The Education Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin made a stunning announcement recently—he said the PMR and UPSR exams may be abolished. His reasons inter alia include concerns that teachers and parents are pressured to want students to achieve excellent results. He said "the main objectives of education is for children to gain knowledge in a holistic manner—where creativity, innovation and interaction thrive."
In a few years' time, we may end up having no exams at all, because we want creativity, innovation and interaction. I'm not sure where the Minister got the idea that exams can't deliver all those. And I suppose the next step is to distribute university degrees for free without having to sit for exams too. That way all Malaysians can be university graduates!
The typical mentality of sweeping the problem under the carpet. Far from abolishing national exams, the educators should seriously consider overhauling the whole system to include something more than just producing recording instruments. What we have right now is a system that emphasises on memory capability. Kids are taught to remember without thinking. They reproduce what they are taught in school, and that's practically all they can do. This is speaking from the general point of view, of course.
Some people are aware of what's happening in the Malaysian education system. Our kids are desperately lacking in training their minds to think. Research and analysis had been carried out by clever people. Yet no one is brave enough to make any changes to the system. I suspect if changes were made, many, many children would fail miserably. And no one would want to be answerable to the minister. So the best way is to abolish the exams all together. Brilliant!
The funny thing is that even some of the kids themselves are aware of the weakness of the present system. Check out the following article:
Teenager J.W. Lee from Wesley Methodist School, Kuala Lumpur, said when he did his PMR last year, the examination was nothing more than regurgitation of memorised facts.
“Students need much more. Teach us problem-solving skills instead,” said the 16-year-old Fourth Former who scored 7As.
College student Benny Tham, 18, however said both the public examinations needed to be maintained as they set an across-the-board standard to evaluate the capability of students.
I would like to share a true story with you all. A young valuation graduate I know is pursuing her professional qualification. She is quite OK in her job. Her routine includes valuing numerous types of residential, commercial and industrial properties. She appears to know her valuation principles quite well. I fancy that the Education Minister would give her thumbs up.
Yet when she attended the professional interview, one of the 3 interviewers asked her how would she value a telecommunication satellite. And she was lost for words. She knew hardly anything about satellites. And she did not learn about valuing satellites when she was at the university. So there was nothing from her memory to offer those interviewers. Needless to say, she did not pass the interview. She grumbled that "the interviewers were asking silly questions." She will have to make another attempt at a later date. Maybe she will be asked how to value something else which she has never heard of. It will be a struggle, but that's how things are in Malaysia.
When it comes to the practical world, even the most brilliant students in school are not guaranteed to excel. For the most part, critical thinking and common sense have been left out of their education.
But instead of bringing these important elements into the exams, the Education Minister has the brilliant idea of doing without those exams all together! God help us all.