Thursday, May 29, 2008

From SPM to Public Uni?

Read this report in the Star a few days ago. About 30,000 SPM and equivalent holders were accepted into the public university system. My question is this - How can we really be sure that a majority of these students are ready to enter university without any pre university foundation (such as STPM or matriculation)?

The 30,000 figure represents about 10% of the total student population in our public universities. Since there have been previous students who have been admitted with just an SPM certificate, the total number of such students might be as high as 20% of the public university system.

While the Higher Education Minister, Khaled Nordin, had emphasized that these students were chosen purely on merit, I have to take his statement with a bit of salt given Malaysia's poor record in choosing students purely based on 'merit', however it is defined.

Is there any reason why these students would be better qualified to go straight from SPM to a public university compared to those who choose to do their STPM or the matriculation program? 30,000 is not a small number. Surely not all of them can be regarded as top scorers i.e. scoring 9As and above. Surely many of the top scorers end up doing STPM and matriculation instead of choosing to apply to go straight into a public university.

If out of a cohort of about 300,000 students who take SPM and about 10% of that cohort goes straight to a public university, wouldn't that strike someone as worrying?

It would be interesting to track these SPM entries to see over a period of time whether they perform better or worse than those who enter with an STPM or matriculation certificate.

My sense is that this number is way too high and that many of these students could have done well with at least one year of a foundation or pre-university course.

I can't help but feel that this is another factor in contributing to the massive decline in the standards of our public universities.


TsuChong said...

Woahh when i first read that piece in the newspapers, i thought it was a printing mistake (SPM instead of STPM).

Besides concerns about maturity and quality of those students, it's also totally unfair for those who actually went through form 6. Why suffer for 2 years going through STPM if you can get into uni with SPM?

Anonymous said...

that is for diploma, of course there are using SPM to enter the univ

for degree, they need STPM or diploma or matriculation or others

think first...

Anonymous said...

when I read that I also thought it would include a year of pre U foundation studies .

Anonymous said...

I joined UTM over 10 years ago after my SPM and completed my EE degree within 4 years, so I didn't go through any foundation classes.

From my experience, students who did well in their SPM did not face too many problems in graduating on time, although more effort had to be put in for maths since the level of secondary 5 maths isn't really a good foundation for an engineering degree. However, many of my course mates who entered with minimal results failed to graduate within 4 years, with many taking up to 6 years to graduate, and some dropping out all together.

If the selection is really being done on merit, I don't see why those students who are selected will not be able to cope. But like you said, Malaysia's so-called meritocracy leaves much to be desired and anecdotal evidence from my teachers seem to point to a massive deterioration in SPM standards.

So, to sum up, I would say that if all these students who are accepted based on their SPM results are at least as good as those with good results (just generalising) a decade ago, I think that they'll be able to cope and probably thrive in their studies. But if their results are due to a massive inflation of grades or if they enter with minimal requirements, they'll suffer and the whole system will suffer along with them as the lecturers' time will be wasted teaching secondary school material to students who should be in secondary schools and not universities.

Anonymous said...

When I was at UPM in the late 1990s, they accepted SPM students for the diploma courses. After one year in the diploma program and with good results, these students could make the jump to a degree course.

As far as I know, no SPM students entered UPM degree programs directly after SPM.

Anonymous said...

Compared to say the UK, already our students are older by the time they enter university. So this is probably a good means to reduce the age gap.


Golf Afflicted said...

In my honest opinion, I think it was a "misquote" from a new Minister who may not distinguish between SPM and STPM as clearly.

Tony ;-)

Anonymous said...

I think in this respect, Singapore (again sigh) has done a better job. Their Universities do not issue diplomas, only degrees. SPM or O levels go to Polytechnics to get diplomas.

This way, their Universities powered ahead with clear vision of what their lecturers must do. And they are not bogged down by the need to hire lower level tutors to teach diploma. They get free hand to hire only PhD to teach degrees and get world recognition and ranking.

Using SPM to get degree, I think was a method used by private and lousy overseas Universities to get students in the earlier days. Because they cannot compete in the STPM arena to get good students, and they only want money anyway, so they give "discount" in years. Of course, their course content also discount.

Anonymous said...

RE annon at 30 May 9.57am:

NUS Engineering Degree is recognised as Masters (Engineering) level in the UK.

I think they are right in not accepting O levels standards. The fact is loud and clear.

Anonymous said...

I think Tony is right. The equivalent holders here refer to those who did the Matriculation program.

