Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mock Exams

JJ had her mock exams last week. And this week she's having her final exams. He mommy has been busy, studying very hard for these exams. Yes, no mistake there, Mia herself had to study together with JJ, taking leave from work, trying to figure out the cryptic Chinese characters and all those. I had the opportunity to learn too, though admitedly not at seriously as Mia. I want to share a bit with my readers about what young kids are going through these days in the education system.

First up, of course Mia was overly excited because JJ got only 70% for her maths. I mean, JJ is only in primary 1 for goodness' sake—anything below 80% is a cause for concern! But of course upon further checking, my JJ actually got 88%. Her teacher made a mistake when tallying the final result somehow. Tells a lot about the teacher.

But what I really wanna share here is about her Bahasa Malaysia papers. Although it's only the mock exams, we'd like JJ to be serious in her work. Of all the questions, one caught my attention:

Lee, cikgu suruh _______ susun meja.

A. kamu

B. kita

C. mereka

And the kids had to choose which of the 3 options is the correct one for the blank.

Perhaps I should come up with something like the above for one of my treasure hunt questions, and I bet the hunters would all faint to choose the correct answer.

The next day, I conducted a little experiment in my office. I actually went around the office and asked some of my staff how they'd answer this question. Of those who participated in my experiment, 7 chose A, 3 chose B, and 2 chose C. Which one would you choose? Bear in mind that based on the number of questions for this paper, the kids probably had no more than a minute to decide their answer for this question.

The majority chose A because they took "kamu" to mean "you". And "you" here can be both "you" as in Lee alone, as well as "you" as in Lee together with some other people with him then. So when translated into English, we can get something like this:

Lee, teacher has instructed you to arrange the tables.

In this case, the person who's speaking to Lee is not involved in the arrangement of the tables. He's merely conveying the message from the teacher to Lee. I think it is a possible scenario. I can't see anything wrong with this choice.

Those who chose B explained that "kita" is a better choice because it means "us", i.e. both Lee and the person who's speaking to him. When translated into English, we can get something like this:

Lee, teacher has instructed us to arrange the tables.

In this second scenario, the person speaking to Lee is telling Lee that both of them have been instructed by the teacher to arrange the tables. Again, I can see nothing wrong with the answer.

Those who chose C thought that this is also a good choice. The person speaking to Lee is merely telling Lee that "they", meaning those other people, but not Lee and the person who's speaking to him, have been instructed to arrange the tables. The sentence, in English, would then be like this:

Lee, teacher has instructed them to arrange the tables.

The person who's speaking to Lee is merely reporting about the teacher's instruction to those other people. Which again makes sense too. But of course one of my staff, Jeffrey, had a slightly different explanation—he said he preferred this third choice because he did not want to get involved in arranging the tables. Jeffrey was trying too hard to be a smart Alec, you see.

So as you can see, after spending far beyond the allocated time for this question, we're quite unsure which is the correct answer. I wonder if the teacher got a bit mixed up between "mock exams" and "mocking the kids". I'm planning to find out from the teacher, and I don't mind to debate with her too. And who knows, if she can come up with an airtight explanation, then I can use the trick in my future treasure hunt clues.


izharas said...

No doubt all the answers are fit, my comment is if we put ourself to JJ shoes, it suppose to be a simple "gantinama" for Lee. So the answer should be "kamu". I don't think the teacher wanted to create a complicated situation and need the students to imagine what if just you, you and me or just them to arrange the table.
Sometime as a parent we a so concern. Maybe teacher know better and the question is suitable for them (at the moment) but not for us. And believe me, our kids trust their teacher more than they trust us. Scary sometime..but we also must put our trust that the teacher try to do their job to their best ability.

Cornelius said...


Thank you for your comment.

Having been a teacher many years ago, I am able to share my own experience about how knowledge is imparted to kids in school. I know some teachers may have slightly different methods or approaches, but generally speaking, there is a lot of emphasis on memorization. That's why girls generally do better than boys in school because they can memorize better.

The teacher says the answer is A, and the students are expected to accept that answer; end of story. When in due course the same question arises in the exams, the students are expected to reproduce from memory the same answer to pass with flying colours.

I think there are serious weaknesses in our education system. I don't want my JJ to grow up being a first class recording machine which does not know how to think and analyse for herself. If she is smart enough to think beyond the primary one level, she should be encouraged to explore beyond that level. I don't believe there is such a thing that a question is "suitable for them" because they're only in primary one now.

We should allow for the possibility that some of these kids are smarter than their peers, and they're bound to raise the question about the suitability of options B and C too. And when they do ask the question, we should be ready to give them a good answer.

It has always been our culture to just accept without questioning. We do that in school; we do that with religions; we do that at work. When a kid asks the parent how come birds can fly, the parent brushes him off, saying that he's not old enough to know yet. He will learn about it when he grows up. The curiosity is suppressed and everyone will eventually become a recording machine, and only a recording machine. But when given anything that's not found in the text books, they're lost!

And so, we don't have very many inventors from this part of the world. We're only good for copying from others. Well, OK, maybe we're also good for improving a bit here and there. But we hardly come up with something original. It's just not in our nature.

It's not that I don't trust JJ's teachers. But I shall intervene to try my best to rescue my child from becoming the perfect recording machine.

Butterfly Fairy said...

hey man,
totally agree with you re the perfect recording machine. the education system in msia needs a little push, sometimes a big push is especially needed in the younger generation.

Cornelius said...

Ah! it's good to know that someone agrees with me!

A valuation graduate with admirable exams results was able to answer that the Residual Method of valuation is adopted to value a piece of vacant land with planning approval for a 6 storey commercial building. It is a standard text book approach.

However, there's a case where an existing multi-storey commercial building was approved for the construction of an additional 6 floors above it. Then we had to figure out what method to use to value the roof top of that building with the benefit of that approval (to build 6 additional floors). And the graduate couldn't answer the question, because the question was not found in the text book.

But if the graduate had truly understood the Residual Method of valuation, she would've known that we can treat that rooftop just like the vacant piece of commercial land with the benefit of approval to construct 6 floors on it.

But anyway, I don't believe that there will be anything done to make changes in our education system to address this problem. There is just too much emphasis to get up to 21 As in SPM exams these days.