Muslim students. Reason to that is that, in a session, you get at most 10 students in one school taking the paper (that was the case in my school). So pray tell, what are the remaining hundreds of students going to do during Bible/Hindu Studies period?

S-Kay said...

And another thing, in my school, chinese students are allocated time for Mandarin/Hindu classes and it was compulsory for us Chinese to take it unless you have a written letter by your parents. While we were having Mandarin/Hindu classes, the Muslims would have an extra Agama class while the remaining non-Muslims (very few of them) would spend the time at the back of the class doing their own studies. So I must say that, it is unfair to say that the govt does not allow other religion apart from Islam to be taught within the school timetable.

kudai said...

S-Kay,

I agree with u that gender, religion and race in the examination slip mend for statistical purposes. I cannot see how the examiner can differentiate whether the paper was written by chinese or indian or malay. What more if objective questions. U also can see with the results of the examination.

BUT if u talk about religion, race and gender on your examination script then I think one can argue the rationale of doing it.

Nowadays where ever u go if u need to fill in forms there are colums for race, religion, status, sex, salary etc. what for? mere statistical purposes for marketing, planning etc.

'I might be ignorant but definitely not arrogant'

Adam "The Random" Dewind said...

If so, why didn't they just state that it's for statistical purposes? What's with this "to differentiate who takes what" and all?

malaysian said...

For statistics also there was a purpose of getting the statistics. Maybe for various kinds of planning including quotas?

This is malaysia and we are still a third world, so normal -lah.

Anonymous said...

"Are students who sit for the PMR exam required to show their IC to the examiner(s) on duty"
Yes, confirmed that PMR students have to show their ICs to the invigilators.
Regards,
Parent of a current PMR student

Anonymous said...

On the non-islam taking islamic paper, I will imagine this way:

Student show slip.

Invigilator said, "you are non-islam, where is your parent's consent letter?"

Student show consent letter.

Invigilator allow him /her in.

However for the IC, the invigilator does not have the mykad reader.

Anonymous said...

"What irks me most is that there are many people in this country who would bring in the race and religion issue every chance they can"

So why do you have Agama and Keturunan in the exam slip, or any other documents? If it is not important then why are they there? To say they are for admin purposes is not a good enough answer, because then you may as well have your name and address and other more important information than race and religion. In fact, the information should already be in the database linked to the student ID, so only the ID is sufficient.

Anonymous said...

"In fact, the information should already be in the database linked to the student ID, so only the ID is sufficient"

Can it be because the invigilator do not have online computer to check his religion? For the religion part, understood. But why race? Maybe if you are bumi and islam but not wearing proper islamic attire, you cannot sit for exam? Hmmm... must check if there is such rules.

Anonymous said...

I think our keturunan (roots) is "MONYET" instead of Malayu, Cina, India, dll. No, maybe it is "BACTERIA". No, no, it is "GOD", our very first root.

julthefool said...

I cannot see any good reason for including religion on the exam slip: as Anonymous (Thu Oct 05, 04:44:38 AM) said; with the ID all relevant statistics can be calculated; and Kian Ming has pointed out the other inconsistencies in the official statements.

If sensitivities are the issue, then even to take a class the student should have permission from his/her parents, thus would not be trying to sit for an exam of a class s/he hasn't even taken.

Also: note how everyone here (it seems, apart from Anonymous Thu Oct 05, 11:52:16 AM who somewhat touches on it) assumes that one's religion is equivalent to one's 'race'. What about an Indian muslim, or a foreign student from Yemen?

I agree with Kian Ming when he points to the Islam/bukan Islam choice: it really feels like it's saying "either you're one of us or not, and it's irrelevant what you are as long as you're not Muslim".

Overall, however, I think thatit's mostly just inefficiency that lies at the root of this particular incident. The most important is that the markers do not get to see anything more than the student ID (and even not that if possible).

Anonymous said...

Can it be because it was a request from state gov such as Kelantan to put the race, religion and sex on the exam slip? And because the gov want to standardise, we all get it -lah. But maybe it is only used in Kelantan? You know girls sit one corner, guys sit one corner, bumi sit one corner, non-bumi sit one corner kind of "kolot" stuffs?

daniel said...

It's a breeze to add a few lines of computer code so that:

50 marks.and."kaum A".or."agama A"=1A while
60 marks.and.(.not."kaum A".or."agama A")=3C
or variations of the above.

Why else do you see fantastic improvements in SPM results since the late '80s, leading to hordes or them entering unis and never seem to pass out with decent results or even pass out at all.

Kudai said...

Why nobody argued about 'jantina' or sex in the slip. If you want to argue than argue all aspect. Do not pick and choose the one that u can condemn the most. Be fair guys.

Dont talk nonsense, there are no such thing as segregation where bumi to be seat and the non bumi. There are no such thing that the invigilator will asked for parent consent before one can sit for the exam. Have u hear any complaint before but such a discrimination. If not dont try to bring in 'if' or 'may be'. Because one can argue till the cow come home.

To me this blog should be a useful one if we discuss issues with sound and credible arguments. It will be a respected blog but if one start to assume, accused or gave unreasonable example without valid evidence then it will be a place for any tom dick and harry to play sensitive issues.

Back to the issue, in my opinion if the MPM cannot justified 'race, gender and religion' on the slip then they should make sure not to repeat the same next year.

good day

Anonymous said...

