Much ado about nothing, again?

Maszlee says the abolition of the 2 streams would only be made ‘when the time comes’


IT’S like watching a suspense thriller, complete with a cliffhanger, but ended up in an anticlimax instead. The story began in Germany during a town hall session where Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik (picture) mooted an extreme change in the education system that would allow students to choose and combine arts or science subjects as they like.

Newspaper reports stated that Maszlee was calling for the end of subject streaming after students get their Form Three Assessment (PT3) results.

“Although my officer is saying that we cannot get it done in time, I’m pushing for us to start next year so that students can choose and combine arts and science subjects as they like,” he was quoted as saying during a working visit to Germany.

Apparently, Maszlee was speaking during a meet-and-greet session with the Malaysian community last Monday. According to the report, 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 also said the mismatch is caused by parents.

“Don’t leave it to the parents because they are the ones who sometimes end up ruining things,” he was quoted as saying.

He cited a friend, an MP, who spent more than six years of his life studying medicine because his parents forced him to.

“After graduating, he didn’t do his housemanship and went on to study law instead,” he said.

He added that the “mismatch” has also caused many talents to go to waste.

“Those who do law should have become inventors. And many science students could have been linguists, Hollywood actors, accountants or good musicians, but they ended up as doctors, spending most of their lives wasting time doing what they’re not really talented in,” he was reported as saying.

Maszlee also said courses in university that do not guarantee jobs — for example, biology or chemistry — must be re-evaluated, while conventional courses that are no longer relevant must be scrapped and replaced with future-proof courses.

He added that Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) holders who want to further their tertiary studies might just get more than the SPM result slip in the near future.

They’d also get recommendations of courses that are suitable, which university to go to, what scholarships are available and what will the job market be like after graduation.

“I hope this can also happen next year, but my officers are asking for more time,” he was quoted as saying.

His ideas were somehow greeted by mixed reactions. Academics, various parties and stakeholders discussed the matter at length over the weekend, and needless to say, the naysayers also got into the fray and had quite a ball roasting Maszlee and his rather revolutionary way of thinking.

One has to admit though that what Maszlee suggested does make sense. There are those who excel in almost everything, while quite a big number of people will be good in certain areas, average in some and might just be passable in specific subjects. There are also those bright sparks who are only meant to do well in the technical or vocational sectors.

There were also suggestions and recommendations by various parties on how to make the idea work, while quite a number expressed their worries that the new system might just be detrimental to universities that mainly offer science courses and other related subjects.

For instance, National Council of Professors president Prof Datuk Dr Raduan Che Rose said the government should not be too hasty in wanting to abolish the arts and science streams.

He is worried that the move would have implications on courses at the university level and appeared to contradict the ministry’s move to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects.

Then, came the anticlimax.

In Pontian a couple of days ago, Maszlee clarified that the ministry is not in a hurry to abolish arts and science streams in Form Four. He said in a Bernama report that an announcement on the abolition of the two streams would only be made “when the time comes”.

He also added that the ministry would not make a decision “in a hurry”, but would instead conduct a thorough review covering all aspects including “engagement and employment”.

“The ministry has yet to make any policy announcement (regarding the abolition). What happened was that it was my speech during a town hall session in Germany. The report sounded as though it was a policy announcement, but in fact, it was not. What I said was that, in future, we want to ensure that students are not stuck with the streaming (system).

“For example, a science student (because of the streaming) could not take up literature. At the same time, there are also some art students who would want to take up science subjects. But the report has been portrayed as though it was a policy statement,” Maszlee said.

He added that the ministry has also received inputs from various parties on its effort to improve the education system. He said the abolition of streams was also part of the report of the Cabinet’s policy review committee, which was requested by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Just when things are about to get hotter. What a bummer. Next issue please…