Sunday, December 31, 2006

Six New Local Public Universities in 2007

Posted by Chong

The story started when six of the local university colleges requested the dropping of the word ‘college’ in their names as they felt their current description had an inferior connotation. Then, they were being asked to upgrade their status. In April 2006, Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapa Mohamed had said that he was looking into their request. Finally, our government has agreed to rename 'university college (kolej universiti)' to 'university (universiti)' back in October 2006. The Star Online reported that January 1, 2007 will be the official date for the name-change for six university colleges:
  • Kolej Universiti Kejuruteraan Utara Malaysia (KUKUM) to Universiti Malaysia Perlis
  • Kolej Universiti Sains dan Teknologi Malaysia (KUSTEM) to Universiti Malaysia Terengganu
  • Kolej Universiti Kejuruteraan dan Teknologi Malaysia (KUKTEM) to Universiti Malaysia Pahang
  • Kolej Universiti Teknikal Kebangsaan Malaysia (KUTKM) to Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Malacca
  • Kolej Universiti Islam Malaysia in Nilai, Negri Sembilan to Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia
  • Kolej Universiti Teknologi Tun Hussein Onn in Batu Pahat to Universiti Teknologi Tun Hussein Onn

The change of name is because people especially employers have misconceptions about the status of 'university college' (Kolej Universiti) and also to satisfy public requests. The misconceptions among employers possibly make life difficult for graduates from these university colleges to be hired. Actually, those university colleges have the status of 'university college' are due to their specialization in limited disciplines compared to those full-fledged universities. Moreover, the number of undergraduates in a university college is less than 10,000.

Malaysia Students blog contributor, Reign226 who is currently an undergraduate of KUTKM (soon to be Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Malacca) has a good write-up on this. He wrote:
As a result of this, classes in KU [Kolej Universiti] usually have a very desirable teacher:student ratio. In my own class, we only have 18 students, so the teachers are able to devote time for each student. Lecturers also have a comparatively open schedule and can be approached easily as their responsibilities are only towards a small pool of students.

Indeed, the more established KUs are virtually indistinguishable from other universities both in terms of diversity and student population. As my own KU is relatively new, there are some annoying inconveniences that I have to put up with, chiefly the lack of a proper campus for my own faculty.

Personally, I believe most or at least half of the undergraduates in the university colleges did not choose those university colleges when filling in Bahagian Pengurusan Kemasukan Pelajaran (BPKP, which was formerly known as Unit Pusat Universiti, UPU) online registration form. Well, I think the most obvious reason is that most students, when choosing public institutions of higher learning, believe that old is gold (isn’t it? ;-) and hence would choose well-established universities rather than those relatively new university colleges. Furthermore, most local public universities have been well-known for being specialized in certain disciplines while University of Malaya (UM) being the most prestigious university in Malaysia.

Some questions come to my mind as I read this news: Does it mean that by renaming these university colleges to universities, they become full-fledged universities? Can they each support more than 10,000 undergraduates? Once they admit more undergraduates to achieve the full-fledged university status, will lecturer:undergraduate ratio be reasonable? Will teaching materials and resources be sufficient?

Only time will tell. ;-)

Update: Berita Harian Online reported that the official date for the name-change has been postponed to February 1, 2007. Secretary of Ministry of Higher Education, Datuk Dr Zulkefli A Hassan said that it was postponed after considering a few legal processes which need some time to be completed.

Even though these university colleges will be renamed to universities, the courses and degree programmes offered by them will remain the same. Besides that, the enrollment of these soon-to-be universities will be between 10,000 and 15,000 undergraduates, which means no increase compared to their previous enrollments. Meanwhile, the administrative positions like Rektor and Deputy Rektor will be renamed to Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor respectively.


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Thursday, December 14, 2006

SPM – 12 Subjects Maximum

Posted by Chong

Malaysian Examination Syndicate (MES or Majlis Peperiksaan Malaysia) has proposed that SPM candidates can take a maximum of 12 subjects as there are many Form Four students indicating to sign up for more than the required seven subjects next year. These students believe that they waste no money even if they do not sit for the additional subjects during the actual SPM examination since the national examination fees will be abolished from 2007 onwards.

The Star Online reported:
A source said that some students had told their teachers that taking more subjects at no additional cost meant they could sit for them without preparing and hope to score if they were lucky.

“Some say they can also skip the papers as nothing will be wasted. They have everything to gain as they just might do well. This is the wrong spirit but we can’t stop them as it is their choice,” a teacher said.
As I read this, I am shocked by this kind of mentality. Do they lose nothing if they take more than usual number of subjects and do not sit for the papers? No, they will lose many things.

  • Time, money and energy – They have to pay for the tuition fees and spend time and energy learning the subjects on their own as the additional subjects will not be taught in their school classes. The timetable of a school class cannot afford these additional subjects since it has already been filled with ten to eleven subjects. If they don’t get an A for the additional subject they choose to take, they will lose a lot of time and money.

