Time for the Government to resolve the UEC issue

Image from The Star

By John Isaac

As a Journalist and Editor for the last 24 years, I recall a very standard reply ministers and those in authority would give each time journalist posted a sensitive question.

"We will form a committee to look into the matter" - over time, I accepted this as a universal reply to any tough situation from the Barisan Nasional government.

As other Malaysians, I remained positive that this kind of blanket reply would cease and pro-active action swing in following Pakatan Harapan's rise to power.

However, I, like many others, am pretty upset to learn that this was the same reply given by our Education Minister when pressed on the recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC).

The problem back then was that these so-called committee members neither knew nor understood the issue at hand and were probably appointed and paid because of their relations or contacts with certain individuals.

So, if one is forming a committee to look into something, make sure those in this committee are credible and are well versed with the subject matter at hand.

The justification for selection of the committee members was never spelled out nor were the terms of reference clear from the start.

PH must remember that they did not win Putrajaya just because of the Malay support, but also greatly due to the backing from the Chinese community.

It is also no secret that this community holds the UEC recognition close to their hearts and any mention of this raises eyebrows.

Also, I personally do not understand the hesitance in giving it due recognition especially since the UEC has obtained an ISO 9001:2008 quality management certification from Malaysia, China, the United Kingdom and Japan.

The UEC is accepted as entry qualifications by a majority of private colleges and universities in Malaysia and accredited by more than 1,000 colleges and universities, both public and private, in countries such as the UK, United States, Australia, Japan, Singapore and China.

Also, what is all the fuss about? After all, foreign English-language based examinations like the Cambridge O-levels and A-levels have been held here since Independence? How come these examinations do not create any problems or threaten the status of the national language?

“If Malays are really against UEC’s recognition, how is it that Pakatan Harapan, which recognised the certificate in its election manifesto, was able to win the support of various races in GE14?” asked MCA president, Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong.

He said the recognition of UEC would not threaten the status of Bahasa Malaysia as the national language, adding that UEC students must also fulfil the criterion of at least a credit in Bahasa Malaysia in SPM.

“The multi-stream education system is not a barrier to national unity as there are now more non-Chinese students attending national-type Chinese schools (SJKC) and Chinese independent secondary schools (SMPC).

“SJKC and SMPC, which are part of the multi-stream education system in this country, have no intention and desire to take over the main national education system in Malaysia, not today or forever,” he said.

Wee has since thrown a challenge to PH, asking the new Government if it had the “political will” and if it was ready to do what it had promised to recognise UEC, now that it had the people’s mandate.

From what can be gathered from the numerous statements and press releases made by the PH administration, one can conclude that the major milestone here is that many lack a sound understanding of what the UEC is all about in the first place.

As pointed out by Suaram advisor, Dr Kua Kia Soong, the only missing piece in this whole UEC recognition farce is the professional assessment of the UEC by the Malaysian Quality Assurance (MQA) that is tasked with doing this job of academic accreditation of certificates. 

According to him, it is clear that PH won the vast majority of the Chinese votes during GE14 mainly because among other promises, the PH manifesto and the PH leaders pledged to recognise the UEC, the school leaving certificate of the Malaysian Independent Chinese Secondary Schools that has been maligned by Umno all these years since 1975. 

He claimed that voters were given the impression that such recognition was part of PH’s reform in a new and inclusive Malaysia.

From recent reports, we can already see that brownie points for the PH administration are on the lower end and rising up to such a challenge would surely do well for them.

For years, Umno has been sweeping this issue under the carpet and to date, it looks like PH is continuing with this trend.

It is best to lay the cards on the table and find a win-win solution to the UEC matter soon.

One of BN's famous methods of evading any controversial issue was to proclaim it as a threat to national unity.

Seriously, in what way now is the UEC going to threaten anyone's unity? If at all, it would probably help enhance unity among our races.