Why so difficult to score an A in SPM Chinese paper?

Scoring an A for the SPM Chinese paper is no longer only a student’s worry but also a matter of concern for the Chinese community.

Last Friday, a group of educationists, teachers, clan associations, Chinese studies university graduates and Chinese community leaders held a meeting to discuss the difficulty of scoring an A for the Chinese paper.

The joint meeting concluded with four resolutions:

Seeking an explanation from the Education Ministry for the extremely low percentage of A scorers in Chinese.
Request the examination board to release the cutting point for grades in Chinese and other language subjects.
Request the Education Ministry to call for a review of the results of the Chinese paper whereby the examination board would identify the sections in the examination paper where students fail to achieve good marks.
Request the Education Ministry to convene a roundtable meeting to resolve issues involving Chinese language lessons such as training of teachers, increasing hours of teaching, classes to be conducted during school hours, review of its syllabus and a transparent examination system among others.
Led by the Malaysia Chinese Language Council, the 24 education groups are submitting a joint MoU to the education minister and deputy education minister, director-general and director of the examination board on the matter.

Only 12.4% of students scored As in Chinese paper in SPM 2015, the lowest since 2010 and also the lowest among other language papers. For Bahasa Malaysia, 24.1% of students scored As and 14.3% of students scored As in English.

In 2010, 13.2% of students scored As in Chinese paper, 18.8% in 2011, 17.1% in 2012, 16.3% in 2013 and 18.3% in 2014.

A sharp drop of 5.9% in terms of students scoring As in 2015 SPM compared to the previous year is also a cause for concern.

Despite the passing rate of Chinese paper being 93% last year, few were able to score A while even fewer students scored A plus.

Many students scored straight As in SPM except for the Chinese paper.

Over the years, the number of students sitting for Chinese in SPM has been reduced and many fear that the subject would be a reason for not scoring straight As in SPM.

In 2009, 51,145 students sat for the Chinese paper but in 2015, the number dropped to 42,890.

While there are 1,297 Chinese primary schools in the country, learning Chinese at the secondary school level is not easy.

Chinese language classes would be conducted during school hours for national type Chinese schools (SMJKs), or conforming secondary schools such as SMJK Catholic in Petaling Jaya and SMJK Hua Lian in Taiping.

For national secondary schools known as SMK, Chinese classes would only be conducted if there are a minimum of 15 students and the classes are conducted after school hours, provided that a Chinese teacher is available.

In some cases, students from several schools combine to form a class to learn Chinese due to a shortage of teachers.

Lately, Chinese classes in some areas were instructed to stop in advance as district education offices were worried about insufficient allocations to pay Chinese teachers.

With many “obstacles” along the way, many students would rather drop the Chinese paper in SPM for fear that the subject, which is difficult to score an A in, would prevent them from scoring straight As in their SPM. This might result in them not being able to secure scholarships.

Chinese newspapers highlighted a number of “casualties” where the students scored As in all their papers except for the Chinese paper.

Unofficial data collected in Johor showed that of the 8,785 students who sat for Chinese in SPM last year, only 61 or 0.69% of students – including students from Chinese independent schools who sat for Chinese paper in SPM – scored As.

Many, including chairmen of boards of directors, National Type Secondary School Development Councils and teachers ask a similar question: The students are able to score A in Bahasa Malaysia and English but not their own language. Is there something wrong here?

Both students and Chinese teachers are equally demoralised by the results.

A secondary Chinese school teacher said: “We are not merely pursuing As in Chinese paper but hope that the students would be tested in a fair manner. Chinese is a language subject, the emphasis should be on their language capability and not on technicalities.”

Sensing the possibility of a “broken link” which might take place in future where no students would sit for the Chinese paper, the Sin Chew Media Group has started a “save Chinese language” campaign by offering seminars on Chinese language for secondary school students and techniques to score an A in the SPM Chinese paper.

Such a move is seen as a step to ensure Chinese teachers are available in future where students continue to learn the language right till university level and that Chinese education would not disappear in this country.

All parties are keen to find out how the Chinese paper is graded.

Over to the examination board to clear the air.

Lee Yuk Peng

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