It’s time to do away with the SPM exam

I do not think that the SPM is relevant for today’s education any more. It was once important but now it is just repeating an old worn-out tradition.

To decide whether SPM is relevant or not, we have to ask ourselves other questions first.

My first question is: why go to a university just so you can get a job, when the job is already looking for you?

In the new economy, a young person could be making RM50,000 or RM60,000 instead of going into the red for that amount for years spent at university.

There are online shopping malls that are both efficient and satisfying, and which are killing the lives of physical malls. We have delivery services that are replacing shiny malls, and soon, grocery hypermarkets.

We have Grab drivers and Foodpanda delivery riders. There are millions who would drive or ride to get anything you want to send or receive.

Do not make me cry at YouTubers, who are making ridiculous money at a young age through videos about questionable pastimes and make-up tips.

Study at your own pace

Secondly, you can enter university or a specialised education programme at your own leisure. The concept of TVET and microcredits are already here. Young adults could also tag on a few short courses or certificate courses that would add on to some kind of degree course later on.

Eckhart Tolle, whose spiritual books taught me many things, stopped school at the age of 12. He loved reading and read a lot of history books and he taught himself Spanish in addition to his German native tongue.

He was also taught English early in his life, and he continued developing his skills in the language when he was in England making a simple living as a tutor of German and Spanish. When he wanted to take up philosophy as his calling, he took a few exams to qualify, and then he was in the system.

Separate university entrance exams

In the US, as I understand it, you need to take a placement examination if you did not sit for the SAT tests that are standard across that country.

What I am saying is that there are many ways into a university other than just using a standardised national exam.

I look towards a future when any university of worth would develop their own examinations for entry into their system. An Ivy league university would set its own entry examination, which would be different for courses in engineering and philosophy.

The syllabus for the exam would of course be made known, and practice exam questions can also be made for sale. Lesser universities offering more common courses would have their own easier entry exams that would also contain their own syllabuses and practice exam questions.

What schools should teach

As a country, not everyone has to go through loads of information on so many subjects. It should be enough for a child to obtain a basic certificate for reading, basic counting and sums, know that the sun is not a God, understand the values of respecting others in the world and know where their tribe comes from.

They should also know that other people exist in a world around them, possess an ability to write reports and letters that explain a little, and a cursory ability in two other languages would be the fundamental core.

Everyone should get that basic certificate if they go through all 13 years of schooling. Those who wish to go further in science, arts or others would pursue their own specific subjects, which should be enough for them to know which university syllabus to target. You should learn just enough, and no more, at this young age.

I believe that the education ministry should start appointing the heads of committees of subjects who are not experts but are able to look at the overall human picture. The problem now is that the head of the science subject is a scientist and the head of the history subject is himself or herself an accomplished historian.

Tak boleh macam itu lagi.

We want heads made up of overall thinkers and pragmatic professionals, romantics and rationalists, not experts. Experts should serve under these thinkers and philosopher-moralists.

Pathways for the rich

At the moment, SPM is a competition for the rich to place their children in the best universities to ensure a bright future for them. If education is a race and a competition, my good Malaysians, we are sorely off the mark. That is why we are where we are in any issue of race, religion, environment, health, economy and politics.

Everything is a senseless competition with no idea of what you really get  if you win. We are so steeped in competition that we have forgotten what we are racing towards or what we were supposed to begin with.

It’s time to retire the SPM. It has had a good run, but it should have been put out to pasture 30 years ago.


The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.


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