THE Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) for independent Chinese secondary schools will be recognised, but let us complete our holistic study on its implementation first, said Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching.
“We hope to complete the study by the end of the year. It is important to consult all stakeholders and not rush into things because we want everything to go smoothly,” she said, adding that discussions with the United Chinese School Committees’ Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong), which conducts the UEC, and other quarters, are ongoing.
Asked to elaborate on the ministry’s stand, its minister Dr Maszlee Malik said he has been consistent on the issue, but would not act in haste.
As there was no standardised examination system to evaluate the academic qualifications of the independent secondary school graduates, the UEC was introduced in 1975. A total of 645,699 UEC students have since graduated.
Urging the government to review the current single stream education policy to create a multi-stream education environment that is democratic, open and fair, Dong Zong said recognition would give independent Chinese secondary school graduates access to public universities, and eventually allow them to work as civil servants.
“Over 1,000 overseas national and private higher institutions recognise the UEC. It’s equivalent to STPM and A-Levels.
“So recognition by the government shows appreciation of UEC holders’ contributions towards national development.”
Independent Chinese secondary school graduates are accepted into institutes of teacher education (IPG). This, said Dong Zong, implies that the UEC is in line with the national education system, and corresponds to the academic level.
In line with the Malaysian Independent Chinese Secondary School Education Blueprint, oral tests for the languages studied, practical examinations for science stream subjects, and the implementation of school-based assessments, will be conducted in future.
MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong urged the public to gain more knowledge about the UEC before coming to a conclusion about it.
He said the public was reluctant to embrace the UEC because they do not understand it.
“There are misunderstandings about it. Some people don’t even know what is being taught in Chinese independent schools, but are already jumping to conclusions about the UEC and giving comments based on their gut feeling.
“Please take a look at the syllabus of the Chinese independent schools to understand it before speaking,” he said, adding that there was nothing wrong with schools running on a dual syllabus system.
“UEC is accepted by many private universities here as well as countries from around the world and there are many good students who are capable of sitting for both the UEC and SPM,” said Dr Wee, who is also chairman of the party’s Chinese education consultative committee.
He reiterated his call for the Pakatan Harapan government to keep their promise of recognising UEC.
“Before the general elections, they said they would ‘mengiktirafkan’ (recognise) the UEC, but now they are saying that they would ‘mengkaji’ (review) it,” said Dr Wee.
Kuen Cheng High School’s head of the Academic Department Leong Wai Yee stressed that the curriculum of Chinese independent schools isn’t based solely on China’s curriculum. Dong Zong has localised the content to cater to students here.
“It’s impossible to just pluck the syllabus from another country and teach it here because all countries are different. Our UEC syllabus consists of over 50% Malaysian content.”
The UEC and SPM are structurally the same, but contains different syllabus, she explained. UEC students study from Junior One to Three (equivalent to Forms One to Three). Before entering Senior One (Form Four), they have to choose which stream they want - either Science, Arts and Commerce, or Commerce.
“After they complete Senior Two (Form Five) and their SPM, they can opt whether or not to sit for the final UEC exam,” said Leong.
Not all Chinese independent schools offer a full SPM certificate but Kuen Cheng runs on a dual syllabus so students must sit for UEC and take all SPM subjects.
The public, she said, should get to know more about UEC.
“Not being well-informed about UEC is the biggest reason for the reluctance in recognising it,” she said, noting that recognising the exam would widen career pathways for students.
Muhamad Danish Haikal Lau Hui Ren, 18, believes that Malaysia’s talent pool will shrink if UEC is not recognised.
“Plenty of talented graduates will have no choice but to further their studies overseas or at private universities. Many of my friends want to join the public sector but can’t. They will leave the country and become talents of other countries,” said the Commerce Business Accounting student.
He hopes Malaysians can be more open-minded.
“UEC is an exam, not a threat. UEC is recognised by so many other foreign countries. How is it possible for its standards to be lower than SPM?”
Aw Chee Seng, 18, said the public should stop comparing UEC to SPM.
“SPM is similar to O-Levels, while UEC is on par with A-Levels, STPM, and Matriculation. People should make the effort to understand the UEC instead of harping on racial problems and language barriers.”
Most UEC subjects are available in English, he said. Students can choose which language to learn in but all UEC students must sit for the three core language subjects - English, Chinese and BM.
The public, he said, should stop stereotyping UEC students as ‘Mandarin speakers only’.
Recognising UEC, he said, means giving independent school students an opportunity to enrol into public universities as not everyone can afford to go overseas or private institutions after graduating.
Chee Seng and Danish Haikal will be sitting for the UEC in October.