PUTRAJAYA - The overall Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) achievement declined with fewer students scoring straight A's, and educators attribute this to possibly a change in the way questions were structured.
Of the 429,003 students who took the examination last year, 11,289 (2.63 per cent) scored straight A's - compared to 13,970 (3.16 per cent) out of 442,588 students in 2013.
The National Average Grade (GPN) was at 5.08, compared with 4.93 in 2013. (A lower GPN shows a better overall performance).
Education director-general Datuk Seri Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof said the decline in student performance and the reduced number of top scorers could be due to a change in the way questions were structured.
"The questions were the same as before, but students now need to think more when they answer. They can't just revise lessons the old way, or spot questions, to do well," he said.
"Those who took the time to properly understand the subject matter would have done well.
"But the decline is still within the acceptable range, as the overall performance of students will rise and dip slightly through the years," he said when announcing the analysis of the 2014 SPM results at the Education Ministry here yesterday.
The percentage of students who obtained SPM certificates also dropped slightly to 85.02 per cent, from 85.52 per cent the previous year.
This is the second SPM examination where students were required to pass History in addition to Bahasa Melayu, to qualify for a certificate.
The percentage of students who passed the English subject fell from 80 per cent in 2013 to 77.3 per cent.
English will be made a compulsory pass in the SPM from 2016. Some 86 per cent of students passed History in 2014 compared to 86.6 per cent in 2013, while 91.1 per cent passed Bahasa Melayu in 2014 compared to 91.4 per cent in 2013.
Comparing the performance of urban and rural students, Dr Khair said rural school candidates scored GPN points of 5.4 compared to the 4.85 garnered by those from urban schools.
"The performance gap between urban and rural candidates has narrowed to 0.55, compared with 0.60 in 2013," he said.
Under the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, the ministry has steadily increased the number of "higher order thinking skills" questions in public examinations, with such questions expected to comprise 75 per cent of papers for SPM core subjects by 2016.