Sunday April 17, 2011
A new STPM format
By PRIYA KULASAGARAN
Sixth-formers will be tested continuously over three semesters instead of being assessed in one major exam.
AFTER 29 years, the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) examination is set to undergo a massive facelift next year.
Last week, Deputy Education Minister Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong said that the existing terminal system for STPM assessments will be replaced by a modular one in 2012.
A modular system means that assessment is conducted throughout a particular programme, while a terminal system places the assessment at the end of the study period.
The modular system for the STPM will be based on three semesters, whereby evaluation will occur at the end of each semester.
Dr Wee explained that this new format will lessen the burden of Form Six students and better prepare them for tertiary study.
“Right now, students have to contend with the pressure of doing well in one major examination at the end of the Form Six studies.
“We think that it will be better to expose students to the sort of continuous assessment that is being practised in universities.
“By implementing a semester-based system and placing a 20% weightage on coursework, we hope to produce a more holistic approach to learning,” he said.
He added that no changes will be made to the content of the STPM syllabus itself.
Having remained unchanged since its inception in 1982, calls for a rehaul of the Form Six programme are not new.
In fact, the Education Ministry had announced the change to a modular system back in 2009, where Dr Wee was then reported as saying that the new system will be introduced in 2011.
Despite letters to the media from concerned parents and students seeking confirmation of the change, there was no solid response from the ministry until recently.
When asked about the delay in implementing the modular system, Dr Wee said that it was due to the logistics of overhauling the current framework.
It is these logistics that Form Six teacher Rokiah* is concerned about.
“I agree that the STPM needs an overhaul if it is to stay relevant to today’s students,” he says.
“But implementing a modular system is not as easy it sounds.
“For one, if the coursework involved is going to be marked by in-school teachers, how will these marks be standardised? Will there be an independent panel of examiners as well?
“If the latter is the case, the cost of carrying out the examinations will definitely increase.”
Form Six teacher Lau* welcomed the change, saying that it would inject new life into the qualification.
“I think that the new system will give teachers more room to be creative with their teaching methods, such as including more discussions and school-projects.
“But if students continue to be spoon-fed and rely on rote learning, it will make no difference,” he said.
Lau added that he hoped teachers will be given training on carrying out the new method of assessment.
“So far, we have still not received any official details on how these new assessments are going to be carried out.
“I hope that it (the training) will not be rolled-out at the last minute, with teachers groping in the dark and wondering how to instruct their students,” he said.
STPM-leaver Lim Sook Wei, 20, thinks there are advantadges and drawbacks to both the terminal and modular systems.
“The modular system will allow students to forget what they’ve learnt in a semester once they are done with it, and this knowledge might have a connection to what’s being taught in the following semester.
“On the other hand, students will be forced to study consistently instead of cramming all their effort in the few months before the final examinations,” she said.
Meanwhile, Edmond Ling, 21, said that the change may come with a drop in standards.
Now a second-year medical student, Edmond said that the rigourous nature of the STPM eased the burden of his tertiary study
“During Form Six, I had no choice but to internalise everything I learnt in order to do well in the exam,” he said.
“Since the STPM syllabus covers so much ground, I felt like my first year at university was a breeze. I think that the new modular system may dilute the quality of the qualification, because students will not have to work as hard any more.”
But Upper Six Mohd Ashraf Suleiman, 19, thinks otherwise.
“Most Malaysians are the mugging type but this modular system will encourage better learning habits.
“Also, coursework will help promote critical thinking and reading material beyond just textbooks,” he said.
Form Five student Revathi Joseph however, has more pragmatic concerns for her Form Six study next year.
“I’m having a tough time with some subjects in school right now because of disinterested teachers,” she said.
“A few don’t even bother coming into class! I have to attend tuition classes in order to complete the syllabus.
“I’m just worried that if there are going to be teachers like that when I take up Form Six, getting guidance with coursework and preparing for multiple exams is going to be an issue.”