    Something I want to point out is that most of the secondary schools offer packages in which contain more than the compulsory seven subjects:
    For instance, for art stream packages:
    • Art (Seni)
    • Geography (Geografi)
    • Account Principle (Prinsip Akaun)
    • Basic Economy (Ekonomi Asas)
    • Business (Pedagangan)
    Most of the science stream packages contain ten or more subjects:
    There are also elective languages such as:
  • Pride, scholarship and other opportunities – Imagine yourself holding your SPM result slip on which shows 11 As and 1 F since you put no effort in learning and preparing for the additional subjects. As a result, you stand very little chance to win the prestigious scholarships like Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam (JPA) scholarship (also know as PSD scholarship) and Petronas scholarship, to name a few. Most scholarship interviewers and even future employers will question you for the F in your SPM result slip.

    Besides that, you are not eligible for the cash awards offered by certain banks to straight As scorer. Last year, a few hundred ringgits were credited to my bank accounts by Maybank, Eon Finance and Hong Leong Bank for being a SPM straight As scorer. See, you do get paid for studying hard! ;-)

Quoting from the same article:
Besides limiting the number of subjects, sources said the MES has also proposed that students pay for subjects that exceed the maximum number.

“A paper has been submitted to the Education Ministry for it to be discussed by the Cabinet,” said a source.
So, do not worry, you can still sit for more than the 12 subjects if you choose to. However, you have to pay for the additional subject. These proposals if accepted by the Cabinet will affect candidates of SPM 2007 onwards.

The current education system in Malaysia rewards those with higher number of As, contributing to the unhealthy competition among students. Most of those taking additional subjects do so with the hope that they would get more As and thus stand a higher chance to win the scholarships. Some of them have not interest at all in the additional subjects. Hence, they would study and learn the subject blindly.

Personally, I do not agree that the free examinations from next year onwards would not significantly contribute to the higher number of students taking more than 12 subjects in SPM. I, for example, will not take five (usually four) subjects in my STPM next year due to this announcement.

I have not intention to dissuade you from taking more than 12 subjects in your SPM in writing this post. If you do plan to do so, I would advise you to examine the merits and demerits in doing so. After carefully consider your strength and weakness especially in time and pressure management, you should be able to make your best decision. After all, you shape your own future. ;-)


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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

SPM – Iban as New Subject

Posted by Chong

Iban language (Bahasa Iban) which is already a subject in Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) examination will be introduced as a new elective subject to all form four students next year and form five the following year. Education Ministry has standardised the Iban language, which is presently taught in schools in Sarawak up to form three level, and agreed to make it a subject in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination in 2008. So, pioneers will sit for this subject as the first batch in SPM 2008.

The Star reported:
As of June this year, 9,372 students from Form One to Form Three studied Bahasa Iban in 55 schools, with 165 teachers available.

For Form Four next year, it is estimated that 1,440 students will take the subject in 48 schools under 144 teachers.
A guidebook, called Sistem Jaku Iban Di Sekula (The Standard System of the Iban Language in Schools) and authored by experts and educationists in Iban language, has been produced to aid the ministry to in producing textbooks, teaching material and learning activities for students. Moreover, it would enable Malaysian Examination Syndicate to introduce the Iban language paper for SPM.

Personally, I think that the step of introducing Iban language as the new SPM subject is heading the right direction as more and more Ibans are educated. Malaysia is unique as it consists of people of different races and cultures. We speak Malay (Bahasa Melayu) as our national language and English as the international language. Besides that, some of the us speak and use our own mother tongues such as Mandarin, Tamil, Iban etc in our daily conversation. We practise our own cultures and speak our own native languages yet we are a united nation.

Although languages other than Malay and English such as Chinese, Tamil and Iban are elective subjects in current education programmes and examinations, I urge all non-Malay students to take the respective native languages as a subject and sit for its examination, be it in PMR or SPM. If we do not speak and preserve our own native languages, who should we hope for doing so? I believe one of the essential ways to preserve our native languages is by taking it as a subject and study it in our schools.

I managed to score only a 2A in Chinese language (Bahasa Cina) in my SPM examination last year. The funny thing is that I scored 1A in both my Malay (Bahasa Melayu) and English (Bahasa Inggeris). I even got a 1A for SPM English 1119 (GCE 'O' Level) though my English both spoken and written are not as good as my Chinese. Moreover, I was a Chinese debater and have taken part in a national level debate competition. So message from my true story: it is not easy to score 1A in the elective language subjects.

An experienced teacher once told me that we are actually competing with each others during the examination. It is because Malaysian Examination Syndicate (MES) has set a percentage of subject-takers to get 1A, 2A and other grades. For instance, let say for Chinese language paper, MES has set the top 10 percent of the candidates taking the subject to get 1A, then if you are not in the top 10 percent, you will not get a 1A even if your total marks are above 75 (1A band). This also explains why some candidates can get 1A for a particular subject even if their scores are lower than 75.

I do not know how true this statement is. Any insider would like to shed light on this? The reason I share with you my experience is not to discourage you to take the elective language subjects but to provide the other side of story for you to judge and make your best decision. Nonetheless I do not regret for taking Chinese language in my SPM. Until today, I am very proud of my Chinese primary education and also my exam results in this subject.


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