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close this bookPolicy Development and Implementation of Technical and Vocational Education for Economic Development in Asia and the Pacific - Conference Proceedings - UNESCO - UNEVOC Regional Conference (RMIT, 1997, 520 p.)
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The Current Status of Offering Vocational Elective Subjects in Malaysian Secondary Academic Schools

Paper presented at the UNESCO UNEVOC Regional Conference at The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia, 11th-14th November, 1996.

Mohd Ibrahim Nazri, Ph.D.
Lecturer
Faculty of Educational Studies
Universiti Pertanian Malaysia
43400 UPM, Serdang
Selangor, Malaysia

INTRODUCTION

The Ministry of Education, Malaysia divides the upper-level secondary education into two streams, namely the academic and vocational stream. The academic stream prepares students for further study whereas the vocational stream prepares students for gainful employment. Generally, the academic stream is associated with the secondary academic schools. On the other hand, the vocational stream is associated with the so-called secondary technical or vocational schools. However, the two streams are not totally exclusive. Vocation-oriented subjects are still offered by the academic schools. Similarly, academic-oriented subjects are also offered by the technical and vocational schools. This offering pattern is in consonant with the educational philosophy upheld by the country - to produce well-balanced and harmonious individuals, and to establish equality in educational opportunity.

In Malaysia, the offering of vocation-oriented subjects in the academic schools was dated back in 1917. In that year the British Colonial Government introduced practical subjects to Malay vernacular schools. The subjects were gardening, cookery, needlework and basketry (Cheeseman, 1948). Following independence, vocation-oriented subjects appeared to be in a state of dormant. However, the subjects were revived through a passage of Comprehensive Education Policy in 1965. Under this policy lower-secondary school students were required to choose one of the following practical subjects: Industrial Arts, Home Science, Agricultural Science, Commerce. The policy was further extended to the upper-secondary school level through the offering of subjects such as Mechanical Drawing, Woodwork, Metalwork, Surveying, Home Science, Agricultural Science, Commerce, Accounting.

The secondary education in Malaysia underwent reformation in 1988 when the Integrated Curriculum for Secondary School (ICSS) was incepted. Under the ICSS, a new subject called Living Skills was introduced to lower-secondary school students. This subject is a pre-vocational subject which combines the four elective subjects offered in the old curriculum. This subject is compulsory to every student. The aim of offering the subject is to produce an individual who is self-reliant, literate in technology and economics; possesses self-confidence and initiative, creative, innovative, and productive; and is able to interact well with others (The Curriculum Development Centre, 1989). In accomplishing this aim, the Living Skills subject is organized into two components, core and elective. The core component consists of knowledge and skills pertaining to manipulative skills, commerce and entrepreneurship, and family life. The core component is compulsory to all students. The elective component comprises three areas, additional manipulative skills, home economics, and agriculture from which students are to choose one. Living Skills subject is allotted four periods of instruction per week or nine percent of the total instruction received by students while they are in the lower secondary school.

The upper-secondary school curriculum also was reformed in pursuit of the spirit of ICSS. The upper secondary curriculum is organized into core, additional and elective subjects. The elective subjects are further subdivided into four groups namely, humanities, vocational and technology, science, Islamic studies. There are nine subjects listed under the vocational and technology group: Principles of Accounts, Basic Economics, Commerce, Agricultural Science, Home Economics, Additional Mathematics, Engineering Drawing, Engineering Technology, Invention. Each vocational elective subject is allotted four periods of instruction per week or 8.5 percent of the total instruction for the upper secondary curriculum.

The use of elective subjects in the school curriculum is well-documented in the literature. In the Malaysian situation, the basic idea of introducing the elective subjects in the secondary academic schools is to enable students to develop their interests, aptitude and potentials. The elective subjects also aim at providing adequate grounds for students to enter the world of work and to pursue higher education. Under this conception of elective subjects, one may expect in the variation of subjects offered within and between schools. Therefore, the pattern of offering elective subjects by secondary academic schools has been a major concern of the Ministry of Education as it has significant impact on the manpower need of the country by the year 2000. In fact, the elective subjects have been well-researched. In a recent study, it was found that the schools were more inclined to offer electives in the humanities, and the vocational and technology group (Sharifah, 1996). On the contrary, the Ministry of Education favours more science subjects.

Being a major interest of secondary academic schools, vocational elective subjects need further investigation. What are the vocational elective subjects offered by secondary academic schools? is there any significant relationship of vocational elective subjects offered within schools and between schools? These are some of the research questions worth probing.

PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES

The purpose of the study is to describe the status of offering vocational elective subjects in Malaysian secondary academic schools. Specifically, the study sought the following objectives:

a. To determine the vocational elective subjects offered by schools.
b. To determine the number and percentages of schools offering vocational elective subjects.
c. To determine the relationship between vocational elective subjects offered within schools.
d. To determine the relationship of vocational elective subjects by school location.

