The Government Must Pay More Attention To The Disruption For SPM And STPM Students

The decision by the Federal government to close all schools in Malaysia until 17—18 December 2020—the last day of the school year due to the imposition of Conditional Movement Control Orders (CMCOs) on most states in the country is unfortunate, as is the postponement of the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), Sijil Vokasional Malaysia (SVM) and Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (STAM) examinations to 22 February 2021 and the Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM) to 8 March 2021.

The education of an entire generation of Malaysian students has been disrupted by the lack of planning and foresight of the Ministry of Education.

Valid questions have been raised over whether the practically nationwide imposition of CMCOs was necessary given that not all the states involved are experiencing a major uptick in cases. The decision to shut schools even in states still under the Recovery Control Movement Order (RMCO) like Kelantan, Pahang and Perlis is also questionable.

While we hope that Covid-19 vaccines will be available to us soon, the fact is that we are going to have to learn to live with the coronavirus for some time.

It is necessary for us to plan ahead to be able to continue our socio-economic lives while adhering to the best practices in terms of physical distancing and personal hygiene.

But it is unfair for the onus on this to be only on the people. They must also be guided, protected and facilitated by wise policies and decisive leadership, including in education. Unfortunately, neither has been forthcoming from the PN Government.

What the Ministry of Education has basically done is postpone everything and ask everyone to wait for details. This approach, as usual for this administration, is short on substance and empathy.

Take for instance the SPM, which are now scheduled to begin on 22 February 2020, while STPM will begin on 8 March 2020. Universty intakes, are ostensibly still supposed to happen in September.

Normally, SPM and STPM results are released in February or March and the Unit Pengambilan Universiti (UPU) usually needs around 5 months to process results for the university intake.

Now however, the SPM and STPM will end in March 2021. This means the papers will need to be marked, tabulated and reviewed, as well as results set and endorsed in less than three months—by June earliest.

This leaves July for UPU to input the results into their system and August for the students to apply to get their results in September. We must not forget that this is the same time UPU will be dealing with applicants from matriculation and foundation courses.

This won’t be workable without using new or innovative technology for the marking of exams, releasing of results and student applications for universities.

Current systems will not be able to handle this unless the date for university intakes are postponed as the exams have.

But I don’t just want to focus on recriminations. Here are some solutions the Ministry should adopt to help students and teachers cope with the upheaval.

1. The Ministry should convene a special taskforce with stakeholders and experts both from within and outside government to come up with a streamlined version of the SPM and STPM.

2. It should cancel all coursework requirements for the 2020/2021 and 2021 SPM batches except for where practical knowledge is critical like vocational subjects.

3. Identify which parts of the curriculum must be taught face-to-face and which can be done online.

For the latter, content development for online teaching and learning should be organised. The Ministry’s Bahagian Teknologi Pendidikan can help. Also, subjects that can be assessed or even tested for SPM online should be done so.

4. Freeze the transfer of all exam personnel in the Ministry, especially the Lembaga Peperiksaan, Majlis Peperiksaan and at the state education levels until both the SPM and STPM 2020/2021 and 2021 are settled.

5. The Jemaah Nazir should also work with schools to help organise classes or even go to the ground and teach—with all the usual SOPs of course. As I raised in the PH meeting with MOF on the 2021 Budget, we should also recruit interim teachers to assist full-timers with face-to-face and online learning.

Partnerships can also be formed with private training and technology companies for tech solutions and innovations in accelerated learning to help both teachers and students.

6. The UPU is also need of an upgrade to shorten the time needed to process applications and to ensure that it can handle the many tens of thousands that likely will be applying at the same time.

7. We also have to realise that the current batch of school students—the youngest members of the “Covid Generation”, will probably need monitoring and help for a long time to come.

The government should, for a start, increase capacity for matriculation and Form Six for the near future. This is to help better prepare Covid Generation students who have essentially missed a year of school for tertiary education.

For diploma courses, colleges and universities must consider introducing pre-tertiary course of studies (at minimum cost) to help both SPM and STPM batches catch up with the required knowledge in their related field.