As it is reported that the selection was done based on students’ academic results (90%) and co-curriculum participation (10%, I am quite sure the Minister refer to those who did STPM and not SPM. Usually it is around or near the figure of 30000 who are admitted to IPTA's.

Anonymous said...

This is really funny.

Tony, have a look at this, bring it to other Pakatan Rakyat MPs also...

Fairer Distribution of Scholarships:

Points to Ponder:
1) In the move to tell ppl that the gov has done alot this year, Nazri said "breakdown was 50 percent and 45 percent respectively, compared with only 10 percent for non-Bumiputera students previously" WITHOUT realizing he's admitting that PSD scholarships has been hijacked and is distributed according to race, and non-Bumi students comprises of only 10% of the places!!!

So is he admitting that all these while we'd been treated like a 3rd class citizen? If so, I believe we deserve a public apology from PM and BN as a whole...

2) Even now, 50% bumi, 45% non-bumi is flawed. They keep on say what racial unity. But yet, they are the ones who're dividing us! Just award those scholarships to DESERVING STUDENTS, no pre-allocated quota please...

Anonymous said...

Yes, I want to hear what you have to say about the "good news" of 45% quota increase for Non Malays too. But instead of whining still saying its not enough or what not yada yada, we have to welcome this positive development right?

WHat say you.

Anonymous said...

I was given to understand that PSD scholars have to do a preU course here in Malaysia before they can proceed with their degree overseas. It was mentioned in the Bernama report that they were given scholarships after obtaining places in Ivy League.

All these while students apply for scholarships with their SPM results and not after obtaining places in Ivy League.

45% given to the nons? This year itself there were so many dissatisfied letters to the press complaining of non transparency of the selection process and unfairness of allocation of scholarship.

So there again dont swallow everything. Take the report with a pinch of salt.

Anonymous said...

re anon 5/30/2008 10:02:00 AM:

errr...all UK degrees 4 years or longer get to be named masters of something, such as MPharm, or MEng. they are not masters proper. real "postgraduate" masters are MSc, MA, MPhil etc.

so its actually a fallacy to consider a sporean bachelor's degree to be equivalent to a UK "masters". the UK system recognises a sporean bachelor's degree to be at a UK MEng lvl, NOT because of its vigour and depth, but solely because of the length of the programme, which is 4 years. i hope this clears things up for the confused.

Anonymous said...


SPM is only for diploma, matriculation intakes

STPM & Matriculation is for degree intake...

i don't know why some people here want to make wild assumption unless for political reason..


Ir. Dr. Zaki Zainudin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ir. Dr. Zaki Zainudin said...

Dear Tony,

I totally disagree with the perception that SPM holders are not ready to enter into an undergraduate program, or STPM/Matriculation are more "mentally" prepared to do so. The reason is simple. PERFORMANCE. At the end of the day, doesn't matter whether you are a SPM, STPM or Diploma holder, its just how you perform. I agree with the comment by Anonymous, being the product of the same system. To tell you frankly, I have friends who enrolled in UTM (degree course) with a diploma (relatively good CGPA, from another local uni) but still didn't make it through the first semester !! And there are others who enrolled with good SPM results and went on to not only get 1st Class Honors upon graduation, but also pursue PhD (skipped masters) at Imperial College (IC), London. Last I heard from the guy he is doing his post-doc. But please don't get me wrong, there are also those that entered uni with excellent SPM results and still did not make it through. Thus the only thing I can conclude here is that performance at uni level is totally based on individual MERIT. We should not be as "rigid" as Singapore or perhaps even Britain. I believe we should be more open like the American style education system where its as simple as, "...if you can perform then good for you, otherwise, good luck and best wishes in your future endeavors....", cause life is not just about the theoretical stuff, but more so importantly about what works, and if enrollment through SPM level would save a couple of years for the students, then so be it, they need the to see the industry as soon as possible anyway. That's my take on it.


tzarina said...

Hi Kian Ming, Tony,

I am not sure how to send you a personal message, so I am going to beg forgiveness for deviating from the topic of the post.

Lately, the Dep. Higher Education Minister announced that our local Universities are not doing so badly, because although UM is number 246 in THES ranking, it is at number 14 in OIC ranking. But I did some digging on the OIC ranking, and found a bunch of JOKES. For example, none of the top 10 Unis in the OIC ranking is in the top 400 THES ranking. And still we came up at number 12 for UKM and number 14 for UM in the OIC ranking.

I hope you can highlight this issue in your blog, because I consider this a serious duping of the Malaysian public by the Higher Education Ministry.

Malaysian Uni in OIC: Lies and Statistics


Anonymous said...

