I WOULD think the public, especially stakeholders in education in the country, were shocked by the news that Form Four students, starting next year, can choose what subjects they want to study. (“Stream-less schools next year”, The Star, Oct 16; online at bit.ly/star_streaming.)
My impression is that the students will be given absolute freedom to pick and choose subjects offered in their schools. Ideally, it appears that by allowing students to select subjects relevant to their interests, their potential can be fully realised.
Most students would probably listen to advice from their parents, teachers or counsellors but there will be those who choose the easy subjects that do not require high analytical and thinking skills. And what if students do not opt for English, which, admittedly, is a difficult language to grasp, and choose subjects only in their mother tongue? Such students will not be dual or trilingual, which is necessary to compete globally.
Let us be realistic. It is coming to the end of the year now and schools begin in the first week of next year. How can education officers at the ministry, state and district levels be able to plan, administer and implement this policy? If the Education Ministry directs schools to get on with it, can principals possibly carry out this huge task successfully? If you were the principal, could you ensure enough qualified teachers for popular subjects that many students choose? Then there are the textbooks – is there sufficient stock for the book loan scheme or are students expected to purchase them from bookshops?
If I am not wrong the Prime Minister has repeatedly talked about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and digital education in the era of the Industrial Revolution 4.0 and artificial intelligence..
We need to equip our students with the necessary skills to match the demand of the market forces to be employable. We cannot afford to be too liberal in allowing students to study what they enjoy most. It is the responsibility of education policymakers to ensure students learn the right skills for employment; policymakers should not just go for popular policies to please students, though many of them, I suppose, would be eligible to vote in the next election.
Also, in view of the fact that we perform poorly in the Programme for International Student Assessment rankings every year, we should carry on with the existing policy of persuading more students to pursue studies in the Science stream.
I genuinely believe the current system of steaming students should continue as things stand when we need more STEM graduates for nation-building.
THOMAS KOK ,Ipoh
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