Foreword by Centre for Policy Iniatives
A group of concerned parents are making a representation to Suhakam with regard to many longstanding complaints about Moral Studies taught in upper secondary school.
For many years now, the exam format of this subject has been so rigid that students are forced to strictly memorise 36 ‘values' and definitions. They are then required to regurgitate word for word what they've memorised when sitting the SPM paper.
Such a method of testing morality is best suited to training parrots and appears to be designed by monkeys.
Who are these monkeys that have been instrumental in designing the examination and how have they been allowed to get away with their monkey business for so long?
Any youth who has been educated to think critically might well ask, why 36 values, and why not 35 or 37? Who defines these ‘values'?
Why must definitions drafted by some textbook writers be so stringent that not a word is to be changed?
Even the 10 Commandments handed down by God from atop Mount Sinai allow more flexibility in their wording.
Poor SPM results in Moral Studies have penalised non-Muslim students who otherwise had scored straight As or A+ in their other subjects.
In comparison, Muslim students who are exempted from Moral Studies but instead take the Islamic Studies papers do not have to risk their SPM balance sheet being pulled down due to below-par performance in this one subject alone.
Even within the national examination system, there exists a two-tier streaming based on religion which has prompted non-Muslim parents to cry foul.
While there is nothing objectionable to having Moral Studies in the syllabus, it should nonetheless be removed from the SPM slate.
The non-Muslim parents are representing to Suhakam that their children's education right to a fair exam assessment is being compromised by this compulsory paper that discriminates on the basis of religion.
Beyond this petition, there are key questions and concerns that need to be posed and answered. How can Malay/Muslim-oriented public systems run by Malay elites be made to be transparent and accountable so that they do not discriminate or penalise non-Malays and non-Muslims?
Why are such policies of clear discrimination and prejudice against certain segments of Malaysians persisting and how do we ensure that they do not recur?
This entire episode needs to be opened up for full public discussion and scrutiny. It may be the tip of the iceberg of a structural deformity within our public service that needs to be exposed, operated on and excised.
The CPI team looks forward to hearing more from the public on this and similar unconscionable policies especially affecting our young.
Follows is an e-mail circulated by SV Namasoo, coordinator for movement to remove Moral Studies from SPM.
Moral Studies SPM results - demoralising!
My daughter was a student of SMK Tarcisian Convent, Ipoh who obtainedher SPM results on March 22, 2012.
She, together with eight of her friends, managed to get 8A+ for all subjects they tookexcept for Moral Studies.
I believe for the first time in the history of the said school none of its 120-odd students got A+ for the subject.
This outcome may seem nothing out of the ordinary except that in thestandardised SPM trials - which is the examination paper and answer scheme set by the respective state education department - 26 of the Fifth Formersobtained A+ for Moral Studies. Another 40 or so students obtained an A.
How is it then that not a single student obtained an A+ for Moral Studies in theactual SPM examination?
The plight of these students was extensively highlighted in the print media -StarMetro, Tamil Nesan and Makkal Osai on March 23, Nanban (March 25) as well as the electronic media Malaysiakini and Perakview.
A total of 39 students have appealed to the Examination Board to have their examination results re-checked with payment of RM50 and awaiting the outcome which may take up to three months from the date of the release of the SPM results.
By the time the outcome is known the students would have lost their chance to apply for JPA and numerous other scholarships as well as entry into universities/colleges of their choice because of their inability to secure an A+ in Moral Studies.
Therefore, the lackadaisical attitude of board in taking three months to revert with the outcome ensures it is an act in futility, and the right to re-check illusory.
Also to my surprise, after taking up the plight of the students in SMK Tarcisian Convent, I discovered that most parents are not aware that Moral Studies is a compulsory subject only for the non-Muslim students which is taken into account in determining the overall performance of a student in SPM.
Also are you aware that Moral Studies is a "closed paper" which means that past year papers are not available in the market for students to use as references?
Why should it be so? Muslim students do not take Moral Studies but instead Islamic studies.
Logically, Moral Studies as part of the curriculum should be taught with a view to inculcating good values, so that when the students step out into the real world they would know how to conduct themselves in a manner acceptable in a civilised society.
Therefore moral studies should touch on simple matters needed for daily co-existence, such as mutual respect, responsibility, tolerance, obedience to law, etc.
These are matters that one can even learn from life's experiences. In a gist, there should be nothing technical or mind boggling about studying morals as a subject.
Somehow "the educationist" entrusted with the drawing up of the syllabus thought fit to make the subject as technical as possible with so much rigidity that students are forced to memorise 36 "values" and definitions word for word and to regurgitate them like a parrot in the examination.
Any departure from the words used will be penalised. It baffles me to discover that my daughter's schools engaged "experts" to teach the students the technique of answering questions in Moral Studies.
As we are aware morality is a most subjective matter because what is the accepted norm and standard of conduct or behaviour differ from society to society and era to era.
Therefore what ought to have been a simple subject has been made so difficult by the people entrusted with preparing the syllabus and setting the examination questions that the non-Muslim students who excel in the sciences and mathematics do not fare well in Moral Studies.
This raises a few questions.
Does it means that a student who gets 8A+ in all other subjects except Moral Studies are deemed not morally excellent or lacking in morality?
Does it also mean that Moral Studies is a subject far more difficult to comprehend and answer than the sciences and mathematics?
These questions clearly indicate, to quote Shakespeare, "that there is something rotten in the state of our education (not Denmark)".
This has been going on for more than 10 years and year in year out we hear rumblings from students and parents how they or their children have lost out because of the failure to secure A+ (before this 1A) in Moral Studies.
However no concrete action has been initiated till to date put an end to this mockery.
Therefore the parents of this year's affected student from SMK TarcisianConvent, Ipoh together with the help of an NGO intend to make representation to Suhakam that Moral Studies be completely removed from the syllabus or at least downgraded to a non-examination paper in schools.
We intend to raise it as human rights issue affecting the minority in this country (only the non-Muslims) as the right to fair education is for every citizen and is enshrined in the constitution and no one should be allowed to usurp that.
Furthermore, it is not fair that non-Muslim students should study Moral Studies while Muslim students take Islamic studies and the results from these two very diverse subjects determine the overall performance of a student in a critical examination like SPM. How can one compare the worth of an apple to an orange?
Also I feel the time is appropriate to raise this issue as the government is requesting feedback from all stakeholders with a view to reviewing the entire education system that has gone to the dogs.
Course of action
If you are a student (or the parents on behalf of the student) who sat the SPM result 2012 and feel victimised by the Moral Studies exam result, please let us have the following information, namely the student's name, which school, how did the student fare in the other subjects that the student took and what did the student obtain for Moral Studies in the trial examination and in the actual SPM result.
Please forward all information and comments to the following email address, namely firstname.lastname@example.org that we can garner support to make an effective representation and see that justice is done.
You can also find us on Facebook under the group Morally Upright.
* The above e-mail was circulated by SV Namasoo, coordinator.