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MEMORANDUM TO SUHAKAM IN RESPECT OF MORAL STUDIES IN SIJIL PEPERIKSAAN MALAYSIA

From 1. Morally Uprights A Group Of Concerned Citizens, Ipoh. 2. Hindraf, No.50, Taman Sri Labu, 70200 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan. 3. Page ( Ipoh Chapter ). Dated: 17th July, 2012. MEMORANDUM TO SUHAKAM 1)Purpose This Memorandum is to seek the assistance of Suhakam to conduct an inquiry with a view to the removal of the subject Moral Studies or Pendidikan Moral from Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) as a compulsory examination subject for non Muslim students. 2)Introduction This Memorandum seeks to explain the rationale why Moral Studies or Pendidikan Moral, one of the core subjects for non Muslim students in Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia should be removed as a compulsory examination subject. Although the rumblings for removal of Moral Studies as a compulsory examination subject in SPM has been going on for nearly the last 2 decades nothing concrete has been undertaken to date to down grade it as a non examination subject, at the least. However, after the announcement of the SPM results in March, 2012, a group of concerned parents/students from SMK Tarcisian Convent, Ipoh were extremely dissatisfied with the Moral Studies result as none of the 9 students who managed to obtain 8A+ in the other subjects they took managed to obtain an A+ for Moral Studies. The 9 students who obtained 8A+ in all the other subjects but failed to do so in Moral Studies are as follows:i)Shankarii Ravinderan, ii)Diviyasheni Dhanasegaran,

iii)Kushalini Rames, iv)Sushitra Muttaiyah, v)Adlynn Jane, vi)Naomi Kiruba Abbarow, vii)Nanthini Puniaseelan, viii)Nanthina Puniaseelan, ix)Sangitha Namasoo. In fact none of the students who sat for Moral Studies in SMK Tarcisian Convent managed to get an A+ even though 26 of them got an A+ for Moral Studies in the standardized SPM trials set by the Perak Education Department. For sake of completeness 38 to 39 students from SMK Tarcisian Convent, Ipoh submitted their Moral Studies grades for re checking and only 4 of them got their grades upgraded from B to A- and A- to A. None had their grades upgraded to A+. Those whose grades were not changed merely got the answer kekal from Lembaga Peperiksaan Malaysia without any reason given as to where the students might have gone wrong. This clearly shows lack of transparency in the re checking process. I am sure there are other schools in the country where students have met the same fate and from the emails received at least two schools were mentioned, namely Victoria Institution and SMK Damansara Jaya, Petaling Jaya to name a few. I am sure the Education Ministry has all the records to verify this. Consequently a campaign to remove the said subject as a compulsory examination subject for non Muslim students was initiated. The campaign was conducted by way of:a. press releases in the print as well as the electronic media immediately after the results were announced (StarMetro [23.3.2012], Tamil Nesan [23.3.2012], Nanben [25.3.2012] & Makkal Osai [23.3.2012]) and the electronic media (Malaysiakini and Perakview portal);
b.

thereafter circulation of an email requesting feedback from other similarly affected students and other stakeholders from all over the country; and an online petition for interested parties to signify their support in removing Moral Studies as a compulsory examination subject.

c.

It is evident from the feedback via emails and comments on the online petition that the contents as well as the examination requirements of Moral Studies have changed so much over the years since its formulation that it is clear that the subject not only does not serve its purpose anymore but also adversely and unfairly jeopardize the overall performance of non Muslim students in SPM. 3)Reasons in support of this Memorandum a)A violation of the constitutional right of the minority to a fair education system as envisaged under Article 12 of the Federal Constitution Article 12 of the Constitution, provides that there shall be no discrimination against any citizen on the grounds only of religion, race, descent or place of birth (i) in the administration of any educational institution maintained by a public authority . As indicated earlier it is compulsory for non Muslim students to take Moral Studies whereas Muslim students have to take Islamic Studies. This dichotomy of who takes Moral Studies and who takes Islamic Studies at the school level is based purely on racial and religious considerations and nothing else. The rationale of demarcation of subject by faith can only be explained by the officers in the Department of Islamic and Moral Studies, a branch under the Ministry of Higher Education who were entrusted with the task of formulating it. This not only goes against the very fabric of nation building but a clear violation of Article 12 of the Constitution. Further one would have thought that moral values are universal and transcend all racial and religious differences. Fairness and justice dictates that all students in the national type schools should sit for the same subjects so that there is no biasness or unfairness or even a perception of biasness or unfairness in the education system. This requirement is clearly undermined by having Moral Studies for non Muslims and Islamic Studies for Muslims as core subjects. It is clear from a glance at the syllabus and the examination requirements of Moral Studies and Islamic Studies that they are worlds apart and yet the results of these subjects determines the overall performance of a student in SPM examination. It is like comparing a worth of an apple to an orange. Would it even be fair to compare it in the first place? This is more so when the overall performance in SPM in turn determines not only the institution of higher learning the students can aspire to but also

