Consider UEC merits and national unity

LOOK at the merits of UEC instead of racialising it, said Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim.

The Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) chairman said if prestigious universities overseas are recognising and accepting UEC, why can’t our public institutions of higher learning do the same.

“If recognised, there will be better integration because without UEC, these students would never have a chance of entering a public varsity. Sure, some may face language difficulties but who is to say they will not excel in our local varsities?

“Having a variant of academic qualifications to choose from is good because what works for one, may not necessarily be suitable for another.”

With various quarters arguing that the recognition of UEC will jeopardise the position of Bahasa Malaysia (BM) as the country’s national language, Noor Azimah believes it is possible to promote the national language and English at the same time.

“Those who are up in arms against UEC are insecure. Language cannot be a liability; it is an asset and it’s how you use it to your advantage. Stop being an obstacle towards people who want to prosper.”

Malaysian Association of Private Colleges and Universities (Mapcu) president Datuk Dr Parmjit Singh said it isn’t right to not recognise UEC as a valid entry requirement for public institutions of higher learning.

“If we as an education system are willing to accept so many foreign qualifications, and with so many foreign students coming in, why are we discriminating against UEC?”

He pointed out that public universities do accept other qualifications such as the A-Levels - which don’t contain BM as a subject - as an entry requirement for their courses. These students will have to take a course in BM as part of their degree studies anyway.

He added that BM, a point of contention in this whole debacle, is a subject offered in the UEC. If the standard of BM in UEC is insufficient, then it should be improved, he said.

“There should be greater political will to evaluate the qualification in its own right.”

Educationist Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam, however, has reservations.

“The Education Ministry must not make a populist decision. Discuss the matter with a commission comprising academicians and educationists. Be professional. Would recognising UEC contribute to a united Malaysia?” he asked, adding that it could instead lead to a floodgate of demands by other races.

Universiti Malaya’s (UM) Faculty of Education senior lecturer Dr Zuwati Hasim thinks a comparative study of the SPM and UEC curriculum and syllabus is necessary.

She called on the government to set up a committee, or board, to study the need for recognising the UEC, and the consequences to the Malaysian academic and education system.

The process of evaluation, she said, must be thorough. There’s a need to study the history of the country’s education system, particularly the National Education Committee initiative to unite the nation through the use of BM. Recognising the UEC would impact national unity, enrolment in national schools, and the use of BM and English.

“We need to uphold our national identity through our education system and national language.

“Our education system isn’t just about academics. It’s also to unite our multi-ethnic and multilingual society through a curriculum that revolves around the Malaysian environment and culture, a single language as the main medium of instruction, and a standardised examination system for all.“The Razak Report 1956 and Education Ordinance (Education Committee 1966) emphasised the development of a national education system that requires BM to be the national language and the main medium of instruction in all national schools.”

Chinese private schools, said UM Faculty of Education senior lecturer Dr Zuraidah Abdullah from the Department of Educational Management, Planning and Policy, have failed to produce students with a strong national identity.

The sovereignty of BM as the national and official language is provided for under the Federal Constitution and the National Language Act, she said.

“If the UEC is recognised, others including tahfiz certificates, could be too. Eventually, our education system would be in chaos.”

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