Matriculation and STPM: A tale of two pre-university tracks


Two track system is equal?


It is that time of the year again as parents and politicians begin crying foul over the failure of our education system to recognize students who obtained high exam scores in the SPM examination. 

This has been an annual affair for decades now. Regardless of the rationale for introducing the Matriculation track in addition to the STPM, it is difficult to deny that the Matriculation track has taken on an elitist image over the STPM. 

This year, as in previous years, students wanting to follow the Matriculation track had to submit an application. In contrast, there was no need to apply for a place in a Sixth Form college. Places in Form Six colleges are offered automatically to all students who meet the qualification requirements. 

I believe that this in itself makes gaining a place at a Matriculation college elitist.  I have heard that the Matriculation track was set up to encourage Bumiputera students who would otherwise not take up Science subjects at pre-university without additional support. 

However, in recent years, a small number of seats were given to Non-Bumiputera students at Matriculation colleges. The problem is that demand exceeds the space available to take in Non-Bumiputera students who possess high exam scores in the SPM. 

What upsets these students and their families is when students with significantly lower exam scores are given places in these Matriculation colleges. 

The issue is highly politicised and I would argue that this is a problem that was created unnecessarily. I would concede to the argument that Bumiputera students need more support and encouragement to pursue Science subjects. I would also concede to the fact that this support and encouragement is only possible by placing them in colleges where they are provided accommodation and possibly extra coaching. But what is the need to create an entirely new curriculum with a different assessment system? 

I am curious to know if proponents of the two-track (STPM and Matriculation) system believe that the STPM and Matriculation assessments are on par. 

Our universities, on the surface at least, work on this assumption. Guide books for students applying to enter universities suggest that both Matriculation and STPM qualifications are accepted as equal. Individuals however differ in their opinion about the two tracks being the same. 

Many suggest that gaining a place in Matriculation almost guarantees one a place at our public universities, while this is not the case with students who sit for STPM. Also, we will soon hear news about how students who gained perfect or near perfect scores in the STPM fail to gain places into courses of their choice at university. 

Is it any surprise that parents cry foul? It should also be noted that students who have gained entry into Matriculation colleges in 2019 will sit for their final exams next year in time to obtain their results and gain places at public universities in September 2020. 

However, students signing up for the STPM this year, will sit for their exams at the end of 2020 and enter degree programmes in September 2021, a whole year after their peers who completed their studies at Matriculation colleges. 

This is grave injustice to students who just want to be treated fairly by the Malaysian education system.

I urge the authorities to carefully examine the curriculum for Form Six and Matriculation and determine which works best in preparing students for entry into university. Once this is identified, all students should be offered a single track at pre-university. 

If it is decided that the Matriculation is a better option, offer this to students at all existing Form Six colleges in the country and do away with the STPM. 

By all means, support the Bumiputera students and have them placed in residential colleges and provide them with the additional help necessary. But all pre-university students must be assessed the same way through a single pre-university curriculum since they are supposed to be entering university on equal footing.

 A Concerned Citizen,    

 Shah Alam