Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Exams no longer final word on assessment?

Much appreciation to Firdaus, who in the comments of Kian Ming's post on the new Deputy Education Minister pointed us to the news that the UPSR and potentially PMR and SPM too will no longer be the last word on pupils' performance. This is a dramatic change in our education system, and it seems to be new Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin's attempt to make his mark.

Unfortunately, I don't think we have enough information on this policy change to draw conclusions regarding its worthiness. In the abstract, it's a good enough idea: the notion that two or three exams should forever define your school years is ridiculous, because even in our mostly dreary education system, you get so much out of school beyond just knowing how to pass exams.

But even when I was in school, it was understood that the UPSR, PMR and SPM were not the be-all and end-all: you had to do well on the tests and exams routinely meted out in school too. Of course, they weren't as important as the big three — I actually failed a couple of tests when I was in school, and it didn't ruin my life — but you were expected to do well because they were basically dry runs for whatever exam the school was prepping you for. In primary school, tests and exams were dry runs for the UPSR; in secondary school, they became preparation for the PMR and SPM.

So if the new policy is just incorporating these tests and exams into the final assessment, then not much really changes. The assessment is still fundamentally testing only one trait: how well you can take the exams designed by the Education Ministry. Unless you change how we actually design the exams, this is purely a cosmetic change. The only useful and meaningful difference will be that if you fall sick during a major exam, your grades won't be as bad as they were before. The assessment system will still tell us nothing about how well our pupils can think or analyse information — all it will tell us now is whether our pupils can consistently take exams and answer the preset questions correctly over the course of six years, instead of one or two months.


Coltz said...

Intriguing, if implemented right this can definitely be a step in the right direction; I feel that this will mostly likely be inefficient and even downright abused, though. The "attitude" line, in particular, worries me a lot. Do we really have a system with teachers competent enough to evaluate each student holistically over the years? What about resource-strained SRJKs with 50+ students/class?

Shawn Tan said...

Personally, I think that it all depends on the objective of running these centralised national exams. If we start introducing extremely subjective evaluations like 'character' into the system, we are opening it wide for abuse. I would actually think that a better way of improving the system would be to change the style of the exams. If we worry about the work load of the examiners, use computers to help. If we worry about the quality of the questions, use computer to help again. Ultimately, I think that the correct application of technology can help improve the exam system. Obviously, I'm biased.

Anonymous said...

y complain now? many decades ago our education or exam system is functioning properly! No amount of trivial academic discussion will change anything when the quality is down the drain. Just stop messing n politicking. Dont reengineer with wat is already working properly

Tell the BN and UNMO to lay off their scrubby hands of education. Learn from Singapore

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clk said...

Even our exam system is already subject to abuse and manipulation what more without exam?

The latest incident involving a law exam at a local uni exemplifies the rot that is going on for years.

With exam gone, I can only imagine the worst case.

Anonymous said...

I feel that this idea of spreading the pressure by using school tests and exams is just a knee jerk reaction. Wouldn't the potential for abuse and manipulation be so much greater with the powers to transform lives in the hands of the schools themselves? If not properly executed, it just means transferring the politicking opportunities from the national
level down to the schools. At least with national coordinated exams, there is a perceived measure of quality and objectivity. I feel that a better idea would be to introduce more application based exams i.e. to test students on applying what they learnt rather than breaking down one academic based exam into many academic based exams.


Vanguard said...

not only major exams, they should do away with all exams as much as possible..have exams but make the end results contribute only to a small part of the total evaluation..

problem based learning should be considered...

Anonymous said...

Is it USIM exam scandal? Give me the link. I want to forward it to Obama. He is my distant relative. He invited me on his facebook :)

Anonymous said...

Tell them to concentrate on getting the English/Malay language of medium for Science and Maths first before they go on to try to fix other wrongs. Try to get one thing right first.

Anonymous said...

Changing is fine, but sudden change is just suicide.

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Ridzuan Masri said...

Obviously, PMR and SPM results cannot be the benchmark for measuring overall individual capabilities in school. Academic assessment and examination is not everything any longer. Through common analysis, the success of one not lies upon mere academic, even sometimes academic qualification does not help at all in the quest of creating success in life.

It is proven through even ordinary observation, many corporate figures or successful entrepreneurs do not possess tertiary qualification but they are still succeeding in facing the business challenge. What more important to them is the struggling spirit, endurance and perseverance. Hence in my opinion, students at PMR and SPM levels must be taught to have possessed fighting spirits, persistence and high determination besides academic acquaintance. At the tertiary level, then the real academic lessons to sharpen knowledge begins.

At least, the students with weak academic background at PMR or SPM levels, know what suppose to be done in order to face their future real world challenge in a more creative and innovative way.

Anonymous said...

With a new system without impact assessment spells doom for schools and universities. Lecturers would have to turn half baked potatoes into French Fries instead of Moussaka. It is just terrible.

