Wednesday, December 02, 2009

A Student's Perspective on Semesters for Form 6

One of my friends, Rajan Rishyakaran, has written a response to the lower six student's letter which Tony recently posted. Rajan, himself an alumnus of form six, said most of what I want to say about the issue, and I recommend reading it—this is perhaps the most incisive part of the piece:
If the Ministry of Education really wanted to move to a semester-based, coursework-heavy system, the better policy is to increase enrolment of non-Bumiputras in matriculation programs (though matriculation and Form Six are under different ministries). The cynic in me points out that would defeat the purpose of the dual-track system in Malaysia: as a tool of stealthish discrimination.
I want to tackle something else instead: the issue of time management.

As Rajan says himself, a lot of the people criticising the writer for their ostensible lousy time management probably didn't do STPM. I didn't do it either, but everything I know about it suggests that it is absolutely not a walk in the park.

In the first place, how does the school environment the writer describes train you to manage your time better? The writer is in school from 7.30am to 4pm, which is longer than the typical 9-to-5 workday. Even assuming most Malaysians work longer hours than that, it is unusual for people to bring work home with them and work at home.

Because our schools are so inferior, a lot of Malaysians now attend tuition classes outside school. Most lower six students will have even less time to attend tuition now. And even assuming there isn't tuition, most students will be studying in their spare time, especially for an exam like the STPM.

If you work it out, students operating under this new scheme will have basically little to no free time. What time is there to manage then, if you have to devote all of it to your studies?

A lot of the issues the writer mentions don't exist for pre-university students in other streams, because you tend to get a choice of what (if any) extracurricular activities to participate in, and have more spare time during the day. That's where time management is actually relevant.

Now, the writer obviously is rolling out a laundry list of problems with the school that to other people probably seem a bit ludicrous. Complaints about skin cancer and mamak food are relatively trivial compared to the other points the writer raises. But as Tony said, he or she is a 17-year-old, and in my experience, these complaints are almost ubiquitous amongst students of this age in school. Let's not focus on the trivialities of the writer's complaint: the real issue is that the Education Ministry is rolling out a poorly-thought-out plan, using the entire nation as its guinea pig — and on the face of it, the idea is ridiculous, because it means students are in school for longer than many adult workers.

16 comments:

Karen Lee said...

I did my STPM 18 years ago. It was tough. I came home at 6.00 pm three out of five weekdays and dropped dead to sleep for a while before i could get up and move my butt to change, eat, revise etc.

While preparing for my SPM, i took only BM, Add Maths and 1119 tuition. But i had lots of co-curricular activities daily...

For my STPM, i had to take three tuition, Accounts, Pengajian AM and Maths. I had a well known Economics teacher teaching me in school, so I saved some time here without going for extra classes. There weren't any good STPM BM teacher around my area so had to rely on myself. Some of my mates had to go for five out of five tuition....... mainly because the area of work we need to prepare for STPM were really too wide and much too in depth. And please bear in mind, i was in the ARTs stream..... I had to drop all co curricular activities, keeping only one and that was also being forced to do it....

If one were to be in Science stream, you really have no time to do any other thing in the 1 1/2 year of your STPM life but to study, revise and prepare notes..... For every Biology, Physics and Chemistry subjects you study, there are at least three different sections using three different textbooks you need to cover....

Time management is not the issue here, if one is prepare to do STPM, one should know it's all about hard work and sacrifices... the issue is the syllabus for STPM... no proper guideline, the exam scope is too wide, one need to be a master in all areas, leaving no stone unturned.

TO do that, you need all the time you can afford...... doing none STPM related work is a waste of time..... it doesn't contribute towards getting good marks.....

TO change the school system for STPM, the education ministry should change the format of the STPM exam..... make the exam more transparent..... clear guidelines and be more specific about the area to be covered for the exam.....

The purpose of exams should be to test a child's understanding and knowledge of a sbuject matter..... it's not about testing what a child does not know......

Anonymous said...

ONE MALAYSIA!= ONE EXAMINATION!

Weng Hong Teh said...

Our education system, at this point, is not mature enough to facilitate a semester-based, coursework/assignment-intensive approach. An education system needs to be designed in accordance to the level of maturity of the audience and also the supporting ecosystem. You start off with the fundamental knowledge dissemination and reduce the variability that surrounds it to produce a solid and consistent delivery for the foundation of six-formers across Malaysia and keep on raising the bar. Allocate highest resources to those that have a multiplying effect i.e. the teachers, and get tough, solid evaluations on them as a check and balance mechanism. Once that is built and proven (and it will take time given the quality deterioration for the past decade) and it sustains, you then address the philosophical part of education as they go into college/university. Without a solid foundation, you will generate a generation of young people full of fluff and that is not desired for a knowledge-based economy, esp. in the flattened world that we are in (we simply cannot compete). At this point, any immature and high-variability extra co-curricular activities only serve to compliment the knowledge acquired but should not do so at the expense of diluting a solid and robust education, which our country has not been able to demonstrate of late. Focus on the critical few and win big in them.

-- Weng Hong

shinliang said...

I was a 6th former. In those days we still had to take 5 subjects. And I come from those days that we don't have a tuition for every subject that we learn in school.

In fact, during my 6th form days, I joined quite a number of extra-curricular activities like Taekwondo, debate, Science and mathematics society which took up most of my time after school. Yet, I still find time to go to cybercafe and battle starcraft2 with my friends and time to finish my work + revision.