I truly hope the Ministry of Education will consider these measures.

It goes beyond politics—it’s the future of a significant portion of young Malaysians, and thereby, the country itself, that is at stake.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN PARLIAMENTARY SPOKESPERSON ON EDUCATION
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

Competency Of English Is Only Part Of The Challenges Facing Bumiputera Graduates

The Executive Director of the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) Shamsuddin Bardan has recently argued that the poor command of English is the main reason why Bumiputera graduates find it hard to get jobs in the private sector.

This is not a novel idea and indeed, Shamsuddin made this exact same argument in response to what was virtually the exact same question in 2018.

I do not deny that competency in the English language is a crucial skill that all Malaysians need. It is valuable in and of itself. And I also do not deny that it is a problem facing many Malaysian graduates—Bumiputera or otherwise.

But it is just one component of the problem. It may be a very big one, perhaps the biggest—but again, it is just one piece of the puzzle.

The danger is that we rely on simplistic assumptions in trying to understand a complex issue, especially if it involves blaming the real victims of a problem.

The fact is that the Malaysian job market has become more challenging in general over the last couple of years.

Indeed, it is no stretch to say that it has collapsed, and this will likely be compounded by the recession created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jobs can be created, but if there are not well-paying, or rather, if they don’t provide opportunities for growth, no one—except perhaps cheap migrant labour—will take them.

You cannot demand workers surrender to perpetually low-paying jobs they can never escape from—which leaves them nothing to save or build families with.

On the other hand, academic studies such as 2016’s seminal “Degrees of Discrimination: Race and Graduate Hiring in Malaysia” by Dr. Muhammed Abdul Khalid and Dr. Lee Hwok Aun has shown that there are real instances of private sector discrimination against Bumiputera graduates.

Moreover, Shamsuddin contradicts himself when he reportedly said that: “There’s no need to be afraid or shy because when they improve, they will benefit from it, too. Companies can then teach them other skills.”

But how are Bumiputera graduates supposed to get such on-the-job-skills when they won’t even be hired in the first place because of the English issue?

Am I saying English is unimportant or should be ignored? I am not. Should employers be forced to hire mediocre workers? Of course not.

But the point I am trying to make is that there are nuances to the Bumiputera graduate unemployment issue than just a case of poor English skills. The same can be said for the challenges facing graduates of all races in Malaysia.

Solving this dilemma requires holistic solutions—including overhauling our education system, ensuring just wage growth and incentivizing companies to constantly upskill as well as develop their workforces to boost productivity.

But these won’t happen if we are stuck in the belief that the onus is only on the workers to improve themselves without any aid from the government or private sector. This is simply not realistic and will hurt all sides—including business owners—in the long-run.

The MEF’s stand is hence tone deaf. But it is also par on course when one considers that this organisation, perhaps unsurprisingly, has always resorted to blaming workers for their plight rather than confront the real issues at hand.

It would be very unfortunate if the current government takes such wrong-headed and dangerous ideas seriously—if it ever gets down to formulating serious and much-needed policies to address our deepening unemployment crisis.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN PARLIAMENTARY SPOKESPERSON ON EDUCATION
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

Rosmah’s Trial Exposes How Corruption Impacted Education In Sabah And Sarawak

There have been a number of shocking revelations emanating from the trial of Rosmah Mansor in relation to the solar hybrid energy to schools in Sarawak project.

This includes claims from a former aide of hers that a special team of cybertroopers was set up with a monthly budget of RM100,000 to protect her online reputation.

Rosmah is alleged to have solicited RM187.5 million and receiving RM6.5 million in bribes in the project.

The allegations unavoidably give rise to disturbing questions about how the culture of corruption that existed under the previous Najib Razak administration has impacted on the state of education in the country—especially in the East Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah.

Funds that ought to have gone to helping as well as providing opportunities for the youth of those states are now alleged to have been squandered for the interests of the elite. Is it no wonder that our education system in general continues to lag behind other countries and hence stunt the country’s potential?

