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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Stop politicising education

Why has the BN government doggedly refused to recognize the UEC all these years?
COMMENT
small classroomBy Kua Kia Soong
The government’s recent statement that the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) of the 60 Malaysian Independent Chinese Secondary Schools (MICSS) is not recognized because it does not follow the national education system is sheer poppycock and a poor attempt at pulling the wool over the eyes of the gullible.
A simple question to the Education Ministry will show that this statement is completely untenable:
How does a student from Kazakhstan or Bosnia or China gain admission into a Malaysian public tertiary institution when their respective education systems do not follow our national system?
It’s academic accreditation stupid!
Academic accreditation of education institutions and certificates is what the Malaysian Qualifications Authority (MQA) has been set up to do in the first place.
One assumes that the government recognizes all foreign educational certificates based on their accreditation by the Malaysian Qualifications Authority (MQA).
How else do foreign students gain admission into our institutions of higher learning? Thus, a student from the PRC can enter a Malaysian tertiary institution based on the PRC’s secondary school leaving certificate.
One presumes that our MQA, which is amply staffed, would have done an accreditation of the PRC’s relevant certificate.
The fact that the MQA has yet to do an accreditation of the UEC when other foreign universities have done so since the eighties is not saying very much for professional standards of the MQA.
Today, more than 400 foreign tertiary institutions around the world already recognize the UEC and our MICSS students are found in countries all over the globe, including France, Germany and Russia.
Ever since the eighties, the National University of Singapore has been poaching hundreds of top UEC students not only for their academic excellence but also for their trilingual capabilities in an effort to balance the cultural mix of their Anglophile Singaporeans.
If the MQA is a professional accreditation institution, it would spell out in no uncertain terms what its audit of the UEC has concluded.
It does not matter if the requirements of the MQA are far more stringent than the National University of Singapore’s – it just has to spell out in no uncertain terms what the results of that audit are.
The government cannot simply suspend a purely professional decision for nearly 40 years.
Political rat
So why has the BN government doggedly refused to recognize the UEC all these years?
In 1975, when the MICSS decided to hold its first Unified Examination, the Chinese education leaders were summoned to Parliament by then Education Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and were told in no uncertain terms to cancel the examination “or else…!”
They carried on regardless of the consequences and the UEC has been held every year since then without ever springing a leak in any examination papers. (See Kua Kia Soong, The Chinese Schools of Malaysia: A Protean Saga, 1985)
It should be pointed out at the outset that, in sharp contrast to foreign students, BM and English are compulsory language papers in the UEC and many MICSS schools also run the SPM at the fifth secondary year (The MICSS is a six-year secondary school system).
My two children who studied in MICSS also have full SPM certificates and credits in BM. This easily demolishes the myth that MICSS students only study in the Chinese medium.
Malaysians should also know that there are hundreds of non-Chinese students in the MICSS and more than 80,000 non-Chinese students in Chinese-medium primary schools of Malaysia.
This is in sharp contrast to UiTM which does not admit any “non-bumiputeras” into this public institution that “non-bumiputera” taxpayers have also paid for.
Consequently, through these years the UEC has become a political issue since Umno refuses to recognize the MICSS system which is wholly supported by the community and not by the government.
Thus, all these years the community has been paying double taxation when, apart from paying income tax, they also financially support this mother tongue education system.
Promote integration by recognizing UEC
Recognising the UEC will allow MICSS graduates to be admitted into our public tertiary institutions as well as the civil and armed services, which is the stated intention of the government recently.
This will help to promote greater integration among Malaysians and also alleviate the financial plight of those MICSS graduates who cannot afford tertiary education in the private colleges or abroad.
This is just one of the grievances of the community that Umno leaders should know when they rhetorically ask: “Apa lagi Cina mau?”
Kua Kia Soong is an educationist and advisor to human rights movement Suaram.

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