Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Scrapping UPSR & PMR A Good Move?

The Ministry of Education must not be hasty in scrapping all examinations which will create far reaching consequences for our human capital development

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had announced that the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) examinations may be abolished as “part of government efforts to restructure the learning system that as seen as too examination oriented and failed to provide a holistic education.”

I would like to express our thanks to the DPM for also stating that “the ministry would not act in haste and wanted the public to give feedback to help improve the public examination system.”

I would like to urge extreme caution from the Education Ministry on the potential move to scrap examination despite the noble objectives to “avoid producing machines” as explained by the Deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong.

I are 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.

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.

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 a students thinking skills, then certainly, the students will have little choice but to be more analytical.

For example, a question on history at PMR level may ask “What year did the Portugese conquer Melaka?”. In this case, the student has no choice but to memorise the year “1511”.

Alternatively, the question could ask “Why did Melaka lose to the Portugese?”. In this case, there's a greater element of subjectivity, but the students may still be able to a certain degree, memorise part of the answers.

However, if the question were to ask “Was it inevitable that Melaka would lose to the Portugese in 1511?”, then a student would have no choice but to evaluate the facts which he has in hand and provide measured answers as to whether the defeat was “inevitable”. Such questions would certainly encourage greater critical thinking for what we want isn't memorised facts but weighted opinions, for and against.

In addition, such 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.

Therefore, we would like to emphasize to the Education Minister that the critical success factor to producing “thinking” students, as opposed to “regurgitating machines” likes with the teachers, the teaching system as well as the nature of examinations.

The proposal to scrap examinations is not the miracle cure to producing analytical students, and may actually produce negative and unintended outcomes on the average quality of Malaysian students.


Shawn Tan said...

The next level of question would be something like - "What could have been done to prevent Melaka from being conquered by the Portuguese". (extrapolation - think outside the box)

Another big question if the UPSR/PMR exams are taken out is - how would they control entrance into residential schools? Would they be introducing an 'entry exam'?

Karen Lee Huey Shyan said...

Dear Tony,

In a couple of years, your eldest will be in year 1. If your are planning to send her to SJK(C), you will find that, right from year 1, it's work, work and work all the way. The momentum mustn't stop coz if one does, you will face with an avalanche of work coming straight at you.

Even if they revamp the style of examination questions like you mentioned, the students will face harder time coping with answering such questions coz they have no time to think 'why' things happened. The syllabus they have to cover is too much for them to handle.

Have you recently look at year 1's BM and chinese?? They are like our BM and Chinese when we were in year 4..... And the UPSR is like our SRP..... many students are struggling especially the slower and creative ones.

Wei Jiet said...

Contrary to popular belief, our Sejarah questions (and I'm talking about standard national exams, not crappy private publication workbooks that come out questions at their whim and fancy) DO NOT ask dates of historical events. And looking back at the 2008 Sejarah SPM paper which I took, there are questions that require you to state things that are not related to the syllabus, albeit in small numbers and some are eally igsignificant. But I do agree that we should ask questions that require students to think out of the box. As for other subjects like Physics, Biology and Chemistry, the standard is OK but improvements still need to be made so that students question teachers, not the other way around. That boils down to proper teacher training. And please ask the government to scrap Pendidikan Moral, the mother of all memorising horrors.

Shawn Tan said...

Even in the sciences - it is possible to ask 'out of the box' questions. Science is not all black and white only. In fact, science is all about questioning things. There is still plenty of room for discourse depending on how one phrases the question.

the homework eating cat said...

No offense but I'm wondering if the teachers are actually equipped...

Anonymous said...

Look here, simple logics, if minorities like medical doctors are destined to rule the world, control the world and dominate the world, the all- powerful being they called Allah or God would have made them exist in great numbers or majority numbers on this planet.

Same goes for engineers, IT geeks and school teachers.

The main points here are lawyers alway outnumber medical doctors anywhere in the world. Business graduates alway outnumber engineering graduates. Arts and social science graduates alway outnumber teacher graduates.

Conclusion: True strength and sheer power of humanity always come from great number, the majority number, the fundamental essence of democracy.

ummi said...

We need teachers who actually LOVE teaching and children instead of those who are ready to judge and label. How do we do this, I wonder.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps actually providing space, time and support for teachers to continually develop would be useful. Instead the KPMs demand a constant barage of testing and monitoring of students to increase the schools UPSR. The headmaster has little other interest than this - as with any exam, if it isn´t in the test it doesn´t exist. You measure what you value, and teachers are not valued.
Teachers are constantly controlled and monitored to ensure they are doing their job (something that gains the school a potential 10% on the KPM) - something they can easily get round by just jumping through the administrative hoops they are set, most of it has no relevance to what is actually happening in the class and doesn´t actually help them as it becomes meaningless admin.
Teachers are crying out for real Professional Development - not endless courses that actually take them out of the place they should be!
Constantly feeling inadequate at school, teachers miss classes, days at school, in desperation they ply students with countless worksheets, hoping that these will do the work they are so unprepared for. Inevitably the UPSR scores drop (they all can´t keep going up it is a physical and mathematical impossibility! Someone has to fail!), so more monitoring (at least you'll get some points back on your KPMs!), motivasi talks, projects from the government. It´s endless and maddening for all involved. In frustration teachers are left with only one person to blame - the parents who are not doing their job at home. But the only contact they have with them is to invite them in to complain and moan at them if their child has failed an exam and give them endless rounds of "motivasi" talks. But i suppose that is just what the government does to them. Not much real dialogue goes on among people, just the veneer of education as a massive system sucks up vasts amounts of money keeping a vast amount of people (without meaning to be rude, mostly Malays?) employed.
Again without being rude, it reminds me to some degree of the Soviet Gulag system, in the end it was just functioning because it employed 10s of thousands of people. Those working in it had a vested interest in its survival so it kept going, spurred on by the vast number of bureaucrats running it, even when it had outlived its political and social objectives.
Does Malaysia have the largest number of civil servents per population in the world? Are they the ones endlessly coming up with projects and monitoring of teachers just to keep themselves employed? You only have to walk into any Government office and see hundreds of people, most doing not a lot. If the teachers were actually empowered to do the job they were supposed to do would they be out of work? Does the government have any real interest in changing a system that employs 1.4 million? (mostly Malays?)
Just thoughts and please do correct me if I´m wrong.. but no abuse please, I would prefer an honest debate. Thanks