ABOLISHING the arts and science streams in schools may be the way forward but the implementation of this policy needs to be done well.
There is no point introducing a new plan in haste without carrying out comprehensive studies, teacher training and the necessary pilot projects to ensure all kinks are ironed out.
Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik meant well when he said that from next year, Form Four students might be able to choose and combine Arts or Science subjects as they liked. He called for the end of subject streaming after students get their Form Three Assessment (PT3) results.
Maszlee said the streaming system currently carried out in Form Four was ridiculous as it resulted in many students who were born to be scientists ending up in arts, and lots of students who were born to excel in the arts being forced to do science subjects.
He said there were many cases where children were pressured into achieving their parents’ dreams.
Those who did well in the PT3 go into science and those who perform less well go into accounts. Students with poorer results do arts.
Many talents have gone to waste because of this, he said.
Maszlee conceded that his officers told him that the “change” cannot be done in time but he’s pushing for it to start next year so that students can choose and combine Arts and Science subjects as they like.
This is certainly a noble cause but the Education Ministry needs to slow down and think it through before implementing such a huge move that affects not just students in schools but ultimately the degree programmes at the university level.
A fundamental question is if tertiary institutions locally and overseas are able to accept students into particular fields such as medicine and engineering without the necessary combination of subjects.
Another policy that was pushed through in mere months was the Teaching and Learning of Science and Maths in English (or better known by its Malay acronym PPSMI).
PPSMI was introduced in phases, beginning with Year One, Form One and Lower Six students in 2003 under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first tenure as prime minister.
From the outset of the announcement of the policy change in 2002 to help arrest the declining standards of the English language among students, there had been consistent resistance to the move.
Within classrooms and staff rooms, in homes and offices, parents, teachers, students and educationists expressed a range of views, while letters to the editors in vernacular and other newspapers appeared almost every day.
Even the late Tan Sri Abdul Rafie Mahat, who was then the director-general of education in charge of implementing the change in policy, faced much opposition amid the hasty implementation of the policy, describing the task as “seven months of hard work’’.
The first year was filled with teething problems and Abdul Rafie chaired a crisis management meeting every week to ensure everything was running smoothly.
Maszlee’s announcement similarly appears to have drawn responses both for and against the move.
Many appear to be worried that it is being rushed through without proper consideration while some wonder at the cost.
This is a huge step which will change education as we know it but this is the way to go as the country heads towards a future where the jobs for the workforce don’t exist yet.
It is a heavy responsibility as it’s not always about what students like and don’t like to study but as long as due diligence is carried out and the ministry ensures that the necessary infrastructure is in place, then Maszlee’s unprecedented move to do away with streaming will be welcomed with open arms and our children will embrace this change.