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End the Plight of Students of STPM Chinese Language and Tamil Language

4 April 2012

Joint Press Statement by LLG Cultural Development Centre, Cultural-Education Committee of KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Tamil Foundation

LLG & KLSCAH urges the government to tackle the severe problems of STPM Chinese language and Tamil language subjects to end the plight of students who love their mother tongue. If the government does not step in quickly to rectify the problems and our society remains silent and unaware, the minority group’s mother tongue subjects in national education system will be closed down one day. It is also extremely unfair to students taking these subjects.

Common issues facing STPM Chinese and Tamil language subjects

 1. Number of students registered for examination has been decreasing over the past four years.

According to the statistics of Lembaga Peperiksaan, Ministry of Education, from year 2008 to 2011, number of students registered for STPM Chinese language subject from 732 has dropped to 532, an average decrease of 50 students every year. Number of students’ registered for STPM Tamil language subject has reduced from 962 in 2008 to 724 in 2011, an average decrease of 59 students every year.

These statistics are alarming since those sitting for these exams are practically very good students who are confident to do remarkably well in their mother tongue subjects.

 2. The full passes percentage are lower than Bahasa Malaysia

From 2008 to 2011, the full passing percentage of STPM Chinese language, Tamil language and Bahasa Malaysia is averagely 63.2%, 68.2% and 73.1% respectively. There is always a 10% and 5% difference from the Bahasa Malaysia paper over the past four years.

Abnormally High Failure percentage of STPM Chinese language subject

It is shocking to know that the failure percentage of STPM Chinese language is abnormally high, 18.58% and 18.11% for 2008 and 2009 compare to 7.85% and 7.75% for Bahasa Malaysia subject. The data of 2010 and 2011 is not available. This has driven students away from taking the STPM Chinese language subject.

Analysis

There are many factors causing students to turn away from SPM and STPM Chinese language and Tamil language subjects :

  1. There is a 15 student threshold to open a Chinese and Tamil language class in national secondary schools. Therefore it is difficult to form a Chinese or Tamil language class at STPM level.
  2. Insufficient trained teachers for STPM Chinese and Tamil language subjects.
  3. Most of students have no choice but to go for private tuition, this increases their family’s financial burden.
  4. For the Chinese language subject, the high failure percentage and low A attainment percentage have frightened students from taking up the subject. According to senior Chinese language teachers, this is attributed to adjustment of normal distribution chart by ministry officer after the Chinese and Tamil language paper marking. The syllabus, examination and quality of students have very minimal effect to this result.
  5. Because of that, the school authority and teachers are not encouraging students from taking up Chinese and Tamil language subjects for the sake of the students’ future in obtaining scholarships and the overall performance of the school.

The phenomenon shows the national educational system failed in protecting and developing minority group’s mother tongue subjects. Under the monolingual educational policy of the government, not only other linguistic stream of schools are facing unfair treatment, even the single mother tongue subjects within national education system are systematically discriminated and suppressed.

The government must ensure students’ right to learn their mother tongue in national schools by providing fair resources and a practical conducive environment.

Proposed Reforms

  1. We hold the view that, only by abolishing systematic discrimination and replacement of the monolingual hegemony ideology with multilingualism, let education be solely education, only then we can end the plight of students choosing Chinese and Tamil languages at SPM and STPM level.
  2. The government ought to form a special taskforce to resolve problems facing mother tongue subjects in national secondary schools. The task force must comprise of experts from various ethnic backgrounds, NGO leaders, academicians in the field of language studies and high ranking officers from the Ministry of Education. The government has the power to instantly summon examination board directors for a detailed explanation and institute new rules and regulations so as to increase the number of students taking these subjects.
  3. The government must reduce the open class threshold to a minimum of 5 students and allow students from other schools in the same district to attend these classes. The mother tongue subject must be taught during normal school hours and not after school hours.
  4. The Ministry of Education must temporarily employ senior retired teachers for conducting these classes. The teachers training institute must train sufficient STPM mother tongue teachers to meet the demand. Therefore the need for more students to take up mother tongue language education to provide for the increasing demand of language teachers in future. It is a serious issue that the Ministry of Education must address for the betterment of a multi-lingual, multi-racial, multi-cultural country. Otherwise, the minority groups will slowly lose its identity.
  5. The government must disclose the past 20 years statistics and the normal distribution chart of Chinese language, Tamil language as well as indigenous language subjects, at STPM and SPM level to scrutinize its impartiality.
  6. The government must review the results of SPM and STPM Chinese and Tamil language as soon as possible.