The demand by certain quarters that a pass in the Bahasa Malaysia SPM paper should be imposed on housemen and doctors in Malaysia is disconcerting to many parties, especially to the medical students and housemen, parents and educationists alike.
Many divided opinions have been aired in the media. But for those who think it is as easy as "quit complaining and sit for the exam", I think they need a little empathy to understand the situation faced by many medical students.
I was one such person who grew up overseas and came back to Malaysia for medical school. I had no SPM BM, but that was supposed to be fine as the Ministry of Health (MOH) website has listed a credit in SPM BM or equivalent as mandatory. In fact, I had already done my interviews with MOH and subsequently, they had turned around and said they were no longer accepting any other qualification for BM apart from SPM.
That was two years ago and we were the first batch, they said we could start our housemanship first and just have the SPM BM credit ready before MOship. So I signed up to sit the SPM Bahasa paper. I went from long days skipping lunch as a houseman in the medical wards, to skipping dinner so I could make it to my BM classes on time.
During my precious hours at class, I did not learn how to explain asthma to parents with a wheezing toddler, nor did I learn how to explain the importance of anti-hypertensive medications to elderly gentlemen who felt they were asymptomatic. Instead, I learnt the exam syllabus of a high school paper; I memorised where every point would come from and I put to heart idioms that I had never, ever heard in daily life.
I always wondered why they couldn't just have made it clear earlier so that I could have done SPM BM during my medical student days. Yet looking back, it was still many times better than having my medical career delayed a further one and a half years like what some are suggesting they do now.
That is a sheer amount of time waiting. Imagine after spending five years in medical school and another 1.5 or more year of waiting to get a pass in SPM BM paper and six other subjects.
As mentioned, these future doctors were never stalling at the idea of taking SPM BM. It was just because of the sudden requirement of taking all the compulsory SPM subjects and having to pass history as well - that is the only reason this issue has cropped up now instead of two years ago when it was implemented.
It is sheer preponderance to expect a medical doctor, after graduation, to go back and sit for six high school papers. The complaints are extremely understandable, and we cannot simply put it down to the actions of bratty diplomat kids.
So why has this issue been blown out of proportion? Everyone has his own two sens to say, especially when the story is oversimplified as "23 overprivileged kids pull rank and feel they are entitled to not follow the rules; do not respect country's language"- and most don't care to understand the whole story.