The officials at both the Ministry of Education, as well as that of Higher Education have continued to almost "robotically" deny and dispute any differences in the relative standards between the matriculation and STPM examinations.
In response to a letter from a reader at the Star who requested for a single examination to determine entry into the university, Pn Rubaayah Osman, the Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Higher Education responded on 28th August that:
Although there are two entry examinations – Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) and Matriculation – used for entrance to public universities, both are on par in terms of standards, curriculum and credit hours. It is not true that one is tougher than the other. This is a matter of perception.At the same time, the Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Mahadzir Mohd Khir responded to public feedback that the assessment for matriculation should be made transparent, like that of STPM by arguing that:
[The] assessment of matriculation exams should not be questioned as the papers are marked by local university academicians.The key problem why the public are clearly unconvinced by both the above arguments are strictly because they are not "arguments" at all. The statements were in effect saying that "if I said that A is equivalent to B, then A must therefore be equivalent to B, how can it be otherwise?"
“I dispute those who say the matriculation programme is substandard. The process may be different from STPM but the students’ achievements are the same.”
Both parties in their statements will try the age old tactic of incorporating irrelevant analogies or arguments to digress and detract from the main issues.
Pn Rubaayah argued that "if every one is convinced about the fairness and effectiveness of one system, then it should be applied to all including having a single type of school rather than National, Chinese and Tamil schools."
Datuk Mahadzir on the other hand, said that "many people continued to be negative about matriculation programmes even though many moves had been made to improve them, including opening the programmes to non-bumiputras."
How is it that a single and fair entry examination into the local public universities analogous to "a single type of school"; or how "opening the [matriculation] programmes to non bumiputras" is an improvement on the assessment system is absolutely beyond me - and I'm sure it's beyond many of you readers out there as well.
The Malaysian education system do not require strictly, a single type of entry examination. However, it is critical that the various entry examinations are of transparent standards and equally accessible to all. The fact that matriculation assessments are "marked by local university academicians" does not give any confidence nor justification that the markings are fair, or are of high standards or are equivalent to STPM.
To ensure transparency, the easiest process is really to conduct a study by a reputable international institute on the various entry examinations in Malaysia and identify the differences in standard, if any. It shouldn't be very difficult to compare between the assessment papers of the students in the matriculation program versus that of STPM students.
In addition, the real telling point with regards to potential differences in standards between the two is by studying the effects of the two different pre-university streams on the results of the students in the public universities. I will have happy to contribute my expertise on statistics to help the authorities come up with the necessary regressive studies on the impact of matriculation studies versus that of STPM for Malaysian students. Should there be a wide disparity in standards between the two groups of students, there clearly something should be done. If there isn't, then publish these results and I'm certain the public will then be appeased.
It is my belief that in the interest of promoting the academic abilities of Malay students in the fastest possible manner, it is critical that they be exposed to the highest standard of academic competition (and not be protected from it). If a comparative study of the 2 systems do show a result whereby the matriculation students are significantly weaker, then my argument will be to abolish the matriculation colleges so that the Malays will be able to achieve better results in the universities through better preparation in the STPM courses. The faster the authorities recognises this, the better it will be for the bumiputeras.
For those interested in reading further with regards to my take on matriculation colleges, click here.