the course of choice and the entitlement to scholarships, both government and private. For example, to qualify for the JPA scholarship a student must get A+ in all the subjects taken (I believe, which is a minimum of 9A+) and similar requirement exists for scholarship offered by statutory bodies as well as other semi government related bodies. In private colleges the extent of the scholarship given depends on the number of A+ (more A+ means more aid) and in some private colleges (example Sunway College) full exemption is given on fees if a student obtains A+ in all the subjects taken. Further the notion that discrimination against non Muslim students exists is enhanced when students who can secure an A+ for Biology, Physics , Chemistry and Additional Mathematics and a host of more difficult subjects cannot secure an A+ for Moral Studies. This begs the question whether Moral Studies is elevated to the level of rocket science or the bar for scoring an A+ in Moral Studies is extremely high compared to the other subjects? Also the Moral Studies paper is a closed paper, which means that student cannot take back the SPM question paper. Why this secrecy? This unfairly deprives the students of the benefit of revising past year questions. b)The syllabus and the examination requirements for Moral Studies The discriminatory effect stems from the syllabus contents as well as the examination requirements for Moral Studies or to put it in language of the educationist the teaching and learning strategies and the pattern of assessment and evaluation leaves a lot to be desired. Before looking into the syllabus and examination requirements of Moral Studies at Form 4 and 5 level, it is necessary to remind ourselves, what could have been the purpose of introducing Moral Studies. Obviously, to inculcate moral values in youths during their formative years, namely from Standard 1 onwards so that when they grow up, they would become morally upright and responsible citizens able to rationalize situations and to act according to that rationale decision. Noble as it may sound, has the present method of teaching and learning Moral Studies succeeded in internalizing the norms and values, so that they become so ingrained, that in any trying situation the child knows how to act righteously? Also does the present method of assessing and evaluating Moral Studies by way of one final examination truly reflect the actual moral standings of a student? Although Moral Studies was introduced in 1989, is society more morally upright than before? Sadly, the answer to all these questions are in the negative as the cases of indiscipline and delinquency is on the rise.

To achieve that noble goal one would have thought that the syllabus would have been structured in such a manner that students can easily relate the moral values to day to day experiences as how to live in a family and later in a school environment and subsequently in a multi racial society which later transcends to others, such as how to live in harmony with nature, obedience to law, etc. As real life situations can be varied as life itself, the emphasis should be more on understanding and applying the moral values in any given situation. This invariably requires acceptance of different interpretation and application of moral values. However the current syllabus is far from it. The current syllabus consists of 36 moral values or nilai which are rigidly defined by the Education Ministry and form the basis of examination questions. Interpretation of the moral values is minimal. These values include, to name a few Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan (Belief in God), Bertanggungjawab (Responsibility) and Sikap Keterbukaan (Open mindedness) among others. The 36 values are divided into 7 major fields of study or bidang, namely: i)Perkembangan Diri (self development) ii)Kekeluargaan (family) iii)Alam Sekitar (nature) iv)Patriotisme (patriotism) v)Hak Asasi Manusia (human rights) vi)Demokrasi(democracy) vii)Keamanan dan Keharmonian(peace and harmony). From direct interview with past and present students, as well as the feedback received through emails and the comments posted in the online petition it is clear that for a student Moral Studies means memorization and regurgitating word for word the definitions for the 36 moral values. In the definitions there are key words (kata kunci) which must be used to answer the questions. Failure to use these key words to explain the moral values means marks will be penalised. There is hardly any room for differing views within acceptable parameters. As far as the student is concerned Moral Studies is just like any other subject and the objective is to obtain an A+. From the stand point of school and teachers their primary objective is to ensure that as many students as possible get an A+ in Moral Studies rather than focusing on inculcating and internalizing the moral values intended. The principals and the teachers cannot be blamed, for schools are currently rewarded according to the number of high achievers they

