Saturday 28 May 2011

Scholarship row: Exam standards plunged

'In the move to get the weak students fare better in exams, the syllabus have been diluted and marking standards lowered.'

Too many top scorers, not enough scholarships

David Dass: We should take away the politics in the award of scholarships. First, agree on the criteria and the quotas, and publish them.

Then establish the total number of overseas and local scholarships available. Here, there may be a need to collate all the scholarships being awarded by government and GLC bodies.

Then make sure that the interviews are conducted by multiethnic boards. And finally there should be bonds to serve in the country after graduation.

The public should understand that the country's manpower needs may dictate areas of priority and preference. It may be that too many are chasing medical degrees. The scholarship award bodies must recognise the importance of nurturing talent and keeping them in the country.

Parents and candidates must recognise the importance of co-curricular activities and the importance of effective communication skills in both Malay and English. We should educate each person to his or her full potential. But some should consider vocational studies.

Anonymous_4031: Should we be surprised that there are many top scorers now compared to the Cambridge School Certificate Examination in the 50s?

In 1956, the Cambridge School Certificate (mind you, it is an external examination), to get even one distinction in a certain subject was an achievement. To obtain five distinctions was a great achievement; to attain nine distinctions (maximum subjects offered) was a rarity; and I would rate that person a genius.

And in the school examination for each Form, there were two terminal examinations. A student must obtain 50 marks in order to pass a subject. There were a few core subjects which he must pass, or else he failed.

Failure meant repeating the same Form for another year. If you were unfortunate to obtain 49 marks, you failed! There was no shifting the goalpost (lowering the passing mark until you passed).

Sad to say, the quota system is a curse. Every school and even university tries to get as many students to pass as possible.

Anonymous_4031: To try to pass as many students as possible, and to get as many candidates as possible to score distinctions is to 'dilute' the examination certificate.

Try to do that in the external Cambridge examination, you will fail miserably. There was no such thing as lowering the passing mark and lowering the mark for distinction (A+, A and A2).

Three years ago, a law lecturer at a public university was forced to resign because she refused to be dishonest in her marking scheme, and she refused to pass failed students.

She was harassed by her superior. She was told that she was a "disgrace" to the reputation of the university. Nonsense! He was a disgrace to the university. The higher education minister found it fit to give a very late reply when she was no more there.

Please do not let down the name of Malaysia with the quota system. You are spoiling the nation's name. Otherwise, don't trumpet that Malaysia is the centre of educational excellence.

Nirvana: The standard of the examinations has dropped. That's why a lot of students are scoring 10As, etc.

I recently interviewed 15 candidiates for a executive post in my department. This department deals with customer's documents from all over the world. The common language used is English.

None of the 15 candidates could answer the interviewer in English. They preferred to talk in broken English, Malay as spoken in the pasars malam, and when asked to write a short essay on their biography, the words used were as if they were texting on their mobile phones.

Sandakan: The interviewers for PSD (Public Service Department) scholarships have no idea how to conduct a proper interview. Years ago, I attended an interview for a scholarship and the first question they asked was "What is the full name of the Agong?"

How in the hell is that relevant for a scholarship? Will knowing the full name of the Agong make me a more loyal subject and help the interviewers assess my ability to do well in my university studies? Needless to say, I was not given a scholarship.

Kgen: Ask any Malaysian how many seats there are in the Dewan Rakyat and 90 percent can't give you the correct answer. This shows that the interview is a farce and just an excuse to eliminate students. By the way, the answer now is 222 but it may change after a delineation exercise.

Patriot: I think it is not too few scholarships for too many top scorers. The real reason is because of the country's policy of racial quota. In every field of profession - be it law, accountancy, medicine, engineering - the universities are under pressure to produce substandard professionals.

For example, a qualified engineering diploma graduate from TAR College, which is not recognised by the BN government, can easily find jobs unlike graduates from local universities. Accountancy graduates from local universities are paid lower than ACCA, CPA, CA, etc. Why? Again because of low quality.

In the move to get the weak students fare better in exams, the syllabus have been diluted and marking standards lowered. Hence many students can score more than 12 A+. Also with a two-tiered university exams - STPM and matriculation - it creates unfair advantage for the matriculation students.

Anonymous: "Perhaps the major problem is not there are too few scholarships, but too many applicants from an examination that has too many top scorers," said Malaysiakini commentator Hann Wei Toh.

If this is true, how does one explain scholarships given to applicants with lower scores as reported? It's futile to find excuses for a government that will never actually solve a long-standing problem.

The above is a selection of comments posted by Malaysiakini subscribers. Only paying subscribers can post comments.

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