Furthermore, universities are already staffed full of Professors with PhDs bought from foreign shores as part of a trade agreement. What more do we want now?

Haris Angel said...

this is an extract of a report by an independent journalist which shows that the Election Commission is just PRO BN! If you support this report, please cut and paste on every group in all BLOGS and place in this world. Thank you.

"The same views have been echoed by no less than the Election Commission (EC). Plus, the EC has openly supported proposals by some BN leaders such as Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir and Tan Keng Liang to prevent "unnecessary" elections. These include suggestions for stricter laws, and penalties for elected reps or their parties should an elected representative resign for reasons other than what's stated in Article 48(1) of the Federal Constitution."


CWF said...

i feel that they study in depth what is exactly wrong with our system...they should make changes in stages as major changes will affect not only students but teachers as well...Evaluating a student 70% based on extra-curricular activities is not that proper...i think that they should have a balance of both academic and extra-curricular, which is 50% each...

Anonymous said...

All in all, Merit system should always be practised no matter exam counts or not.

Whether or not our students are spoon-fed, Merit is still the way.

Exams and Tests should be the determining factor for success or failure of students.

They should change the way how teachers deliver knowledge to students, and not how their knowledge is tested.

Anonymous said...

Abolish matrikulasi! There is only but ONE way into universities.....A levels or STPM

Anonymous said...

anon 28/4
The movement is to abolished centralised exam.

Its better to have matriculation only and abolish STPM/A-Levels for entry to university.

Anonymous said...

here are something to ponder over ..
1. Dumb bumiputra students surprisingly gets multiple As in public examinations.

2. Race has to be filled in major examinations form. The data would be fed into a main computer as well as the marks. With race as a field , its so easy to allocate extra marks for candidates of certain race.

3. Public Exam Marks are not allowed to be made public and made known. Everything is hush-hush and under the Official Secrets Acts/

4. The passing marks for difficult subjects for the Malay students like Mathematics (SPM) is 15% and A is 65% while the A marks for Chinese language SPM is like 95%!

5. Lots of chinese students get straight As but did not get A for Chinese. signs of manipulation of results.

victor tan said...

hi tony/kian ming

i am very unhappy today as i learnt that 2 of my former bumi coursemates have gone overseas on gov scholarship. one to imperial college, the other to University Western Australia.

i took the industrial biology course in UTM and graduated in 2005. 6 of us, all chinese, graduated with 1st class honors. the two got second upper.

i repeat: i am not racist. I am just expressing my frustration at a racist policy.

i don't hide my anger and jealousy that the two got government scholarships instead of any of the 6 of us. we had little chance - after 2 completed their masters, their application for government scholarships for overseas PhD were turned down, reason not given.

which brings me to another topic, why is the government sending people to universities which do not enforce high standards?

As long as you've got the money, you will be accepted, even on an ordinary degree. Most universities in Australia and UK do not have any admissions test meaning that any uni graduate can gain acceptance as long as they have funding.

unlike US universities, there is no emphasis on academic vigor, admissions test, passion and knowledge in research etc

well..i just want to rant.

i hope tony can raise some issues in parliament:

1. WHat is the percentage of postgraduate scholarships by race?

2. What is the criteria used to select recipients?

3. can the government create a website that publishes information on all scholars (aka what is done by a-star singapore?) the website should list all recipients, the university they are in, what course they are studying, their CV etc.

character said...

Thanks for the Links, What is happening to the education system.

Anonymous said...

After I completed my SPM, I decided to apply for Sixth Form. This was a problem because my SPM results weren't up to scratch. I did finally get in, but later than everyone else had, which puts me at an added disadvantage (a completely unrelated issue). I went through the paces and did my STPM. Unsurprisingly, I did not do very well either. (I wanted to do psychology, they offered me... forestry, which wasn't even on my list; again, unrelated issue).

Being from the middle class and unable to afford private colleges, I was running out of options. I finally decided to take the SATs (to see if I could get into a US university, I have an aunt that could sponsor me during that time). After meeting with a university rep who was on a recruiting visit to Malaysia, I got a scholarship for half my tuition to be waived at a university in the US. I am now at the end of my second year, pursuing a PhD.

Sorry for the long introduction, but I felt it was necessary to understand my situation. My two comments are this:-
1) Examinations are the core of the Malaysian educational system. However, we don't know what they are predicting (I have had some training regarding intelligence testing and psychometrics).

2) The lack of transparency hurts the overall system. It allows for lax oversight, and does not show us how the test is doing anything at all. Some research into what the tests predict may serve us well. Controlling for the other obvious possible indicators (race, whether someone was admitted to public uni, whether or not they went to uni, which uni/college did they go to) we can try to figure out what we would like to predict, and see if we're actually predicting it.

Anonymous said...

^ (look to the above comment) - To clarify a couple of things - I went through my undergraduate (4 year university) in the US first, then got accepted to the PhD program with a full tuition waiver and stipend for living expenses.

I happen to be Chinese. Does it matter? Should it matter?