Saturday, March 27, 2010


" ARchiteCTURE for LIFE "


For everyone's benefit, below is Ar.Nazlan's article which has been posted to The Star and New Straits Times, but yet to be published. This is the gist of the Memorandum.

"I would refer to the very low passing rate to this year’s Lembaga Arkitek Malaysia or LAM Part 3 Professional Examination for the registration of professional architects in Malaysia."

Many have expressed dismay and some, bewilderment at one of the lowest, if not possibly the lowest passing rate ever at less than 10% who made it through. I for one, cannot for the life of me, figure out how the Government of Malaysia and parents to private students can spend millions of good public and private money to send some of the cream of the country’s students to very good universities and institutes, local and foreign, only to have over 90% of them fall flat at the very last hurdle called the LAM Pt 3 Professional Exam that is created by their own fraternity.

If you think I am being paranoid, how would one then attest to these figures below.
1 UK.
Population : 61.6 million
Registered architects : 33,000
Ratio architect to population : 1 to 1,860
Mean annual prof exam pass rate : 80%
Mean annual registered architects : ~1,000

Population : 7.1 million
Registered architects : 2,166 [2007]
Ratio architect to population : 1 to 3,230
Mean annual prof exam pass rate : 29%
Mean annual registered architects : N/A

Population : 22.1 million
Registered architects : 9,500
Ratio architect to population : 1 to 2,330
Mean annual prof exam pass rate : 86%
Mean annual registered architects : N/A

Population : 4.3 million
Registered architects : 1,730
Ratio architect to population : 1 to 2,490
Mean annual prof exam pass rate : 70%
Mean annual registered architects : N/A

Population : 28.3 million
Registered architects : 1,700
Ratio architect to population : 1 to 16,650
Mean annual prof exam pass rate : 9% [2009], 20% max. since 1970.
Mean annual registered architects : 20~30

Clearly, Malaysia is leading the pack - from behind!

We recognize the qualifications of our candidates studying from Commonwealth universities, but when they return home to offer their ‘services’ to their nation, they simply don’t seem to measure up. What is so special about the It would seem that Malaysia is probably the most difficult country in the world to pass a professional exam for the architect.Which makes our architect a very rare breed indeed. If we are passing candidates like they do in the UK, we should have 15,200 registered architects by now, not 1,700. If we pass them like the Aussies, the Kiwis and Hong Kong, we should already have about 8,700 to 12,100, and not 1,700.

These countries above are all Commonwealth nations, with very similar systems of education and government that is based on the English constitutional system. We even drive on the same side of the road. Lest some of us would say that one cannot compare the professional exams to suit the conditions of one country to the next, we cannot deny the numerous demographic factors that are similar. Why, a very good majority of our graduates have even studied and passed their exams from universities of these Commonwealth countries for LAM/PAM recognizes their degrees over the Americans, Japanese, Germans, Italians and the French counterparts which have architectural courses that are not recognized by LAM. The strange thing is that you can find some of the most beautiful buildings designed by architects originating from these countries with ‘unrecognized' degrees.And herein lies more irony.LAM professional exams that seem to make it the most difficult exam in the world for the architect to pass anyway?

Over the years, we have blamed it on the candidates’ poor knowledge of their contracts, and the quality of their practical experiences. Are we then saying that the practical experience afforded by Malaysian architectural practices and government agencies [like JKR] in which these candidates are attaining their professional skills from are way below the standard that LAM is seeking? Is the majority of Malaysian practices and related government agencies so substandard in their quality of training? Are our practices involved in ‘chicken shed’ building projects or minor works extensions that do not cover the full spectrum needed for professional endorsement? What about the practices that helped develop Putrajaya and some of the world’s most recognizable icons in Malaysia? Are they not good enough for our candidates to garner crucial experiences in design, contract management, statutory procedures, tender exercises and construction supervision?

Some of the UK’s top architectural firms hire hundreds of registered architects. For a job the size of a university campus, as an example, a UK office will deploy a typical team of at least half a dozen qualified architects if not more, with a score of technical assistants and technicians to handle the full scope of service required to get a quality job done well. Here in Malaysia, the norm would be that the job can be given to a one-man office with the single registered practitioner assisted by perhaps a couple of Pt 2 graduates and probably 4 draftspersons. It really is all about NUMBERS. Oh, yes. Quality is important too, but please, let us not get ‘over-paranoid’ about quality. Just look at the above figures again. Are we saying the British numbers lack quality? Dare we say the Aussies have the numbers but their quality is suspect?
We just do not have the numbers of ‘certified knowledge workers’ [read, professional architects] to go by with, and it doesn’t help to think that this is because our Pt 3 Exam is of an exceedingly high standard. For some strange reason or another, we seem to pride ourselves into thinking that we must make it difficult for new candidates to join the ‘established elite’ of professional architects, and so the exams are seemingly made very difficult to pass.

