Get Rid of STPM!

Cass Shan makes an impassioned case against the STPM.

More than a decade ago, when faced with the possibility of opting to sit for STPM or go to a private college, I immediately decided to opt for private college.

It’s not because STPM is tough (possibly the toughest examination in the world) but because STPM is institutionalised racism designed to weed out bright non-Malay-Muslims out of a chance at tertiary education at a public university.

That was my views over a decade ago, and I’m amazed that no one has called for the STPM to be repealed until now, what with the brouhaha over lack of meritocracy.

Even then, I warned my friends thinking of taking up STPM, telling them to avoid it like cancer. They ignored my advice and consequently felt the brunt faced by these students making the news now.

The fact that Malays get to sit for easier university qualification through matriculation programs is already glaring evidence. You don’t exactly see many non-Malays sitting for STPM, and for good reason. This has always been the way the Education Department flush out otherwise equally good students from a fair chance at a place in public universities. This has been obvious for a long time.

Otherwise, why not allow non-Malays to take up matriculation courses at public universities?

On top of that, that, the STPM syllabus is a burden to students.

The A-levels is a system used almost worldwide and recognised most anywhere. Cambridge offers a good A-levels option that encourages critical thinking too.

Are we actually supposed to believe that our very own STPM better equips our students than Cambridge’s A-levels? Who are we kidding?

Pre-university qualification should be standardised in Malaysia, especially when it comes to gaining entry into local universities. In fact, the STPM exams simply encourages the memorising and regurgitating of information – potentially creating more drones in Malaysia. On the other hand, proven pre-university qualification such as the Cambridge A-levels encourages critical thinking skills that will help develop better students and hence, better graduates.

The Education Department is merely using cosmetics to cover up institutionalised racism for years on end and this has to stop now.

We can go on and on about giving top students places in public universities, but even that doesn’t solve the problem as we only create more drones in public universities (let’s not forget the quality of our graduates isn’t exactly remarkable). MCA and MIC yelling for quota systems to be reinstated or even pushing to get all straight-A students into public university won’t solve the problem, which is that the STPM exams itself is a problematic exam, wrought with the wrong learning techniques to induce skilled memorisers rather than thinkers.

What we should do is embrace the A-Levels exams as the universal university entry requirement, followed by interviews for competitive subjects like medicine, pharmacy and dentistry.

I don’t know about you, but how many people say that their passion is to look into people’s oral orifices day in and day out and attacking cavities? My guess is not many. The rest are just gunning for prestige, money and perceived stature… especially if studying medicine becomes out of reach.

How many people get driven into medicine by their parents? My guess is many. That’s not reason enough to get into a course in medicine regardless of exams results.

So for all that whining about institutionalised racism, I have this to say: “It’s been going on for years and we allow it to take place when we open-heartedly walk into an STPM course”.

While I know that we are losing out on some potential talents, these applicants are already aware of this institutionalised racism before they agreed to take on the mammoth task that is getting into public  universities using the STPM method. In some ways, they asked for it — if I were to be kinder, I’d say they should have expected it.

But then again,  we always know that you win some, you lose some. It’s just part of the game of life.

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Cass likes coffee. She equates politics to drinking coffee. Too much will keep you awake. You need to sweeten it yourself or else it will taste bitter. But it's also addictive if you drink it frequently.

Posted on 6 August 2013. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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