Moreover, the recent Veveonah Moshibin controversy in Sabah suggests that not only do East Malaysian students face numerous challenges in terms of facilities and infrastructure, but also in the form of ignorance, bad faith and outright prejudice from the current Perikatan Nasional government.

Expecting a resolution to these problems from the administration of the day is perhaps a remote prospect when one considers how it is essentially a confederation of vested interests—many of whom were voted out of office during the 2018 General Elections—brought together for the sole purpose of arrogating power to themselves.

Malaysian voters—especially those in East Malaysia—can and must judge for themselves which coalition is better placed to ensure the well-being of their future generations.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN PARLIAMENTARY EDUCATION SPOKESPERSON
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

Learn From The Mistakes Of PPSMI

I strongly urge the government to reconsider the announcement made by the Prime Minister cum Acting Minister of Education, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad over the possible revival of the use of English in the teaching of science and mathematics in Malaysian schools.

We must accept the importance of English, but to reintroduce PPSMI has a major impact on the effectiveness of education. It is hence important for us to recall why the PPSMI was abandoned back in 2012.

Basically, the PPSMI as implemented led to students with weak English skills facing difficulty in learning mathematics and science.

An entire generation of students from such backgrounds were arguably “lost” to those subjects as a result.

Indeed, there were teachers during that period who faced the dilemma whether to make the switch to English as they had students who simply could not keep up.

This was to say nothing of the fact that there were also educators whose English was not good and who could not be brought up to scratch or be easily replaced.

We must be clear about what our objectives are in the first place.

If Malaysians want to strengthen the standard of English among students, we should work to improve the quality of that subject and its syllabus in our schools.

That would do more to improve the standard of English in our country rather than switching the teaching of other subjects to it.

On the other hand, if we want to strengthen our mastery of mathematics and science, we should not forget that the Dual Language Programme (DLP) has been in place since 2016.

The DLP basically gives eligible schools the flexibility to use either Malay or English in their teaching based on the capacities of their students and choice of parents.

I am sure that this is the better approach as parents and individual schools will have a better gauge of their own students and teacher’s abilities compared to a one-size-fits-all system.

Look I am a father of a school-going kid in a national school. I would rather the government make the existing system work than keep tinkering with things.

We should avoid making sudden and changes to our education system without planning and patience. The students and teachers will suffer as a result.

We should be seeking to uphold the spirit of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 that was issued by the-then Minister of Education, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. The parameters that it set ought to remain the framework that governs our educational policies.

Our focus should be ensuring that all Malaysians have access to the best educational opportunities possible as well as boosting investment in the same.

Also, efforts to strengthen Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) should continue, as well as ensuring that our students at all levels are being prepared to compete in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Again, what is required is consultation, foresight and patience.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN CHIEF ORGANISING SECRETARY
KEADILAN CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

Government Must Prioritise Bread And Butter Issues, Says PKR Lawmaker

by Syahirah Syed Jaafar / theedgemarkets.com
December 02, 2018 19:43 pm +08

https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/govt-must-prioritise-bread-and-butter-issues-says-pkr-lawmaker

PETALING JAYA (Dec 2): While institutional reform is needed in the country, the “basic bread and butter economic issues” must be prioritised to prevent backlash from the people, says Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.

“It’s about solving the basic needs of the people. You can talk about institutional reform, but if the bread and butter issues such as wages are not solved, then we will get backlash and we are already seeing signs of that,” the Member of Parliament (MP) for Setiawangsa said at the launch of his book entitled “9 May 2018: Notes from the Frontline” by PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today. The price of the book is at RM25.

Nik Nazmi said while the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition managed to secure the majority of parliamentary seats during the recent 14th general election (GE14), it did not, however, get support from certain quarters of the country and must therefore work harder to earn their trust.

“Even though we have won, we did not get a majority of support from the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, everyone knows that. We also did not get Malay support from Perlis, nor in most seats in Sabah and Sarawak. So these are the things that we need to realise and try to reach out to them,” he added.

For Nik Nazmi, GE14 was a personal milestone as he was contesting for the first time at federal level. He clinched the Parliamentary seat of Setiawangsa, the only seat in Kuala Lumpur that Barisan Nasional had never lost previously.

