New year, new challenges

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  • Sunday, 29 Dec 2019

A testing time: Form Four students now have to choose specific packages under Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) or Arts and Humanities. – Filepic

AS they say, Form Four is the honeymoon year in secondary school.

But not for the Form Four class of 2020. They now face a testing time with the Education Ministry’s decision to scrap the arts and science streams, which will come into effect this new school year.

Under the new system, these students will have to choose specific packages under Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) or Arts and Humanities.

They will be required to take six core subjects and one compulsory subject, which is Physical and Health Education.

Students can also choose up to five elective subjects based on their interest and aptitude.

This will also give them the flexibility to choose subjects that will help prepare them for their choice of future careers.

While many are excited to see the interesting subjects included in the newly introduced system, others are a bit daunted by the decision they have to make.

Then there are students who are disappointed to find out that their schools are not offering the subjects they want or even letting them choose.

Ronan Chia Jern Chern, 15, is one whose choice has been taken out of his hands – he claims that he and his peers have already been sorted into their Form Four classes based on the previous “streaming” system.

“We have been divided into classes with streams of Science, Business, Accounts and Arts.

“We were told to send a request to the school principal if we want to make any changes.

“However, whenever we inquired the school about certain subjects, they would either leave us with vague answers or tell us to come back and consult them next year, ” he says. The student from Petaling Jaya says he understands that the variation of subjects may be small due to the lack of teachers. Still, he says he was hoping to at least be able to choose subjects he wishes to take or exclude based on the options the school had given.

“Based on the new system, even as an Accounts student, I should still be able to take a couple of subjects from the pure science package.

“By not letting us do so, they are stripping away our ability to choose subjects that best suits our interests.” adds Chia.

Chia also says that he and a number of his peers who have been studying Basic Computer Science (ASK) for two years wish that their school would continue to offer Computer Science (SK). However, the school is stopping it as it will not have any teachers available for the subject with the pending retirement of their current one.

One of the students’ guardians, who prefers to be unnamed, states that she and a few parents have been trying to persuade the school to offer the subject.

“We managed to find a suitable tutor who can come and teach at school a few times a week.

“Money is not an issue since the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) is more than willing to fund the SK classes.

“We have asked the head of the PTA to consult the principal about it but he was adamant that the school will not be offering SK.

“His excuse was that the school lacks resources and proper facilities which is completely untrue since they have been teaching ASK for the past three years.“So far our efforts have been in vain.” she laments.

The guardian adds that pupils who are inclining to take SK have been told by the school to either switch to Additional Mathematics or transfer to another school.

Another parent, Mohamad Zaki Samsudin, 42, says, ”Students should be given more freedom to choose a mixture of subjects to promote greater versatility of knowledge.

“However, schools should still maintain a greater emphasis not only on pure science but also computer science.

“This is due to the continued growth of science and technology based industries.”

A student from an all-girls school in Petaling Jaya, Anis Najla Binti Azlan, 15, says that her school is also focusing on science subjects.

“Three out of four of the packages offered in my school are science-oriented.

“However, as a student who is pursuing science, I would still prefer to study in science-oriented school such as Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM). “ Anis says.

Rania Khadijah Binti Mohamad Yusairi, 15, who is also applying for MRSM says that even though her school is focusing on pure science subjects, there are clearly schools with better science facilities to learn in.

“MRSM, for one, has better facilities and fully-equipped labs for conducting experiments.

“On the contrary, my school often skips important science experiments which is supposed to help us understand the lessons better. Instead, we are often told to memorise the procedures by the book, ” she adds.

The ministry and schools should provide more information to students and parents to enable them to get their choice, says the unnamed guardian.

“If a school can’t offer the subjects that a student is interested in, than they should at least let us know which school does.

“The government should provide an online list to show what subjects every school will be offering.

“This will make it easier for parents to find a school that offers subjects that will best suit their children’s needs, ” she says.

Zahra Mohd Zaki is a participant in The Star’s BRATs Young Journalist Programme.

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