Thousands missed sitting for SPM because of work, say educationists

Alfian Z.M. Tahir

Academics say many students were not able to sit for their SPM examination because they could not attend online classes and missed a lot of subjects due to the Covid-19 pandemic. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 15, 2023.

BEING employed was one of the major factors that caused more than 14,000 students in the country to skip their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination last year, educationists said.

They said the problem could get worse unless there are interventions by the government.

They also attributed last year’s lack of SPM attendance to the Covid-19 pandemic, pointing out that these students could have missed lessons due to unavailability of online communications.  

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Centre of Community Education and Wellbeing educationist Dr Anuar Ahmad said the majority of these students had already been employed months before the examination, and this was due to economic factors.

Yesterday, Deputy Education Minister Lim Hui Ying said poverty had driven students away from attending schools.

“This is a social problem that we need to find ways to address,” she said during the question-and-answer session at the Dewan Rakyat.

On Monday, Education Minister Fadlina Sidek revealed that 14,858 or 3.8% of the 388,832 candidates who registered for SPM 2022 did not sit for the examination.

Based on an analysis by the education ministry, there was an increase in the number of SPM candidates who did not attend the examination last year, compared to the 2021 SPM which saw 10,681 or 2.7% absent candidates out of a total of 392,837 registered candidates.

According to Anuar, most of the students who did not sit for their SPM exams came from poor urban families.

He said many decided to help their families after they could not cope with the high cost of living.

“The majority who missed their SPM exams had already been working. They didn’t sit for their exams because they decided that they had no future in school.

“Most of them had already been skipping school, they came from poor family backgrounds, living in big cities and due to the high cost of living, they decided to help their parents.

“They also did not do well in their trials prior to SPM, therefore many had made up their minds that they were better off working than attending school,” said Anuar.

Education Minister Fadlina Sidek says 14,858 or 3.8% of the 388,832 candidates who registered for the 2022 SPM did not sit for the examination. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, June 15, 2023.

More may sit out this year’s exams

Anuar also feared that the number of students who may skip the examination will continue to increase this year.

He said this was likely to happen if there were no plans to address the problems faced by poverty stricken students.

“Compared to 2021, there was an increase in 2022. We suspect there will also be an increase this year if the economy is not fixed. If things are not fixed, many more will decide to help their families earn a living.

“Schools must identify these students so that they can be helped. The ministry must work closely with schools and provide more free classes or come up with special programmes, specifically for these groups of students,” he said.

He added that the current trend was that these students were largely from urban poor families.

“They have no choice but to quit school,” he said.

Anuar said the government must pay extra attention to these students.

“Provide them with special assistance financially other than giving them extra classes. If this is not addressed, we will see an increase again,” said Anuar.

Covid-19 factor

West Malaysia Teachers’ Union president Jasni Md Kechik mirrored Anuar’s point of view.

He added that the increase of students who did not sit for their exams could also be due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The fact that they are working is a clear cut factor. That is one of the main reasons. But Covid-19 had caused an increase because many students were not able to attend online classes and missed a lot of subjects.

“They decided to skip the exam and work because of poverty and the need to earn money,” he said.

Like Anuar who suggested schools cooperate with the ministry, Jasni said schools should identify poor students and help them get into boarding schools.

“Usually for students who missed a lot of classes, schools would inform the district education office and then the data would be sent to the ministry and from there action would be taken.

“Schools would visit the homes of the students, to better understand their issues and if the problem could not be solved due to extreme poverty, they would be sent to boarding schools.

“From top to bottom, there needs to be cooperation. We can lower the number of school dropouts in coming years if we are serious in tackling this issue,” he added. –  June 15, 2023.

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