SPM An Essential Qualification, No Two Ways About It – Experts

any school leavers face a dilemma about their future direction after receiving their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination results. The primary question on their mind is whether to continue with their studies or enter the workforce.

When the SPM 2023 results were announced on May 27, Muhammad Adam Syamil Shaharuddin, 18, was disappointed he did not perform as well as he expected but he is relieved his results are good enough to allow him to pursue higher studies, bringing him closer to realising his ambition of becoming a sports instructor.

The former student of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Pusu, Gombak, Selangor, however, is sad some of his schoolmates chose not to sit for SPM.

“They absented themselves from school when the examination took place. In fact, some of my friends and I also thought of skipping the biology paper but we sat for it anyway and managed to pass,” he told Bernama.



The issue of SPM candidates forgoing an exam deemed crucial for their career path has been a growing concern over the past few years.

Education director-general Azman Adnan told the media recently out of the 383,685 candidates who registered for SPM 2023, 10,160 did not sit for the exam.

According to media reports, 14,858 or 3.8 per cent of the 388,832 candidates who registered for at least six subjects in SPM 2022 did not turn up for the exam. In 2021, 10,681 or 2.7 per cent of the 392,837 registered candidates for SPM 2021 skipped the exam.

Experts interviewed by Bernama emphasised the importance of SPM, saying it is the basic qualification required not only for higher education but also skills-based training programmes. The certificate also guarantees youths a career path that is not only stable but also sustainable in the long term.

Universiti Putra Malaysia deputy vice-chancellor (Academic and International) Dr Ismi Arif Ismail said among the reasons for candidates to skip the SPM exam could be a lack of interest in continuing their studies and economic pressure.

Universiti Putra Malaysia deputy vice-chancellor (Academic and International) Dr Ismi Arif Ismail

“They perceive this exam as unimportant, while earning a living or providing additional income for their family is prioritised to meet their current needs.

“... the desire to own gadgets, socialise with friends and spend time with family are also reasons why they see SPM as unnecessary,” said Ismi Arif, who was also the main consultant involved in the formulation of the Malaysian Youth Policy 2015-2035 as well as the Malaysian Youth Index since 2011.

He believed access to online business opportunities and participation in the gig economy as e-hailing drivers and delivery riders have succeeded in capturing the interest of school leavers who want to earn an income to meet their current needs. They are particularly attracted to the flexible working hours of gig economy jobs.

However, Ismi Arif, who is also an associate research fellow of the Institute for Youth Research Malaysia at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, said there have been cases of school leavers sitting for SPM later when they realise its importance after venturing into jobs that require SPM qualification or its equivalent.

“Some of them sit for the SPM later to achieve greater stability in their careers,” he added.



Universiti Malaya (UM) Department of Educational Foundations and Humanities lecturer Dr Abd Razak Zakaria, meanwhile, criticised the attitude of students who “count their chickens before they hatch”, saying they choose to forgo the SPM exam thinking they can succeed even without possessing the certificate concerned.

Abd Razak, who is also UM Centre for Family Research and Development chairman, agreed some students can go on to become successful in life without an SPM certificate but pointed out the qualification is a prerequisite for pursuing higher studies and the basic requirement for employment.   

“Success is possible even without an SPM certificate but they will still lag behind in knowledge and understanding. To succeed in life, one must have knowledge first,” he said.

Universiti Malaya (UM) Department of Educational Foundations and Humanities lecturer Dr Abd Razak Zakaria

The certificate deemed unimportant by some people at least indicates an individual has received formal education to shape a better future for themselves, he added.

Referring to a recent World Bank report, Abd Razak said Malaysian students spend an average of 12.5 years in school but learn the equivalent of only 8.9 years.

“If they don’t sit for the SPM, it means that despite their years of schooling, they have nothing to show they have received formal education,” he added.



According to Abd Razak, students in Malaysia should consider education as something crucial and pursue it at least up to the SPM level. After that, they are free to choose whether to continue their studies or not.

He said Malaysia is currently focusing on building a strong generation of youths who will one day lead the country, warning that without a solid educational foundation, the country will find itself saddled with a generation that cannot determine their own direction.

He said preventive measures must be taken now to help parents, schools and the Ministry of Education in addressing “what may seem like a minor crisis initially but can have significant repercussions in the future”.

Among the preventive measures he recommended are identifying students who are not able to keep up with mainstream subjects and directing them to skills-based streams.

“Schools must identify these students early so that they can be provided with education suited to their abilities. Parents must be told to be more aware of what kind of talents their children possess so that they can be guided towards channels that suit their capabilities,” he said.    

Abd Razak also said Malaysia’s education system must be aligned with the needs of the country and society without necessarily following the pace of other nations.

“The need to provide education aligned with emotional and spiritual aspects is seen as more effective considering that students in this country are more easily educated ‘internally’ than ‘externally’,” he added.


Translated by Rema Nambiar


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