FAIZ AZIZAN, Subang Jaya, Selangor
I WRITE with regard to the decision by the Education Ministry on the requirements for entry into fully-residential schools, better known as SBP.
Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said according to the new requirements, students from low-income families needed to score only a minimum of three As and two Bs in their Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR), whereas students from rural areas needed to achieve a minimum of four As and one B.
I see this act as downgrading the requirements for entry into SBP rather than giving an opportunity to pupils from a poorer background.
To qualify for entry into SBP, a student has to score 5As in UPSR with an excellent extracurricular record. In other words, the best of the best are selected for the limited places in SBPs.
That’s how countries with world-class students operate, choosing the best students from all over the country through their national examinations and sending them to the best institutions.
But the recent decision is based on the discovery that students from rural and remote areas cannot pass the qualification criterion because of their socio-economic environment that requires them to help out their families.
These students cannot afford tuition; neither do they attend seminars to help them revise their subjects. They have limited time to spend on studies, thus, they have a lower chance of attaining straight As in UPSR.
But let’s face reality. If you lower the qualification, it won’t make the chosen become better.
What is going to happen is that it will cause more problems for the Education Ministry and the students themselves.
One will be the problem of selection. Even now the ministry has a problem in selecting students for SBPs because the places are limited.
And believe me, with the addition of more students with three As or four As, it will not be easy to make the selection. In the end, the authorities will not know who to choose. For, when they choose a student with three As or four As, they are taking away one place from the students who obtained straight As.
Another is the matter of culture shock. I agree that this happens to most students who enter SBP, but what will happen when the students from remote areas are put together with the city boys?
Yes, maybe the students from the rural areas can adapt. I agree, as even in my institution there, are students from rural areas who adapt easily to the ways of the city boys and we became great friends.
But now the students who enter SBPs all know that they are as good as the other student whether they are from the city or the rural areas. After all, they are all top performers.
When you lower the benchmark for some students, especially those from remote areas, what will that do to their confidence?
Students from remote areas are known to have low self-confidence and social skills, what more if they get admission based on a lower criterion to SBPs. How would they feel?
These students would isolate themselves because they know they obtained lower results but still got a place. Maybe a fraction of them would get out of their cocoons and befriend others, but not all.
I may sound as if I am not in favour of giving students from remote and rural areas a chance to enter SBPs, but I am looking at the bigger picture.
I may sound a little biased against rural students, but, believe me, these problems will arise. Perhaps even other problems.
What the government can do to help these students is to improve the standard of education in these areas.
If that’s not possible, the government could create a new programme for these students, such as a different category of schools.