Well, it IS a big deal. Here's why. Let us take a typical Science stream SPM students. Now, seven subjects are compulsory. They are Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mathematics, Moral Studies (or Islamic studies for Muslims), History and two Science Subjects out of the main three, i.e. Physics, Chemistry and Biology. (For Arts stream, it's six, i.e. the five core subjects, and Basic Science). Most schools plan their time table in such a way, that it is pretty much a 'package deal' that a pure science student would take all the three science subjects, and Additional Maths. So that makes it nine subjects. Which means, the student has only one extra subject to take, and more often than not, it would be Accounts, or another subject that is already being taught in the school. There you go, ten. Maximum. Which also means, the student is pretty much prevented from taking Tamil, Tamil Literature and/or Chinese, Chinese Literature.
The Director-General of Education released a nonsensical statement today defending the ten subject rule, saying a student can always drop an elective subject, say Physics, to accommodate a vernacular subject, if the student was interested in pursuing a career in medicine. He went on to even suggest that schools may offer vernacular subjects as 'certificate courses', with school-level assessment. Third, he had the audacity to suggest that vernacular subjects were not that important, since "education is continuous, so the students can always study vernacular subjects later". Downright idiotic!
I can't speak for my Chinese friends, but I know for a fact that Tamil language is facing extinction, within Malaysian Indians. Many can't even speak proper Tamil, let alone read and/or write. We have an uphill battle keeping Tamil alive, as it is, without the Education Ministry further frustrating efforts with their new ruling.
Besides, how many students are willing to sacrifice subjects taught in school, just to take Tamil and/or Tamil Literature. How can we expect a student, at four four, barely sixteen, to drop Physics since he is planning to do medicine, and take Tamil instead? I think that's a rather heavy decision to force on a student, considering dropping Physics would put him/her at a disadvantage in pursuing many career paths!
Even if a student is really keen in taking Tamil as an SPM subject, at the heavy cost of another subject, how many schools even have proper teachers teaching Tamil? The Ministry actually has a ruling that a school must have a minimum of fifteen students taking the subject, to even offer classes. This conveniently allows many schools to forget the subject even exists, or even discourage students taking an extra subject. Students who take Tamil at SPM level today, already do so at a great disadvantage, and put in individual effort. To do so after the new ruling, and pay such a high price, even I would not dare to encourage someone to take Tamil! Even if somehow, the student finds a way to squeeze in Tamil, you can sure as anything, forget about Tamil Literature in addition to that!
We're not asking for much. Just increase the maximum to 12 subjects. It shouldn't be that great a deal, considering only last year we had students boasting up to 21 A's in the newspapers. So if we could have students taking that many subjects previously, I don't see any considerable reason why we need to be so stringent all of a sudden. Unless of course, as some claim, and I sure hope not, there IS a planned, secret agenda to rid the country of vernacular education. I for one, and the MIC that I represent, will simply NOT LET THAT HAPPEN!