Well spotted. Why are we comparing ourselves with those that are lower as opposed to those who are above us? Sometimes, Malaysia needs to accept the fact that they're lagging behind but do something urgent about it rather than trying to conceal their under-performance by comparing with substandard benchmarks. This requires a mindset change from the government and business leaders.

Anonymous said...

i dun tink those wit spm qualifications wil straight away enroll into degree lvl 1st but instead dey hav 2 go thru diploma lvl or foundation courses offered by thier respective ipta's, i blieve in education evry1 should take 1 step at a time

pearlyrose said...

SPM holders only enter diploma programmes or foundation programmes. As far as I know, none enter directly into degree programmes unless it's a part of a special scholarship programme with twinning. In fact universities in New Zealand accept our SPM holders after a prep and english programme of 6 to 9 months. More than one way to skin a cat, guys and education should be flexible with multi-tracks. We should just have more public universities rather than fight for limited places and justifying selection through various mechanisms. Tony and co should focus on getting the govt to commit to more universities and quality control of existing universities. There is a lack of coherance in our policies in education because education has been used too long as a leverage and bargaining chip to maintain status quo.

Anonymous said...

I think the Edu./Higher Edu. Ministry should just do away with the STPM/Pre-U/Matrics/Foundation or whatever "Pre-" you call it. It just wastes the resources, time and money that can be put to better uses. I suggest we do it "American" style. After high schools and SPM (American SAT equivalent), go straight to colleges/uni direct, choose whatever courses or subjects you like, spend 4 years there, and voila! You are a graduate!

Anonymous said...

And as an addendum to my opinion above, I think the UK style of edu.system which is practised here for decades until now is kinda superannuated as it seems.

ps. Counterpoints are welcome.

Anonymous said...

The way I see it we are following the US system of SPM and then degree. That has always been the case since the 1980s when people were debating over which is better UK or US. UK meant that one had to move on to A Levels. But even that has been changing and many private uni colleges in Klang Valley have been accepting candidates with SPM or lower into their degree program with some kind of express conversion course. It is all a matter of money. I had a friend that transferred from a non-descript college in the US to Harvard Architectural School so really there is no difference between America and Malaysia. Secondly, try not to be too elitist, the universities are after profits just like any organization.

Anonymous said...

Oops apologies for remarks off tangent. JPA scholarships for those who secure places in Ivy League open for application. If not mistaken, this is the first time they have this kind of application.

For those who obtained 9As and above and who are now doing Form Six, there’s also something in store. Take note of the accompanying conditions and terms. Go to the JPA website.

Anonymous said...

errr...all UK degrees 4 years or longer get to be named masters of something, such as MPharm, or MEng. they are not masters proper. real "postgraduate" masters are MSc, MA, MPhil etc.

so its actually a fallacy to consider a sporean bachelor's degree to be equivalent to a UK "masters". the UK system recognises a sporean bachelor's degree to be at a UK MEng lvl, NOT because of its vigour and depth, but solely because of the length of the programme, which is 4 years. i hope this clears things up for the confused

Was refering to how some degrees offered in bolehland are not even recognised as Masters in UK. And our students must beware of some selling tactics of foreign Universities who sell their degree programmes as "4yrs to Masters". It's actually a Bachelor's equivalent.

This is because UK long time ago liberialzed their education, "upgrade" their polys to Uni and let them offer degrees. End up not enough depth, so the good Universities renamed their Bachelor degree to call Masters. So NUS Bachelor Degree recognised as Master in UK means at least their degree it recognised as equivalent in UK. Unlike our own degrees.

Anonymous said...

local graduate

The point is not in getting a degree. So what if you can say, "I am a graduate!"? We want quality graduates.

The wastage of resources is on selecting candidates based on SPM results who may not have the aptitude to do a full degree programme. Does the SPM have a high discriminatory factor? Can it really distinguish those students who are really good and those who are average, but still do well in the SPM, although that is the limit of their potential? Put it in another way, some candidates are very good up to SPM level, but may not be capable of further studies which require more analytical and independent studies. Getting a string of A's in the SPM is not necessarily an indication of high cognitive ability, it is an indication of high determination, at most.

That is why students should at least go through STPM which is another "sieve", if you like, to determine aptitude for further studies. [I say STPM, because I fail to see the logic of having both STPM and Matriculation. If one is better than the other, then let's just put all the students through that system.]

Anonymous (post #4) said that some SPM holders who go straight into uni have the capability to do very well while others cannot cope. Exactly. Not all SPM holders who enter university are of the same calibre - and we need to identify them so that we do not waste resources.