can produce and further the school is bound by the syllabus given by the education Ministry. To that end, it is clear from the interviews with teachers, the sure way to score well in Moral Studies is to master the answering techniques. Therefore instead of interpreting the appropriate value based on the information given, students are taught to look for specific key words in the description and identify the corresponding moral value. Schools have gone so far as to hire, so called experts to conduct seminars on answering techniques before the SPM examination. This is bewildering bearing in mind that moral values are meant to be learnt from lifes experiences. One teacher went so far as to say that, to do well students must be gifted with teachers who know the answering technique. A question in recent 2011 SPM examination will bear testimony to this. The question in point depicts a father riding a motorcycle with 2 of his children riding pillion without wearing helmets and the students were asked Apakah nilai yang harus diamalkan oleh ayah tersebut? For example, If a student were to answer using ibubapa harus mengamalkan .. instead of bapa harus mengamalkan the watak(character) is deemed wrong and the student loses all marks for the question (which may be up to 8 marks) even though the student might have given the corrects moral values expected. Therefore, answering technique is of paramount importance compared to whether the student has understood the moral values to be learnt. Is this what was intended by the formulators of Moral Studies? Therefore the evaluation and assessments is extremely lacking in its purpose. According to the feedback from teachers, at times, the Lembaga Peperiksaan Malaysia changes the definitions of the values at the marking stage. This is akin to changing the rules after the game has ended. By right the schools must be informed of any changes at least 2 years ahead so that the students can be duly informed. If this is true then the moral integrity of the person entrusted with the assessment and evaluation is in question. 4)Conclusion From the foregoing we have submitted to the Ministry of Education a Memorandum to make Moral Studies or Pendidikan Moral in SPM as a non examination subject instead of maintaining it a compulsory examination subject in SPM for non Muslims students because we are of the view that:i)per se it is in violation of Article 12 of the Federal Constitution as students attending the same system of education are compelled to take different subjects based purely on racial and religious consideration;

ii)the outcome in the Moral Studies subject discriminates unfairly against non Muslim student when the students, particularly manage to obtain an A+ in all the other subjects taken but cannot secure an A+ for Moral Studies and this in turn undermines their educational prospects. iii)the current teaching and learning strategies as well as the assessment and evaluation method for Moral Studies leaves a lot to be desired. In fact from what we hear and see in the print and electronic media morality is on the decline. Therefore the purpose of introducing Moral Studies has not been achieved, unlikely to be achieved, but instead being used as another subject to determine the overall performance of non Muslim students in SPM. 5)Scope of Inquiry by SUHAKAM We would like SUHAKAM in conducting the inquiry with the Ministry of Education to investigate the following areas:i)does Moral Studies being a compulsory subject for non Muslim students ONLY in SPM violates Article 12 of the Federal Constitution? ii)why non Muslim students who excel in all other subjects are unable to excel in Moral Studies in SPM examination which in turn undermines their educational prospects? iii)whether the syllabus for Moral Studies including the teaching and learning strategies have been formulated in an unfair and unjust manner that it discriminates against non Muslim students? iv)are the examination requirements, namely the pattern of assessment and evaluation fair and just and not discriminate against non Muslim student such that the result in Moral Studies in SPM reflects the actual moral standing of a student? v)whether the grading for Moral Studies in SPM is in tandem with the grading for all other subjects, and in that respect, what was the mark required for an A+ in the 2011 SPM examination for Moral Studies as compared with all the other subjects? iv)is the current method of re checking the result fair, just and transparent taking into account the fact that, despite students having to pay RM50.00 per subject they are merely informed of the outcome

(without any reason) by Lembaga Peperiksaan Malaysia which may take up to 3 months from the date of announcement of the SPM result? In a short span of time and without active campaigning, to date the online petition (the link is https://www.change.org/petitions/ministry-ofeducation-to-remove-moral-studies-from-the-spm-as-an-examinationsubject) to remove Moral Studies as a compulsory subject has received the support of more than 260 signatories and it is on the increase. This Memorandum is also supported by HINDRAF and PAGE (Ipoh Chapter). Therefore we hope that as the body entrusted with investigative powers when minority rights are infringed will conduct a through investigation and let us know the outcome in as soon as possible. S.V.Namasoo Coordinator For Morally Upright - A Group of Concerned Citizens Email: morallyupright@hotmail.co.uk