Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Fantastic Idea

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.


Socrates29 said...

Those of us who are Malaysians who have gone through the 60s, 70s,80s and 90s will only say "here we go again!"

We have seen how many times the Government have tried to change the education system throughout the ages.
All I can say is,they have been experimenting all this while with every change of education minister.

I totally agree with you that nowadays it is more or less a case of memory capability.Students are using their memory to pass exams through sheer memory power by answering what they have been taught to answer in the classroom rather than using their minds to think outside what they have been taught.

Let me give you my own personal experience why answering from memorizing words for words actually works.
Back in the 50s when I was in Primary 3,Chinese was my worst subject so every time we had a Chinese test,I was 100% sure to fail miserably.

Our Chinese teacher had an ingenious way to make us study by dangling a carrot before our class. If everyone passed her written Chinese test, she will give sweets to all of us.The condition is that all of us must pass so even if one of us did not make it,no sweets for the rest as well.

Everyone turned to look at me and you can know from their body language that they are all counting on me.

Having no heart to disappoint my classmates, I resorted the next few nights to memorizing every strokes of the Chinese characters from the text which the dictation was to be given.

Everyone of us passed, to the surprise of the Chinese teacher who sportingly gave each of us a sweet while looking at me suspiciously and I am sure, wondering whether how I managed to do the impossible!

From this particular personal experience,I can vouch that it is possible for one to pass exams and test by sheer memory power.Sad to say, nowadays this is what is actually happening in the classrooms and exams.

Education aside and now touching a bit outside the subject on work ethics. Remember we also used to have the "Look East (Not West) Policy"? Are we still practicing it?

Cornelius said...

It's been quite a while, Socrates29, but I think the "Look East Policy" is more like "Look to Japan Policy". That's a bit inevitable because as we all know, Tun Dr M has a strange resentment against the Western countries, especially the superpowers like the Americans. There's just no where else to look to but the east.

Not sure if we're still looking to the east these days. After all we have a new PM now, and as you know every PM has his style of running this country.