THERE has been much debate on the proposal by the Education Ministry to abolish the UPSR and PMR examinations.
There is an over-emphasis on examinations and academic achievements in schools. Consequently, we have created a breed of students obsessed with scoring A’s and capable only of regurgitating facts and figures. For most subjects, the format for answering examination questions is often rigid.
Hence, many students fail to develop the ability to think out of the box and make critical decisions.
It is good that the ministry realises the need to revamp our education system. Abolishing the two examinations is just the first step. Having an exam-oriented education system is not a problem.
The real problem is the over-emphasis on examination results. Many students take public examinations very seriously as though it is a matter of life and death. Having taught in a primary school a few years back, I understand the pressure that many students face.
Even at seven years of age, they are burdened with lots of homework and are forced to attend many tuition classes. To make things worse, some parents send their children for extra classes after school and on weekends for lessons on music, arts, computing, mental arithmetic, dance, swimming and languages. All these with the hope of giving their children an edge in an increasingly competitive world.
It is sad to see many young children being put under undue pressure and deprived of their childhood.
Part of the National Education Philosophy states that the aim of education is “to produce individuals who are intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced and harmonic.”
However, our education system seems to focus mostly on the intellectual aspect. The worth of a student is often judged by the number of A’s he or she scores in a public examination while students who are not academically-inclined are often sidelined. It has failed to acknowledge that every individual has a unique personality and examination results alone cannot be used as a yardstick to evaluate a person.
There is a serious lack of emphasis on character development. Besides, more effort is needed to address the psychological and emotional needs of students as this will help reduce the number of delinquencies.
Students should also be made to realise that academic achievements alone will not help them prepare for the real challenges in life but a strong character will.
One of the best ways to mould students’ character is to encourage them to actively take part in extra-curricular activities to learn things which are not taught in the classroom or in textbooks. By assuming different roles and responsibilities, they will have the opportunity to build their confidence, broaden their knowledge and acquire valuable skills such as time management, leadership, critical thinking, communication, decision–making, public speaking, survival skills and life-saving techniques. Furthermore, it will instill in them a greater sense of responsibility and discipline.
The proposal to replace public examinations with school-based assessment is a good suggestion, although it may have its limitations. It can be done in a manner as practised in most universities where exams only carry about 50% of the overall marks for a subject. Course work such as quizzes, assignments, tests and group projects will make up the remaining marks. That way, there is less pressure on students during examinations.
In a public examination, each student is only working for his or her own success. What the revamp should strive to achieve is to change this situation and encourage more mutual support and cooperation among students rather than selfish competition.
It is also crucial to shift from rote-learning to a more interactive and student-centred approach if we do not want students to end up as passive learners and mere observers.
Besides, elective subjects can also be introduced even from the primary level so that students can have the chance to explore different fields and discover their interests. That way, they will have a clearer sense of direction when the time comes for them to decide on their career path.
As for entry into Malaysian universities, there should be a standard examination instead of the dual system of STPM and matriculation.
It is true that examinations are important, especially as a tool to gauge a student’s mastery of a certain subject, but they are not an accurate reflection of a student’s actual abilities, and do not at all, reflect a student’s character. There are people who did well in examinations but did not do so well in life and vice versa. Some are early bloomers while some are late bloomers. Ultimately, every individual has the potential to succeed in life regardless of his or her examination results.
K. W. Chia