Saturday, 14 December 2013

Stand and Deliver

Did you know that some tuition centres are already seeing a drop in the numbers of students enrolling for tuition classes?

The reason is parents and students are preparing for the time when both the PMR and UPSR will be abolished. The PMR will end in 2014. Not clear when the UPSR will be abolished but many parents are feeling less "urgency" over their kids’ education.

I am in complete agreement that we should reform our education system to prevent it from “producing robots”. However, we need to first understand the cause of failure in our education system which isn't a result of having examinations per se.

As we all know, UPSR is a public exam that has to be taken for all the standard 6 students, before they proceed from primary school to the secondary school. While PMR is a public exam for a form 3 student, for them to be divided to enter the difference streams, such as science stream, art stream and etc.

The proposal to scrap examinations is not the miracle cure to producing analytical students, and may actual Firstly, without first changing our teaching systems to encourage creativity, critical thinking and innovation, removing examinations will make little or no difference to the quality of education for our students. For example, if the quality and ability of the teachers remain unchanged, then quality of output will make little difference. Instead, because of the lack of a standardised assessment system, the outcome might actually deteriorate due to the lack of objective measures.

Then, regarding to the teachers, when public exams are abolished, teachers will not be as creative as what the minister expected. When there is no public exam pressure, most teachers will take teaching likely. Syllabus need not be completed and students will take lessons likely. Weaker students will just ignore lessons in classes. Truancy will increase. Currently, teachers teaching exam classes face the pressure to produce good results. They have to conduct extra classes if they cannot finish the syllabus. With no public exam, teachers will not be bothered if they cannot complete the syllabus. Since exams are conducted internally, they just set questions on topics that they had covered.

Secondly, the problem of studying for examinations and producing students who focus on memorising and regurgitating answers is in the nature of questions itself. Very simply, if the examination questions today are orientated towards memorised answers, then understandably, the students will be focused on memorising answers. However, if the questions are oriented towards challenging students thinking skills, then certainly, the students will have little choice but to be more analytical.

Subjective questions which demands critical thinking and analysis by the students will require equally trained teachers who understands the value of such analysis, with emphasis not just on whether the student got the facts right, but whether the student demonstrated their ability to think.

The UPSR, PMR, SPM and STPM are indeed major challenges. And it is an effective measure of everything - a national level yardstick by which we can measure how much our kids are learning, if the teachers are doing their job, if the school system is functioning well plus more.

Now all these are being removed - except for the SPM. I think this is not good for our next generation.

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