Science or Arts? New system ends debate

KUALA LUMPUR: Form Four students will be given subject package options instead of being forced into science and arts streams beginning next year.

Education Ministry deputy director-general (policy and curriculum) Dr Habibah Abdul Rahim said these subject packages will cater to students’ interests and capabilities.

“It is not totally open and flexible (system),” she said during a briefing on the new subject package options for Form Four students.

She pointed out that students will not be allowed to pick and choose subject combinations that tickle their fancy.

Instead, Habibah said, they are given the option to choose specific packages that are designed to meet tertiary education entry requirements and a student’s preferred career path.

Besides the fixed packages, students can choose an elective subject based on their interests after considering their Form Three Assessment, school-based assessment and psychometric test, she said.

They will also be guided by their school counsellors, she added.

“Students are given the flexibility to choose up to two extra subjects from the list of subjects available in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM),” she added.

She said that Bahasa Melayu and History remain compulsory passes in order to get their certificate while 12 subjects remain the limit for SPM.

Education Ministry curriculum development division director Dr Mohamed Abu Bakar said this is not an entirely new system as the concept of subject packages has been around since SPM was made into an open certification in 2000.

There will not be an issue of students being divided into science and arts classes anymore, he added.

They will instead be grouped based on the subject packages they choose in school.

This new system will come into effect in January, affecting this year’s cohort of Form Three students.

Beginning in 2020, students are required to take the core subjects – Bahasa Melayu, English Language, Science, Mathematics, History and Islamic Studies or Moral Education – together with Physical and Health Education (PJK) as a compulsory subject, said Habibah.

She said the new packages will allow students to pick up to five elective subjects and mix between the subjects.

Habibah added that there are two main packages – STEM and arts and humanities.

Students will be allowed to then choose their elective subjects based on subject groups such as languages, Islamic studies, applied science and technology, and arts and humanities.

She also said schools are given the autonomy to provide the subject packages based on facilities and availability of option teachers.

“We (The ministry) have selected the subjects in the packages so that it is easier for schools to offer and those packages also meet the criteria for students to further their education,” she added.

She also said that schools should try to find a teacher for a particular subject if there is demand for it from 15 or more students.

Mohamed said that state education offices and district education departments have briefed teachers and school heads.

Circulars have also been sent out, he said, adding that there has not been much confusion about the new package system.

Habibah added that this change from streams to subject packages is in line with the move from the Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Menengah (KBSM) to the Kurikulum Standard Sekolah Menengah (KSSM) curriculum to develop 21st century skills such as critical and creative thinking, problem solving skills and leadership skills.

She said this is in line with the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025 that aspires to form a future workforce that can meet the demands of the nation.

“To do this, (students) require access to an exciting and competitive mix of subjects depending on each student’s (chosen) academic path and career,” she added.

“This new system is built on the need for students to continue their studies at tertiary level whether it is university, matriculation colleges, Form Six, polytechnics, community colleges and other post-school institutions,” she said.

There was a lot of confusion among the public when Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik announced that Form Four students will no longer be streamed into Science and Arts last month.

Stakeholders were questioning how this would be implemented with many worrying about how it will affect students’ chances of pursuing their tertiary studies where the entry requirements for higher education institutions are based on certain subject combinations.

> See full report in StarEdu on Sunday.

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