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Overhauling Malaysia | Institutional Reforms

Many Malaysians placed great importance in the promised institutional reforms promised by the then opposition PH government. Many voted for PH in hope of these reforms to improve the country’s broken-down institutions. 

Institutional Reforms |  

The Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) Recognition

Posted on July 13, 2018

The GE14 Promise to Recognise UEC
In the BN and PH government GE14 manifestos, both parties promised to recognise the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC). This is not the first time the issue has been a promised item in elections. What is UEC and what makes this a great voter-drawing issue? Is change to recognise the UEC school leavers finally going to take place now with the change in government?

The Brief History of UEC
Pre-independence, from as early as the 19th century, Chinese schools were founded and by the ethnic Chinese in Malaya to provide education in the Chinese language to the community.  The oldest Chinese school, Chung Ling School of Penang was established in 1923. At independence in 1957, there were some 86 Chinese secondary schools in Malaya.

After Malaysia's independence in 1961, the government’s new 1961 Education Act, a monolingual educational language policy required all schools to be assimilated into the National School system.  The Chinese schools were instructed to integrate and adopt the National School system and also surrender their properties to the government. Obviously, this came with strong resistance from the Chinese educationalists who founded and funded these schools.

A compromise was reached, whereby those schools which refused to be integrated into the national school system are classified as "National Type" schools. The government took over the school’s curriculum and teaching personnel while the lands still belonged to the schools. Over 60 schools converted to become National Type schools.

The primary schools were allowed to retain Chinese as the medium of instruction but the secondary schools were required to change into English-medium schools but were still able to retain the importance of Mandarin studies by making it a compulsory part of the syllabus.

As for the Chinese schools which had chosen not to integrate, they became private high schools or Chinese independent high schools. Currently, there are 60 independent Chinese high schools in Malaysia. These schools, funded by donations from the Chinese community, were also considered affordable education for the community.

The Unified Examination
The Unified Examination is a standardised test for Chinese independent high school students organised by the UCSCAM since 1975. There are three levels: Junior Middle (UEC-JML), Vocational (UEC-V), and Senior Middle (UEC-SML). In general, the examination papers are set in Mandarin with the exception of language subjects and mathematics and science subjects that are also available in English.

The Unified Examination Certificate (UEC)
The UEC is a qualification that is issued to graduates of Chinese independent high schools.  The Malaysian government does not recognise the certificate, hence disqualifying UEC certificate holders a place in local Institutions of Higher Learning.  Besides being disqualified to obtain a place in the local public tertiary education system, certificate-holders are also not employable in the Malaysian civil service as the certificate is not a qualification that is recognised by the government. 

In 2004 the National Accreditation Board (LAN) made it mandatory for students entering local private colleges to pass the SPM Malay paper, but the then Minister of Higher Education Dr Shafie Salleh exempted UEC holders from this requirement.

The value and standard of the Senior Middle (UEC-SML) certificate are widely and globally accepted as a qualification for entrance into many overseas tertiary educational institutions and local private colleges.  It was reported that Taiwan has an official policy of allocating a certain quota for these Chinese students from Malaysia.


Implications of UEC Disqualification
In 1975, the then Education Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had asked the Chinese School Committees to rescind the decision to introduce the UEC on grounds that it would disrupt national unity.  The certificate has never been recognised by the Malaysian government from day one.

However, prior to GE14 steps were already taken by certain state governments on partial and conditional recognition of the UEC.

 In 2015, the late Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem created history by giving recognition to the qualification which allowed UEC holders to apply to join the state’s civil service.  

The Penang state government followed suit to recognise the qualification at the state level. 

Selangor took a small step forward by allowing the state-owned Universiti Selangor (Unisel) to recognise the UEC beginning in 2016.

In 2017, the Legal Profession Qualifying Board (LPQB) decided not to implement its decision in 2005 to not recognise the UEC which means that these certificate holders no longer need to obtain either A-Level or STPM qualification to qualify them for the Certificate of Legal Practice (CLP) examination.

On a positive note, at the federal government level, UEC school-leavers were qualified for PTPTN loans for their tertiary studies, as well as enrol in local teachers’ training colleges and local private colleges and universities.
According to Dong Zong’s records, in 2016, 8,574 students at the Chinese independent schools registered as SPM candidates.  

Dual Certification Option
Some Chinese independent high schools opt to teach the national secondary school curriculum (in Malay) alongside the independent school curriculum (in Chinese) and require students to sit for the government standardised tests (PMR, SPM or even STPM) as private school candidates, providing the students with an opportunity to obtain government-recognised certificates.

Characteristics of Chinese Independent Schools
According to the Education Ministry, the self-funded Chinese independent high schools are private schools while those called national-type Chinese primary schools (SJKC) or national-type secondary schools (SMJK) are public schools that receive either full or partial financial assistance from the government.











Schooling years
The secondary school system is very similar to that of the mainland China and Taiwan systems.  The student spends 6 years in secondary education -  which is divided into three years in the junior middle, three years in the senior middle and an additional year in the senior middle.  At the end of the sixth year, the student sits for the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC).  The seventh year is optional for those who want to take the government's Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia (STPM, equivalent to A-level).

The curriculum
Curriculum Department of UCSCAM is a recognised secondary education curriculum around the world. It has been noted that in comparison to the standard government syllabus, the UEC’s standard is higher than SPM, particularly in Science, Mathematics, and English. A quoted example states that the second year students in Chinese secondary schools are already learning some Science topics that are only found in the Form Four syllabus of government schools.

Mandarin is used as the medium of instruction.  
UCSCAM publishes official textbooks that are written in Mandarin for use in Chinese independent high schools 
The examination papers are set in Mandarin.

The number of students enrolled in Chinese Independent Schools
The total number of primary school students as of January 2017 is 2,674,327 and the majority 77% are enrolled in national Sekolah Kebangasaan (SK) schools and 19.7% in national-type Chinese schools (SJKC) at 527,453.  Chinese Independent schools (SJKT) students account for a mere 3% of the total number of students in Malaysia.












Based on the Department of Statistics Malaysia’s data of live births in the 2000-2015 period, the annual number of babies born in some of the preceding seven years before primary school enrolment from 2000 to 2017 are also among the lowest of the entire 15-year period.


New Malaysia | Opinion Aug 03, 2018, @ 12:20

At forum, speakers give limited nod to UEC recognition

Participants at a forum gave their conditional support for the government’s controversial proposal to recognise the Chinese vernacular education’s Unified Examination Certificate (UEC). |Read more >|Malaymail

UEC Characteristics of Chinese Schools in Malaysia
UEC Number of Students of Chinese Independent Schools in Malaysia


Location: Malaysia


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