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Do Medical Grads Need To Pass SPM BM To Work In Malaysia? MOH Finally Clarifies

One of the most talked about issues of the week, explained.

Cover image via New Straits Times

On 30 June, around 300 medical graduates in Malaysia received a directive, which informed them that they need Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM)-level Bahasa Malaysia qualifications to be accepted into permanent government posts

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Alam Flora/Facebook

According to a report by Free Malaysia Today (FMT), the graduates who are waiting for their housemanship placements learned about the new ruling, which requires them to have an SPM certificate for entry into the public service.

O-Level Bahasa Melayu (BM) or Bahasa Kebangsaan A (BKA) qualifications were previously accepted for those who are looking to enter the public service. The people affected by this change that came to effect in early 2017 are medical graduates from private institutions.

One of the graduates affected by this change explained the matter to The Star.

He told them that he had applied to the Public Service Commission (PSC) for housemanship in September 2016. His application was accepted shortly after clearance was obtained from the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC).

The medical graduate got a rude shock a few months later in December 2016, when he was told that he did not get through the screening process as he doesn't have an SPM-level BM qualification or its equivalent. This means that the BKA paper he took back in college will no longer be accepted as an alternative to the SPM BM paper for admission into the public service.

He was later told by the Selangor Education Department that he would need to take all six of the SPM core subjects in order for him to obtain the certificate

The six core subjects are Bahasa Malaysia, History, English, Mathematics, Science, and Moral Education or Islamic Studies. Also, the SPM certificate will only be issued to those that pass both Bahasa Malaysia and History.

"This sudden change is very frustrating," the medical graduate lamented, as reported by The Star.

Meanwhile, a final year medical graduate with O-Level BM qualifications who's currently studying at a private university, told the English daily that she too was informed that she will have to take all six core subjects to obtain the SPM certificate.

Responding to the matter, the Public Service Department (PSD), said that it was only implementing the decision made by the Ministry of Health (MOH)

In an email reply to The Star, the PSD explained that starting 1 October 2016, the government has converted the appointment of UD41-grade housemen to contract basis.

Why did MOH come up with that decision?

So that medical graduates with no SPM-level BM qualification who fulfill the housemanship requirements can serve in the public service industry and get the full registration certificate as medical officers.

This does not apply to candidates that are looking for permanent posts - they will still need an SPM-level BM qualification for that.

On 1 July, MOH announced that they have waived the recent SPM-level BM requirement for medical graduates who will be appointed on a contract-based housemanship

According to a report by Malaysiakini, the waiver only applies to medical graduates who've applied to be part of the two-year contract for housemanship which is followed by two years of compulsory public service in government hospitals.

"However, the requirement (for an SPM-level BM certificate) must be fulfilled prior to their permanent appointments in the public service," said the ministry, in a report by The Star.

It said that currently, the PSD does not recognise O-Level Bahasa Malaysia or any other similar examinations as being equivalent to the standard SPM-level BM.

"... due to complaints from medical graduates regarding the changes in government policy (the appointment of new medical officers from a permanent to a contractual basis), discussions were held to resolve this issue," said the ministry in the same report by the English daily.

Medical graduates are required to have SPM-level BM qualification certificate in order for them to be appointed into the public service. This is in line with Article 152 of the Federal Constitution and National Language Acts 1963/67, which states that Bahasa Malaysia is the national language and must be used for all official purposes.

Explaining the changes to the requirements for hiring Grade UD41 medical officers, Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, said that it is different from permanent hiring as the government sometimes brings in doctors from overseas to serve at local hospitals.

This would require a more interchangeable system.

Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa

Image via Yusof Mat Isa/The Malay Mail Online

"The medical field is different... when one graduates in the medical field, they have to serve as a houseman for two years first, which is not a permanent position.

"For a permanent position, they must meet all criteria required, among them undergoing housemanship for two years and a pass in BM at the SPM level," Ali Hamsa told reporters, as reported by the Bernama yesterday, 4 July.

These waivers for BM requirement are not new to the medical field in Malaysia.

Until recently, the PSD did not require medical graduates to have a pass in BM to appoint them as permanent medical officers in the civil service.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya

Image via K.E.Ooi/ The Malay Mail Online

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya told Bernama that the government has allowed medical officers without a pass in BM to be appointed as the local medical industry was facing a shortage of doctors and the government had to look into importing talents from other countries.

"Doctors from outside at the time did not take BM at the SPM-level and could be hired by the Ministry of Health, but now, we have improved the condition, and have discussed with the PSD to increase the condition of requiring a pass in BM. As the number of local medical graduates is also growing, we can set this condition," explained Dr Hilmi.

Note that foreign medical officers and specialists serving in Malaysia are not required to have BM qualifications.

Dr Hilmi also stressed that medical graduates who are currently doing their housemanship do not need to pass BM

"However, if they wish to become UD41 medical officers, they need to pass the subject in SPM, and we will discuss this with the Ministry of Education (MOE) so that they only need to take the one subject, and not at least six, as per the norm.

"So they have at least two years to pass the SPM-level BM paper while undergoing their housemanship if they choose to serve in the government sector, but if they want to work in a private hospital or open their own clinic, they do not have to do so (obtain a pass in BM)," he added, in the same Bernama report.

Dr Hilmi, who is also the Balik Pulau MP, revealed that only 1% of medical graduate who are currently doing their housemanship at government teaching hospitals do not have an SPM-level BM qualification.

A week after the hoo-ha, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S.Subramaniam, informed today, 5 July, that all new Grade UD41 medical officer hires on contract basis must pass SPM BM

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S.Subramaniam

Image via The Malaysian Times

Dr Subramaniam explained that this is to ensure uniformity when hiring medical officers. MOE will assist medical graduates who do not have a SPM-level BM qualification to sit for the subject without taking the other core subjects.

Here's his explanation on the waiver issue, as reported on Bernama:

"Over the past few days, the issue on the SPM BM waiver has caused much confusion. I wish to have it clarified properly. An official statement on this will be issued by the Deputy Prime Minister.

"I also wish to explain that in 2015, the Health Ministry on its own decided that the SPM BM pass requirement was a condition for appointment as a medical officer.

"So, we put in an application in November 2015, and the PSD replied in early 2016 approving the Health Ministry's application that all new appointments for medical officers will have to meet the condition," said Dr Subramaniam.

MOH had to introduce contract-basis hiring last December as there were an excess of medical graduates

"During the hiring process, we faced a situation where a small number were not educated under the Malaysian education system because they lived with their parents abroad. The education system they underwent was different and they did not take up the BM subject.

"Today, the Cabinet decided that they be given the opportunity to pass the SPM BM subject during their two-year housemanship," he added.

What do you think about the government's decision to make SPM-level BM qualification a must for medical graduates who want to work in Malaysia? Let us know in the comment section below.

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