Is Malaysian education system ready for streamless schools?

In theory, while there is merit behind the idea of no streaming, making SPM subjects more modular so that students would be able to choose the subjects that they are interested in and/or have the propensity to do well is welcoming.

But careful consideration must be given as to the level of readiness and preparation of the school and its teachers.

The artificial intelligence software-recommendation serves only as a guide. The students and their parents are the decision-makers. Parents must still be able to guide their children towards the direction they see fit.

Are the school and school administrators ready for this move?

One can already imagine the scheduling and logistical nightmare that will take place next year. Will there be enough teachers and teaching resources for this? How are the classes going to be scheduled?

With no streaming, will it jeopardise their higher education pathway?

There must be set conditions in picking these courses. With no streaming, students will prefer to pick “easy to get A” subjects with little thought about what they will pursue in higher education.

Not all higher education will have the flexibility to accept the subjects, depending on the course that the student chooses. For example, if the student chooses Engineering, how many universities will accept them without having Additional Mathematics?

When students take up pure science subjects in school, the options to pursue other courses are wider compared with taking up the arts and humanities.

Once the students go into non-science subjects in school, it would be almost impossible to change their minds to pursue the sciences in higher education.

Most have no idea what they will do post-SPM. Therefore, a poor choice of subjects may thwart their chances of getting into good colleges and universities if they are unaware.

The Mathematics subject has become more crucial than ever as an entry requirement for further education.

Worse, our students are competing with China on a global scale. Many students will also drop Additional Mathematics, stunting their chances of pursuing a science, economics or even a discipline in digital technology. And it is not easy to take up Additional Mathematics in higher institutions of learning without any foundation in this subject in school.

What about the bigger agenda for the country in its science, technology and innovation pursuit?

Science, technology and innovation have always remained the prime minister’s agenda for nation-building. He has often lamented that university students were taking the easier path by pursuing Arts programmes.

He wants a progressive scientific society that is innovative, forward-looking, and one that is not only a consumer of technology but also a contributor to the scientific and technological civilisation of the future.

Just last week, he officiated the International Greentech & Eco Products Exhibition, speaking about sustainable development, climate change, renewable energy, green technology, innovating sustainability and its impact on the global scale. He wants our human capital to be able to be part of this progress and pursuit.

The country needs one million science and technology workers, according to S&T Human Capital: A strategic Planning Towards 2020.

There seems to be a decline in interest of Science and Mathematics among students, contributing to science, technology and innovation (STI) talent depletion.

The reasons that could contribute to the declining interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) are ad hoc changes in education policies, the low bar on quality teachers, and ineffective STEM teaching methods.

Generally, science is not appealing to students due to a teaching approach that is theoretical, textbook-based and examination-oriented, according to findings extracted from Academy Science Malaysia’s Science Outlook 2015.

Perhaps the AI software could be better used in the analysis of the ecosystem of STEM, and to find ways to improve and correct shortcomings.

We should also know why STEM graduates are not getting jobs despite the fact that the country needs one million STEM graduates by 2020. There must be a mismatch in the ecosystem of STEM. We need to get good data to run the economy and make this right rather than simply remove the streaming.

Tunku Munawirah Putra is Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) honorary secretary.

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