Kudai, you said...

"...if one start to assume, accused or gave unreasonable example without valid evidence then it will be a place for any tom dick and harry to play sensitive issues."

Wasn't Kian Ming doing the same thing? He said...

"The conspiracy theorist in me (very small part) thinks that something fishy might be going on."

Wasn't he also guessing without valid evidence???

Just my 2 cents.

Chris said...

Juliethefool - for the record, I make no assumptions about race being linked with religion.

S-kay, you are talking bollocks. First, have a look through the official policy of our Education Ministry. Religions apart from Islam have NEVER been allowed to be part of the official curriculum since the 70s and 80s. Find me a school which does, and I will eat my shoes.

You also say that when Muslims have time for religious instruction, non-Muslims are taught Chinese/Tamil. Since when have Chinese and Tamil become religions? If you really think that language is synonymous with religion, then I am afraid that you have been oblivious to our very multi-racial, multi-religious environment.

Just to liven up the discussion further - a couple of years ago I taught in a school where non-Muslims who do not take Chinese/Tamil have to sit through not 1, but 3 periods of doing nothing while Muslims have 6 extra periods of religious instruction. I have even had to supervise these pupils - which is a waste of my working time. Besides, what if I am not a Chinese or a Tamil pupil? Do I not deserve equal treatment?

Lastly - and this will show you how intolerant we have become, Christian schools have been told to strip almost all of their religious heritage since the 60s. This obviously includes bans on Christianity in school life, with prominence given to Islam instead. So much for being, say, a CONVENT/CATHOLIC/METHODIST/ANGLICAN school. Isn't this an injustice and an insult to our plural society? Even after bending over backwards, they still do not get the quantum of funds that normal SMKs and SKs get. With diktats being imposed centrally, the Churches have naturally abdicated their stakeholder role, contributing to the decline of their schools. So, while we encourage the growth of Agama schools, the once-great Christian institutions are actively sidelined. Fairness? Justice? Tolerance? The words ring hollow to me. Britain has allowed Muslim schools, FULLY FUNDED by Government, while we who are meant to be able to teach the bigoted West a thing or two about pluralism can't tolerate anything that doesn't conform to the ultimate aim of assimilating the minorities.

Bollocks to our concept of national unity. It is but a veneer.

Anonymous said...

3 incidents in my 11 year old daughter's school.

incident #1: A new male teacher passes by my daughter and her friend and said... "eeee keling!!!"

incident #2: A female fiend of my daughter told that "my father said u r keling, not india, bcos india is a country!!!"

incident #3: A male friend of my daughter said to her "u tumpang in malaysia only. this is not ur country!!!"

you know how they break my heart?? i hv been teaching for 17 years and never ever had discriminated my students in any way and never ever taught my children to discriminate any.

where are we heading to?

wat is happening to our younger generation?

wat will they be?

how will they face the multiracial community?

it really scares me!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, look at yourselves. Think rationally now. You’re supposed to be adults! Don’t you know that each marker has a minimum of 300 sheets of exam paper to mark? They would be given limited time to mark all the scripts, usually two weeks.

I’m sixteen by the way, and I sat for my PMR paper last year. No arguments. I experienced it all.

You really are quite narrow minded. Oh yeah, the markers are gonna look at the race and religion every time they mark the papers. Mmhm. Right. Sorry to disappoint you, but NOWHERE in our EXAM papers require us to write our ‘sensitive’ particulars down. It’s just on the slip, for goodness’ sake.

Malaysia is one of the most racist countries, contrary to popular belief. You want hardcore proof? Look at yourselves! Read ALL the posts, from top to bottom. You’re talking about MY generation? Please, reflect upon what you say.

Oh, the government wants to give bumiputeras higher marks. Riight. Presumptions. Hack into the system and tell me they’re doing that. Bumiputeras get privileges, don’t complain. Hey, it’s in the Constitution! Nothing you can do about that! Look at your children’s Sejarah textbooks if you’re feeling dazed.

And for anything you said about the intolerance, you forgot that islam is our ‘agama Rasmi’. Go look up what it means. Yet again, in our constitution.

Racists. That’s what you are. Like another person said up there, why not question why you put ‘jantina’ in there? WHY would they need to know whether you’re male or female? No difference in marking schemes now, right?

Think about it. My opinion as a 16-year-old-anti-racist-student.

Muhammad Nur Hidayat 喜达亚 said...

wow.. so much comment on this topic!
yeah, why not ask about "gender"??
for your information, I'm 14 years old (15 on this October 2011) and I'm sitting for PMR this year!
I will take 1 extra subjects, Chinese (Mandarin) paper, along with Agama paper, and teacher say I can take both?

Chris, the examiner wont know about your religion, and race but he/she CAN know your gender by looking at the IC number, this is because a male person's IC number ended with odd numbers, whereas female person's IC number ended with even numbers

About the information on the slip, maybe it's because it would be easier to identify a person's background AFTER he/she take the exam, AFTER their papers marked! It's not related to examiners at all! The examiners only marks the paper, dont know anything about you (maybe can know about gender ONLY), about Objective Papers, they mark it using a machine that scans the paper, not by checking one by one by markers! lol!

So, think about it, my opinion as a 15-year-old-malay-student-taking-PMR-with-additional-subject-chinese-paper-1-and-2, ok..