SPM EXAM: A simple pass not too much to ask
By : DR HAJA MOHIDEEN MOHAMED ALI Department of English International Islamic University Malaysia
INTENSE debate has been generated over the issue of whether or not to make a pass in English compulsory in the Sijil Pelajaran Malay- sia examination. A pass could mean anything between 1A (very good) and 8E (pass). So, logically, all that is required for a pass would be to obtain a minimum 8E, which is a simple pass.
Should this be difficult for our students when learning English starts from the first year of primary education and, in some cases, before that in pre-primary education centres? If the proposal to secure a basic pass in the SPM examination is to be disputed, will this not be humiliating to our English language teachers or reflect poorly on them?
The extent of exposure to the language is, of course, not the same in rural, semi-urban and urban areas. The quality of English language teaching could also be different between the cities and small towns.
But we do not have to write off rural and small-town students when it comes to English. Maybe they deserve more credit than some of us would like to give.
Another issue at stake is, do we doubt the ability of our teachers that they cannot even produce pupils who can pass English with a minimum score?
Making English a compulsory subject to pass will bring many benefits. Students will not take this international language lightly. They will be better motivated to do well in this subject to be able to get into tertiary institutions which require English for entry purposes, to seek employment in the corporate sector, to travel, to live and work abroad, interact with a global community, enjoy world literature in the language, possess a broader world view and have greater self-esteem.
Teachers, for their part, will buck up to increase the pass rate in the subject to bring honour to their schools.
In the process, they will also be raising their professional competence. Parents will show more enthusiasm to see their children do well in the subject, just as they are concerned about other subjects.
Since issues involving English have become emotive and divisive lately, should we make English an optional subject in the SPM examination? In this way. those who favour English, for example in learning Science and Mathematics, can be left to carry on as before. There would be a choice for everyone.
However, my plea is to consider a simple pass in English as compulsory in the SPM examination. This would be a worthwhile pursuit for Malaysians of all educational persuasions.