THE new Secondary Schools’ Standard Curriculum, introduced to replace arts and science streams for Form Four students beginning this year, got off to a shaky start two days into the new school term.
Although the new system provides freedom to students to choose from 89 elective subjects, some secondary schools face logistic issues, such as availability of teachers, lack of classrooms and delayed arrival of textbooks.
A parent, whose daughter goes to a secondary school here, said Form Four students were allowed to choose either Computer Science, Accounting or Technical Communication Graphic in place of Biology.
The parent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to the New Sunday Times, however, said those who wanted to take the three alternative subjects must go to another class and study Science and Mathematics in Bahasa Malaysia.
Parents, she said, were unhappy because many of the students were under the Dual Language Programme (DLP) and had been studying Science and Mathematics in English since Form One.
“We were told this had to be done due to a shortage of textbooks. This is unacceptable. This is what happens when a policy is implemented and schools are not prepared to execute it due to insufficient teachers, textbooks or others.”
It was reported that the Education Ministry would introduce more elective subjects to cater to students’ interests.
The ministry’s deputy director-general (policies and development), Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim, had said the new system would see students grouped according to the subjects they chose from the two main subject packages.
She said there were 36 subjects under the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) package and 53 subjects under the Arts and Humanities package.
Some schools, she said, might not offer all the elective subjects.
Another parent, Ernie Md Arof, 45, said although the new system provided flexibility to students in terms of choosing their preferred subjects, students were not prepared for it.
She said her daughter, who is studying at a school in Rawang, claimed that choosing the subjects was challenging as students had no prior knowledge of the syllabus and had yet to receive the textbooks.
“It is difficult to decide without the textbooks because we do not know the content of each subject,” her daughter said, adding that teachers, however, had been helpful.
Ernie said students had options and were not required to choose only science or arts subjects.
“My daughter is in the religious stream, but she is also taking Accounting, Economics and Business, apart from the core subjects (Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mathematics, Additional Mathematics, History, Science, Arabic, Al Quran and Sunnah, and Syariah Islamiah).”
A teacher said although students could choose their preferred subjects, it would depend on the availability of teachers and facilities at their schools.
“Many people think that students are allowed to choose elective subjects according to their preferences, but in reality, not all the subjects are available. I think this issue needs to be addressed first if we are serious about giving flexibility to students in choosing their elective subjects.”
He said students could go for private tuition to study elective subjects that were not available in their schools or transfer to a different school that offered the subjects.
Another teacher lauded the new system as it gave students more freedom to choose their preferred subjects.
“For example, instead of taking Pure Science subjects, such as Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Additional Mathematics, one can opt for Physics, Chemistry, Additional Mathematics and Accounting if he or she aspires to be an accountant.
“By doing so, students can focus on their favourite subjects and what they aspire to be in the future.”
The Education Ministry last year announced that the arts and science streams that segregated students according to their capabilities in upper secondary schools would be scrapped beginning this year.
Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching had said the government would replace it with MPEI (Mata Pelajaran Elektif Ikhtisas) or Science, Technology, Reading, Arts, Music Education.
There are four subject packages available, with three packages under STEM and one under Arts and Humanities.
Elective STEM subjects are divided into Pure Science, Applied Science and Technology, and vocational subjects, while under Arts and Humanities there are languages, Islamic studies, as well as arts and humanities.
For the STEM package, students can take all Pure science subjects, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Additional Mathematics (first option); any two Pure Science subjects, Additional Mathematics and one elective STEM subject in Applied Science and Technology or non-elective STEM subject (second option); or at least two elective STEM subjects in Applied Science and Technology or one vocational subject (third option).
Students must take core subjects like Bahasa Malaysia, English, Science, Mathematics, History and Islamic or Moral Studies and a compulsory subject that is Physical and Health Education.