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What Is UEC And Do Their Students Even Sit For PMR or SPM?

What Is UEC And Do Their Students Even Sit For PMR or SPM?

Government: NO UEC
Everyone else: Ok but like what is it anyway

Anne Dorall

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The history of Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) in Malaysia has been fraught with drama since 1975, especially as the Chinese Malaysian community struggles to get local recognition for the examination in Malaysia even until today.

But a lot of people struggle to understand why the UEC is even necessary in Malaysia, or why Chinese independent schools felt the need to use their own education system.

Why UEC?

The UEC was set up to unify the exams for independent Chinese schools, which uses Mandarin as their language of teaching. The Junior UEC exam is similar to PMR. The Senior UEC exam is intended to be an equivalent to STPM and A-levels, and is recognized as such overseas in countries like the UK, US, Canada, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, India, and more. Some students in East Malaysia may also have the option to sit for the UEC exams in English.

However this does not mean that students at Chinese independent schools neglect the Malaysian government school syllabus and do not sit for the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) and Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) exams.

Students at independent Chinese schools still sit for all national examinations such as PMR and SPM. The subjects are taught alongside the school’s own Chinese syllabus, and teachers dedicate lesson periods to teaching the government syllabus too.

There’s a lot of studying involved at a Chinese independent school.
(Credit: Anne Dorall/TRP)

How it works:

The Chinese independent schools separate their high school grades into two parts: junior high and senior high.

Junior high (Junior 1, 2, 3) is equivalent to Form 1, Form 2, and Form 3; while senior high (Senior 1, 2, 3) is equivalent to Form 4, Form 5, and Form 6. However, the Senior 3 year is only one-year long as opposed to Form 6’s 2-year course.

Chinese independent school students take the Junior Middle UEC in Junior 3, and the Senior Middle UEC in Senior 3.

In terms of national examinations, those in Chinese independent schools sit for Junior UEC and PMR during the same year. The subjects are taught side-by-side and cover similar materials in two languages.

Then, students sit for the SPM during their Senior 2 year, and their UEC in their Senior 3 year. There’s no overlap in examinations, so students and teachers can focus on the respective upcoming exam fully.

Just like in government schools where not all students stay on for Form 6 and their STPM, not all Chinese independent school students decide to stay for Senior 3 and the UEC.

A LOT of studying.
(Credit: Anne Dorall/TRP)

What happens when students graduate?

However, those who do stay on for UEC will find that their tertiary education will be limited to private schools that do accept their UEC results, as it is not recognized in government universities, unless they use their SPM results and sit for an additional year of Diploma or Foundation studies.

As a result, students who completed UEC will more often than not go into private colleges or overseas to complete their tertiary studies, instead of staying on in Malaysia.

According to the Education Act 1996, private educational institutions where the medium of instruction is something other than the national language is constitutionally allowed.

However, it is not in the constitution that the intended-equivalency exams like the Senior Middle UEC must be recognized, which has led to this continuous back-and-forth between Dong Zong and the Ministry of Education all this while.


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