LETTER | As a retired teacher, I concur that children who have not celebrated their sixth birthday yet but have reached the "mental and reading age of six years" as required by the Ministry of Education for them to enter Standard 1, should be "enabled" to demonstrate this achievement in a simple way and not "disabled" from doing so in a stressful way known as saringan.
The saringan is a national, standardised test that is stressful as it is held in only one centre in each state and consists of two stages. If the first written stage is passed, then the children have to be taken to the same centre again for the second stage, an oral interview.
I had written an appeal to the Minister of Education on behalf of a child born Jan 5, 2013, underaged to enter Standard 1 with those who celebrate their sixth birthday on Jan 1, 2019, or have done so earlier in 2018, but who, according to my assessment, has reached the "mental and reading age of six years".
The parents of this child (fisherman father, housewife mother) had gone to the school to register her but upon being told about the saringan, were so upset they did not register her.
In my appeal, I had proposed that she be allowed to sit for the same standardised test that all children entering Standard 1 take during the first week of school for streaming purposes, i.e. whether to be put in Class A, B, C etc.
The same test can double-up as an evaluation test for "underaged" children. If they pass, then they are of the "mental and reading age of six years". If they fail, they have to wait until the following year.
Ironically, if a child is six and fails the Standard 1 entrance test, he/she still has a place because of the age factor and not because of the child's "mental and reading age" requirement.
My letter was responded to by the director, Bahagian Pengurusan Sekolah Harian. There wasn't anything new that I did not already know about the saringan, but there was no mention about the case of this child. I sent him an e-mail inquiring about the case of this child and have not received any response.
The ministry needs to explore ways of doing things more efficiently. It could take the case of this child as a "test case" (I had proposed this) by letting her take the standardised Standard 1 entrance test. The result will indicate whether the saringan can be done away with and in future all other children born between Jan 2 and Jan 15 Jan could take this test as a "qualifying test" to assess their "mental and reading age".
As it is still not too late for one very small step to be taken to test the "mental and reading age" of this child, I once again appeal that she be allowed to sit for the Standard 1 entrance test that the full six-year-olds will be taking.
The experience will be useful for the ministry to find out the suitability of this test as opposed to the saringan for the good of other children in the future. There will be no complaints if she fails.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.