Take this one step further, and let us look at the numbers on other professionals in Malaysia.

Average pass rate % : 22%
Registered Medical Practitioners : 20,500

Average pass rate % : 36%
Registered Lawyers : 14,300

Average pass rate % : 70~90%
Registered Engineers : 9,600

Average pass rate % : 30~40%
Registered Accountants : 26,000

And let us compare this again with architects.
Average pass rate % : 9~20%
Registered Architects : 1,700

From these figures, it would seem that in Malaysia, it is more difficult to be an architect than even a doctor!
Furthermore, the pass rate for doctors above is for those with unrecognised degrees only. The majority of medical students who studied at universities recognised by the MMA, have mostly passed their professional ‘exam’ through their housemanship programme.

I don’t think many people know these facts. I certainly did not, before embarking on this little research. It is small wonder then, that in the past few years, many of my young nieces and nephews, and even my own daughter have preferred to study medicine. Looking at these figures, I wouldn’t blame them. Which parent in their right mind would now want to invest their children’s future in architecture when they have a brighter chance of making it through as a doctor.

Malaysia is a developing country. One would have thought that we would be in dire need for professionals to help with nation building. The UK, Hong Kong and Australia are fully developed nations and have been so for a lot longer than us. And they must have done it with the help of their architects who are undeniably a crucial factor for the ‘engine of growth’ in any country aspiring for development.

We have here in Malaysia, top leaders with a very ambitious programme to turn the nation into a fully developed status by 2020, but sadly, this ambition does not seem to be shared by a ‘professional elite’ who are supposed to SPEARHEAD this very programme.

What does these figures above tell us? What is going to be the ‘national’ consequence of this diabolical state of affairs? That in a decade, and with only about 2,000 professional architects since independence, we hope to help Malaysia become fully developed? Can these figures help convince PM Dato’ Seri Najib that Tun Dr Mahathir’s Vision 2020 will be realised? Can this seriously be done with the dearth of knowledge workers whom the country’s leaders have desperately sought to produce since the days of Tun Razak? What about the Prime Minister’s own vision of turning Malaysia from a middle income society to that of a high income country? Wouldn’t the registration of more professional architects help with his noble cause?
I have come across many candidates [some have failed five, six times] who have been in a state of despondency over the years, and have gotten to a stage where they just don’t know what to do to get past the Pt 3 hurdle. And I would wonder if the medical profession, or our engineers and lawyers have similar situations. Just how a graduate architect can attain and gather all the experience of running project after project for years on end in an architectural office, and STILL end up failing the professional exam beats me.... See More

I am not, for one moment, suggesting that LAM immediately turn the tables and start passing all manner of Pt 3 candidates come hell or high water to meet the 2020 deadline. And I am pretty certain that there are many candidates amongst the 90% who failed this year deservedly did so, as my experience as a Pt 3 Tutor tells me that there are candidates who do have a long way to go before they can be considered good enough to practice. All I am saying is that a 10% pass rate seem too utterly low, inconceivably illogical, bordering on being downright ridiculous and even, as some of these unfortunate candidates have put it, grossly unfair.
The LAM President had, in her Star On-line article of 28 November, succinctly put it “In the absence of a better system, to gauge the candidates’ readiness for professional practice, the present LAM Pt 3 exams seem to be the most appropriate form of assessment...”. But my dear Madam, I beg to infer that with these figures above, the system - in it’s present form is far from appropriate in the context of nation building. LAM needs a major review of their examination system so that we do not unfairly penalise candidates, and more importantly, we do not penalise Malaysia’s ambition to be a fully developed nation within the next decade.
Malaysia need the NUMBERS, and we need them fast!
Ar Nazlan bin Baharudin


nurul said...

thanks for the info...
wow tak sangka ye...

Anonymous said...

Good research on the numbers and percentage. As I understand the passing mark for Part III Exam is 50% for each paper. I wonder why the passing rate is so low? May be someone who experienced the hard time can throw some lights here.

Anyhow, with only 1700 numbers of Professional Architect in Malaysia, why the Architectural Service's market is so competitive? and the Clients are always asking for lower fees and most of the cases they manage to get it. Why? Is that mean supply is more than demand? So, are we lack of Professional Architects or we have more than enough?

Arch Ian Jay Bantilan said...

Hi. I am Arch Ian Jay Bantilan of the Philippines. I passed the board exam in 2003 at 38%. The average passing rate is 25%.

True. I have been asking the same question why my license number is almost 18000 and your list is barely 2000.

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