So I do not understand what is the problem with 'time management' if we are required to stay at school until 4pm.

The problem that I do see with this 'new' system is: I do not understand why is the government is so keen on 'improving' STPM when they already know that STPM is the slowest, hardest way to gain entrance to the uni? It's a system that is only used mainly by non-Bumi who cannot afford private/overseas education to gain entrance to the uni.

Although I believe STPM is more difficult compared to A-level exams, it is even more so only because people who took STPM had to get straight 'A's to have a chance to being admitted into popular courses like Electrical Engineering.

STPM has already a well-established curriculum. And the next thing the government needs to do in revamping in STPM is NOT by adding more hours, but rather making STPM inline with other uni matriculation courses. Either integrate all pre-U courses to one, standardise the content and qualification of STPM with other pre-U exams, or make STPM the same length as other pre-U exams. These kinds of revamps make more sense to me.

Anonymous said...

HSC is more difficult than STPM!
Ask any old goat who have taken HSC....

shinliang said...

just a last note here. despite saying that form 6 is manageable. I'll have to say that for sure 6th formers have much less time if compared to those private collegers. i.e. they'll have even more time to battle all-out in starcraft2 (in my days) or warcraft3/DOTA (in these days)!!

Anonymous said...

STPM is internationally recognised. When the STPM is more appealling and popular, we can attract more non-Malaysians to do STPM for pre-U. STPM lacks the marketing aspect and the facilities of the program.

Abu Abdullah Anas Al Banji said...

Hi guys

From my experience in the higher education sector, I observed that whilst STPM is lengthy and consuming compared to the various foundation and matriculation programs, the STPM holders are considerably more resilient to undergraduate studies.

I have come across many students who needed more than the one-year duration to complete their foundation program, so much so in the end it resulted in an expensive (and expansive) labour of sorts.

So there is nothing wrong with getting through Form Six before pursuing a degree. Instead, I believe there are many underlying benefits to it; it's cheap, it builds character and it's widely recognised.

Regards
AAAA

Anonymous said...

SILA AMBIL PERHATIAN KEPADA SEMUA KAUM PENDATANG,
KALAU KAU SEMUA TAK SUKA DUDUK DI NEGARA MALAYSIA INI, NEGARA ASLI BAGI BANGSA MELAYU DAN JIKA KAMU ASYIK MENGUTUK NEGARA INI KAMU DINASIHATKAN UNTUK BERHIJRAH KENEGARA-NEGARA MAJU SEPERTI AMERIKA, AUSTRALIA ATAU EUROPA KALAULAH MEREKA SANGGUP MENERIMA ANDA. KITA TIDAK SUKA HIPOKRIT DAN PARASIT SEPERTI ANDA. ANDA TELAH MENJADI SAMPAH DINEGARA ASAL ANDA, TOLONG JANGAN MENJADI SAMPAH DISINI. KITA TIDAK PERLUKAN ANDA DISINI DAN BUKAN HANYA ORANG2 SEPERTI ANDA YANG MEMAJUKAN NEGARA INI.

Anonymous said...

Who is this Anjing Gila at 12/31/2009 03:07:00 AM ?

Anonymous said...

Slave-workers hold the hammer to work.

Slave-peasants farmers hold the sickle to work.

Grandchildren descendants of coolies-slaves-labours who works the tin mines and rubber plantations of Malaya deserve their fate.

Let us push the the Form 6's school hours from 7.00am to 7.00pm.

Afterall they are all guinea pigs destined to be experiment on....to be social-engineered...

Anonymous said...

The Anjing Gila at 12/31/2009 03:07:00 AM could not even express his opinion in plain English.

Anonymous said...

i'm currently form 5. just after SPM. i nt sure weather i want to take form 6 or not. i heard about the new system. 7:30 to 4Pm? is it everyday? by that time we come back from school, we will be half dead.

azahar said...

I would rather retake my DVM than resit for HSC! Why? Two years of hardwork and slogging is determined by two-three hours of exam. Is it fair?

BTW I was a science student and sat for my HSC in 1974

Anonymous said...

The Anjing Gila at 12/31/2009 03:07:00 AM could not even express his opinion in plain English.

Well,thats pretty obvious. He must be one of those almost flunked his SPM, got lifeline thru matriculations.. ended up got sent UK, US or Australia with our money. Upon, his return, all private sector would have closed doors on him and now he should be in gov office doing nothing more than keeping his table and chair dust free.

On positive note though, he managed to read & apprehend some part of the article to comment! Very impressive.

Anonymous said...

"Typical 9-to-5 workday?"

". . .unusual for people to bring work home with them and work at home?"

Hahaha! I think you need to wait another few years and enter the work force. Then you'll look back at your schooling years and say "Huh, it wasn't that bad really!" I'm generalizing here, but Malaysia is not a country known for its work-life balance. It is not a country where employers encourage or emphasize the quality of life outside of the office.

Having said that, I sympathize with the author. I think back at my schooling days and I feel that the Malaysian education system has failed me by not preparing me for the subsequent stages (i.e. university and work life) and that it is not creating the dynamically thinking individual that a knowledge-based economy needs. Because of our "educated" inefficiencies we then uneducatedly try to compensate by working insanely long hours. You think 7:30am to 4:00pm is bad? Try 9:00am to 11:00pm.

But I'll let the academicians debate the successes or failings of our schools. I'm just some dumb joe trying to eke out a living.