PROCEDURES

Design

The research was designed to be a descriptive correlational type of research study. The variables studied were vocational elective subjects, number of subjects offered, and school location. The research utilizes a survey method as it meets the purpose of the study which is to describe the status of offering vocational elective subjects.

Instrumentation

The research made use of lists of schools offering vocational elective subjects. The list serves as a frame of reference for the study. Hence, frame error is controlled. The vocational elective subjects were identified in advance. The subjects were identified as follows:

a. Additional Manipulative Skills elective of the Living Skills subject
b. Home Economics elective of the Living Skills subject
c. Agriculture elective of the Living Skills subject
d. Principles of Accounts
e. Commerce
f. Agricultural Science
g. Home Economics
h. Engineering Drawing
i. Engineering Technology

Data Collection

Data collection was done via mail. A formal letter was sent to each State Department of Education requesting for a list of secondary academic schools offering vocational elective subjects. There were altogether 14 State Department of Education. Each department responded to the request.

Data Analysis

Upon arrival, each data was keyed-in and processed via a computer software, Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSSPC+). Descriptive statistics were used for data analysis.

RESULTS

Vocational Elective Subjects Offered

As reported by state education departments, all secondary academic schools (N=1362) have offering in vocational elective subjects. The vocational subjects are as follows:

a. Additional Manipulative Skills elective of the Living Skills subject
b. Home Economics elective of the Living Skills subject
c. Agriculture elective of the Living Skills subject
d. Principles of Accounts
e. Commerce
f. Agricultural Science
g. Home Economics
h. Engineering Drawings
i. Engineering Technology

The first three in the list represents subjects at the lower secondary level. The remaining subjects represent subjects at the upper secondary level.

Number and Percentages of Schools Offering Vocational Electives

Table 1 reports the numbers and percentages of schools offering vocational electives. At the lower secondary level, Home Economics seems to have the highest number and percentage of schools offering. Additional Manipulative Skills and Agriculture take the second and third place respectively. Even though Agriculture is placed third, it still has more than half of the schools offering it. At the upper secondary level, Commerce subject is placed first with 1096 (89.8%) schools offering it. Engineering Technology subject is placed last with only four (0.3%) schools offering it. However, Engineering Technology and Engineering Drawings are relatively new to the academic secondary schools at the time of the study. Hence, both subjects have low number of school offering. The academic secondary schools tend to have broad experience in offering Principles of Accounts, Commerce, Agricultural Science, and Home Economics subjects. Of the four subjects, Agricultural Science has the lowest number of school offering.

Table 1

Vocational Electives Offered by Secondary Academic Schools

Vocational Electives

Schools Offered (N=1362)

Rank


f

%


Lower Secondary Level




Additional Manipulative Skills

1099

85.0

2

Home Economics

1116

86.3

1

Agriculture

790

61.1

3

Upper Secondary Level




Principles of Accounts

803

66.0

2

Commerce

1096

89.8

1

Agricultural Science

338

27.7

4

Home Economics

532

43.6

3

Engineering Drawings

109

9.0

5

Engineering Technology

4

0.3

6

Percentages are not rounded to 100% as schools offer more than one elective.

School Location

Out of 1362 schools listed, there are equal number of schools located in the urban and rural area. There are 681 urban schools and 681 rural schools respectively.

Number of Electives Offered

Table 2 shows the frequencies of schools offering a number of vocational electives. At the lower secondary level, large number and percentage of schools offer three electives. Out of 1293 schools, 623 (48.2%) schools offer three electives; 464 (35.9%) schools offer two electives; 206 (15.9%) offer one elective. At the upper secondary level, largest number and percentage of schools offer two vocational subjects. Out of 1220 schools, 509 (41.7%) schools offer two subjects; 314 (25.7%) offer three subjects; 229 (18.8%) schools offer one subject; 148 (12.1%) schools offer four subjects; 20 (1.6%) schools offer five subjects.

Table 2

Frequencies of Schools by Number of Subjects Offered

Number of Subject

Schools Offered


f

%

Lower Secondary Level (n=1293)



One elective

206

15.9

Two electives

464

35.9

Three electives

623

48.2

Upper Secondary Level (n=1220)



One subject

229

18.8

Two subjects

509

41.7

Three subjects

314

25.7

Four subjects

148

12.1

Five subjects

20

1.6

Analysis of Relationships

Findings of relationships between variables are reported in table 3. It was found that the degree of relationship between variables ranged from significantly low to significantly very high, according to Davis's (1971) classification. The variable that has the most number of significant relationship is the number of elective subjects offered at the upper secondary level. This variable has low to very high relationship with all other variables including the number of electives offered at the lower secondary level. High number of schools tend to offer two electives both at the lower and the upper secondary level. The next variable with a high number of relationship is the number of electives offered at the lower secondary level. This variable has significant relationship with Agriculture elective (r=.7). Home Economics elective (r=.6), Additional Manipulative Skills elective (r=.4), Agricultural Science subject (r=.4), Principles of Accounts subject (r=.2), Home Economics subject (r=.2), and school location (r=.3).