In his book, Nik Nazmi gave his behind-the-scenes take on the political developments in the opposition coalition from the disappointing loss of GE13 to the ecstacy win of GE14.

“I thought it was important that we document this experience and I wanted to contribute my account so that we can remind ourselves as we embark on a New Malaysia,” he said.

Recalling the fall of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition and the founding of Pakatan Harapan, he also gave his first-hand account of the back room politics, the party conferences, the development of the non-profit organisation INVOKE Malaysia, working with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as well as insight into the campaigns he worked on in Selangor and Setiawangsa, and in marginal seats from Perlis to Sabah.

Meawhile, Anwar conceded that a lot more has to be done to address the bread and butter issues, especially the poor and marginalised groups.

“Now that I am MP for Port Dickson, I see that poverty remains an issue till today. While I advocate for dismantling the New Economic Policy to create more progressive ones, many Malays in the rural areas remain suspicious of our efforts because we are not seen as creating tough measures to elevate poverty.

“But I am mindful that to succeed, we must be clear that we will work on getting rid of corruption and show more compassion towards the marginalised,” he said in his speech at the book launch.

Nik Nazmi previously served as private secretary to Anwar from 2006 to 2008. Nik Nazmi also held the position of the first Pakatan Harapan Youth Leader from 2017 to 2018 and PKR youth chief from 2014 to 2018. He was a two-term Selangor state assemblyman until 2018.

Later after the launch, Anwar urged Umno and PAS leaders not to proceed with the rally linked to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) on Dec 8.

He said they should not deny that there was currently racial anxiety, in addition to Putrajaya having said that it had decided not to ratify the United Nations convention.

“I am asking for the wisdom of Umno and PAS leaders as we can’t deny there is racial anxiety now,” he added.

Anwar also called on leaders to show more courage to tackle racism in the country.

“The agenda of reform does not finish necessarily with a change in leadership. On May 9, Malaysians showed that they were willing to stand together to fight corruption, racism and bigotry.

“We may have won (GE14), but we must continue the fight especially with the rising racism in the West and other nations,” said Anwar.

“Yes, we have problems like with what happened (rioting) at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in USJ25 recently. But I believe Malaysians can be better.

We should never be proud of these religious bigots, they are there waiting for the chance to screw up the nation. I believe if we remain steadfast in our conviction to our promise for reform, we can achieve justice for all,” he added.

Respect Opposition Representatives

I cannot agree with the stance taken by the Minister of Education YB Maszlee Malik, who stated in Parliament that opposition legislators must apply for permission from his Ministry via the relevant State Education Department Director before they can enter government schools.

MPs, ADUNs and local councillors are often invited to such institutions. They are important places in the civic life of our country.

Barring opposition figures from schools and other institutions of learning was one of the worst abuses under the previous Barisan Nasional government.

Many Pakatan Harapan legislators—including myself—fell victim to it.

Despite serving as Selangor State Exco for Education from 2014-2018, I was constantly barred from visiting schools there.

I was even prevented from speaking at my alma mater, KYUEM, allegedly due to political pressure on the school authorities.

On another occasion, I was forced to pretend to be a student—including riding into campus on a motorbike—in order to fulfil an invitation at Universiti Malaya.

Now that Pakatan Harapan is in power federally—it must continue to take the moral high ground.

There is no reason why we should adopt repressive practices and pettiness of the previous government.

We must trust all legislators—whatever their parties—to behave responsibly when carrying out their public engagements.

Action can of course be taken if any MP or ADUN abuse these platforms, such as by inciting racial or religious hatred or pushing a partisan agenda.

But in all other cases, legislators can and should be allowed into schools, colleges and universities when they are invited to do so.

I cannot understand why issues like this even arise in the New Malaysia.

The Minister ought to know better. He certainly should be more open-minded.

Pakatan Harapan must be different. We must do better in this and all things.

NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
PAKATAN HARAPAN YOUTH LEADER
KEADILAN CENTRAL LEADERSHIP COUNCIL MEMBER
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT