Industry insiders are in the dark and the higher education authorities have not been forthcoming with their answers on the SPM forecast results issue.
THE private education industry is reeling over the decision by the Education Ministry that SPM forecast results will no longer be acceptable for intake into pre-university courses.
Those in the know saw it coming, but had hoped that the Malaysian Association of Private Colleges (Mapcu) would succeed in its behind-the-scenes appeal to reverse what had been brewing over the past few months.
When the news broke on the front page of Sunday Star (“Forecast results not allowed,” Sept 28), the impact was immediate.
Students and parents voiced their concerns in social media and education fairs throughout the country. And the ones who are most affected must surely be those who are about to sit for the SPM. This is not the kind of news to add to their pre-examination anxieties.
For the private institutions, they have to make fresh plans if they are going to lose out on a big chunk of their business – their January intake next year, and the following years.
While private institutions allow intake in different months throughout the year, January is especially critical for those who intend to do their Australian matriculation or the A-Levels.
Those who start their Australian matriculation in January next year, for example, will complete it in one year and be able to embark on their degree programme the following February.
For those who begin their A-Levels course in January and complete it within 18 months, they will head be able to head to the UK in September 2016.
If these students have to wait for the actual results to come out in March, they can forget about their plan to fast track their education journey.
Malaysians enter formal schooling one year later than their peers in developed countries and the use of forecast results allows them to “catch up” and graduate at about the same age as their peers.
And we are about to undo this advantage.
So is there a strong rationale for this change of practice?
Industry insiders are in the dark and the higher education authorities have not been forthcoming with their answers.
Some believe the authorities want to penalise institutions who do not comply with the required minimum grades for specific courses when the actual SPM results prove inferior to the forecast results.
It must also be noted that there is actually no provision for the use of forecast results for entry into private institution, but this condition, as Shakespeare would put it, was a condition honoured more in its breach than its observance.
So far, the appeal by Mapcu has not yielded any concession although the industry is said to be quietly optimistic of a positive outcome by next month.
If not, it’s back to the drawing board to adjust the timing of intakes; the only “comforting” element is that every institution, public or private, will now be in the same boat and no one has an edge over the other in this highly competitive industry.
But speculation is rife when answers are scant.
Some feel the ban on the use of forecast results was foisted on the private institutions; if there had been consultation, it would not have come to this.
The decision is seen to be made by the authorities in the public sector who do not have a clear understanding of how the private sector functions.
Private institutions, for example, receive no public funding and it makes poor economic sense to have a whole lot of lecturers twiddling thumbs and facilities left idle for three months. This would likely cause a hike in student fees.
If quality control is a cause for concern, the solution is to have more stringent checks to ensure that forecast results — provided by schools based on trial exam results — are not dished out lightly.
It is also ironical that foreign institutions have no qualms admitting our students into their pre-uni courses based on forecast results, with some not even too concerned about checking that against SPM grades later.
Their benchmark for these students would be how they fare at the end of their pre-university course that decides their next course of pursuit.
There are also other areas of speculation – a three-month delay may encourage more students to take up Sixth Form instead. For the bright ones, this would be a cheaper option to pursue courses like medicine and pharmacy in the public institutions. With STPM results, they have the option of both public and private routes.
And then there is National Service. Many who are conscripted, if they already have a place in the private institutions, can postpone signing up.
Whatever the reasons, it is clear that those who prefer the January intake are the ones who are ready and raring to start their next phase of studies.
If their plans are to be derailed, they should at least be told – in a convincing manner – why it should be so.
> Acting Group Chief Editor Leanne Goh (firstname.lastname@example.org), having covered the education beat extensively, notes that changes, even if well-intended, can hurt, rather than help, the students.