We warn the Malaysian Education Minister against repeating the mistakes of implementing the New Curriculum for Primary Schools in the 1980s when he enforces a new approach to exams and syllabi for the primary and secondary schools

Press Statement
by Dr Tan Seng Giaw

(Kuala Lumpur, Wednesday):  Yesterday, the Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad said that we needed a fresh and new philosophy in our approach to exams. One method of assessment is to enable coursework marks to be included in a subject’s final marks.

 “We will not be eliminating them (exams) entirely but the number (of public examinations) is likely to be reduced,” he added.

 Examination systems exist from time immemorial. They cannot be eliminated. People with good exam. results may not necessarily be knowledgeable and those with knowledge may not necessarily have excellent exam. results.

 Besides preparing students for exams, schools must equip them to fulfill other needs such as the ability to think and to get on in the world. Hence, raising the standard of headmasters and teachers is correct.

 Then, previous experience cautions us against bloody-minded attitude and vainglory. In the 1980s, the Education Ministry implemented the New Curriculum for Primary Schools (and Secondary Schools) with indecent haste. We saw many problems arising from the concept, the shortage of trained teachers and the dearth of facilities.

 In the Malaysian educational history, new education ministers institute new policies and styles. Their inappropriate management results in frustrations and poor morale.

 In 1970, the Government began eradicating English without credible alternatives. Now, it wants to make amend, such as by introducing the teaching of Mathematics and Science using English. Encouraging Malaysians to be proficient in English is important. After over 30 years of hiatus, we need proper planning for the teaching of the language.

 At the end of 2002, the Government set up a National Education Review Committee headed by the Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir. We had hoped that there would be a comprehensive review of our education system. Alas, this is only for national schools, making them more attractive for Malaysians of all races.

 Intransigent Education Ministers make life difficult for everybody including 300,000 teachers. We hope that Tan Sri Musa considers all aspects so that practicable approach to exams and syllabi can be implemented without disruptions.


* Dr Tan Seng Giaw, DAP National Vice-Chairman and MP for Kepong