(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).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.
“Because their IC states the religion, it is repeated onto the slip,” he said.
Hon added that this is also for identification purposes when it involves Islamic-based examinations.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?
“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.
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.