School location has low to moderate relationship with the following subjects: Agricultural Science, Principles of Accounts, Agriculture elective, Home Economics elective, Home Economics subject. Agricultural Science and Home Economics subjects were associated with rural schools whereas Principles of Accounts subject was associated with urban schools. Agriculture elective at the lower secondary level has a moderate relationship (r=.4) with Agricultural Science subject at the upper secondary level. However, the relationship was unfavourable because large number of schools did not offer both subjects. Further, large number of schools offering Agriculture elective at the lower secondary level did not continue to offer Agricultural Science subject at the upper secondary level. Home Economics elective at the lower secondary level also has a moderate relationship with Home Economics subject at the upper secondary level. Large number of schools tend to offer Home Economics elective instead of Home Economics subject. However, the number of schools offering both subjects also was found to be large.

Table 3

Relationships Between Variables

AMS

1.0

-.1








AGR

NS

.1

1.0







ACT

NS

.1

.2

1.0






COM

NS

NS

NS

.1

1.0





AGS

NS

.4

.4

.1

.1

1.0




HES

-.1

1.0

.1

.1

NS

.4

1.0



LOC

NS

NS

.3

.3

NS

.3

.2

1.0


ELE

.4

NS

.7

.2

NS

.4

.2

.3

1.0

SUB

.1

NS

.3

.5

.3

.6

.7

.2

.3


AMS

HEC

AGR

ACT

COM

AGS

HES

LOC

ELE

AMS: Additional Manipulative Skills elective of the Living Skills subject
HEC: Home Economics elective of the Living Skills subject
AGR: Agriculture elective of the Living Skills subject
ACT: Principles of Accounts subject
COM: Commerce subject
AGS: Agricultural Science subject
HES: Home Economics subject
LOC: School location
ELE: Number of electives offered at lower secondary level
SUB: Number of vocational electives offered at upper secondary level
NS: Non-significant

CONCLUSION

The current status of offering vocational elective subjects in Malaysian secondary academic schools was described in terms of vocational elective subjects offered, numbers and percentages of schools offering vocational elective subjects, and the relationship of subjects offered within and between schools.

Vocational subjects were offered by all secondary academic schools. However, there was a variation in terms of the number of schools offering electives in vocational subjects. At the secondary level, Home Economics elective seems to be the most popular subject among schools. At the upper secondary level, Commerce subject seems to be the most popular subject among schools.

There were significant relationships of vocational subjects offered within schools and between schools. Within schools, Home Economics elective offered at the lower secondary level has relationship with Home Economics subject offered at the upper secondary level. Schools tend to offer Home Economics elective instead of Home Economics subject. The same pattern of relationship occurs for the Agriculture elective and Agricultural Science subject. Most schools neither offer Agriculture elective nor Agricultural Science subject in their curriculum.

There were significant relationships of vocational subjects offered by different school location. Home Economics and Agricultural Science subjects were offered mostly by rural schools whereas Principles of Accounts subject was offered mostly by urban schools.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The offering of vocational electives at the lower secondary level ought to be intensified. This may be done particularly by encouraging more schools to offer Agriculture elective so as to enable the subject to have equal share of development with the other two electives.

More schools should be encouraged to offer Agricultural Science and Home Economics subjects at the upper secondary level. Schools in particular are those which are presently offering Agriculture and Home Economics electives at the lower secondary level.

More rural schools should be encouraged to offer Principles of Accounts subject. Likewise, more urban schools should be encouraged to offer Home Economics and Agricultural Science subjects.

Further research need to be carried out to determine factors associated with the offering of vocational elective subjects. The findings from such study are useful in developing some indicators for measuring the development of vocational elective subjects in secondary academic schools.

List of References

Cheeseman, H.R. 1948. Education in Malaya. In Education in Malaya (pp. 1-18). Kuala Lumpur: The Colonial Office.

The Curriculum Development Centre. 1989. The Integrated Curriculum for Secondary School (ICSS). Kuala Lumpur: CDC.

Davis, J.A. 1971. Elementary Survey Analysis. Englewood, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Sharifah Nor Puteh. 1996. Trend Pemilihan Mata Pelajaran Elektif Sekolah Menengah Atas (Trends in the Selection of Elective Subjects at the Upper Secondary Schools). Paper presented at the National Seminar on Evaluation of ICSS at Institut Aminuddin Baki, Genting Highlands.