About time exams are re-examined

It is certainly high time for our Education Ministry to make efforts to revamp our national examination system – which has failed to produce holistic and well-rounded students outlined in our National Philosophy of Education. It is also good that they are looking into the possibility of reducing the number of compulsory examination subjects – Moral Education, in my opinion should go. How in the world can you test the moral values of a person via formal examination??
For a long time now, our schools has become too exam-oriented that studies has evolved to learning techniques in answering exam questions, drillings in past year examination papers and intensive memorisation of information without being taught how to analyse, interpret, apply and practice the concepts they have learnt in class.

Like the Moral Education at SPM level for instance – students have to learn a set of 66 values and apply these values according to the scenarios and situations given in the paper. Can there only be ONE “correct” value? Of course not, common sense would tell us that a person can apply whatever values he believes in according to the situation. But students are forced to memorise the values by hard instead of practicing the values and must give the “correct” value given by the teacher. No point arguing with the teacher if she feels her values are right and the student’s values are wrong.

Subjects like Moral Education require practical assessment instead of theoretical. In fact, practical assessments or task based assessments are the best methods in gauging whether a student is able to perform and demonstrate understanding of the knowledge or skill learnt in the class. Music, Art and PE all use practical assessments – surely this can also be applicable in English, Science, Bahasa Malaysia and Geography. Answering exam questions will not help you learn a language better – it’s through practice and practice and more practice.

Malaysia should take other countries’ education system as an example and modify it to suit the needs of our students. In America, to enter college or one of premier higher education establishments, they take S.A.Ts and college-level entrance examinations. At the end of each school year, there are only overall assessments, individual assessments and performance ratings – there are no major public examinations at different school levels like our UPSR, PMR, SPM and STPM. The closest they’ve got are quizzes and mini exams and there isn’t much pressure or emphasis on scoring straight A’s.

Speaking of our public examinations, in an ideal world, I would propose total abolishment of PMR and SPM examinations. UPSR need to be retained but need to be revamped as well. UPSR should be focused more on the students ability to read, write, speak, listen and count. Can you believe that there is actually a very high level of percentage of students who are yet able to read, write and count properly after 6 years of primary education?? And these students are not just those from rural settings but also from urban areas as well.

PMR and SPM serves no obvious purpose. Why add to the burden of students? I believe that by secondary level, students should already be able to be given the freedom to choose the subjects they want to learn besides the compulsory subjects of Mathematics, English, Malay, Basic IT Knowledge and Science, Islamic Studies for the Muslim students and Social Studies (Moral Education). Why force students to learn subjects in which they have no interest in like Art, History, Literature and Geography? Let those with interest in these subjects take up the subjects and let those who do not pursue other subjects of their interest.

For the future of STPM, I look upon it as the Malaysian equivalent to S.A.Ts. Since students have to take STPM in order to pursue a place in public universities, emphasis must be placed upon STPM and efforts must be made to raise the standards of STPM. In Japan, the university entrance examinations are incredibly tough so as to ensure that ONLY the best of the best, the creme de la creme are rightfully and deservingly given the limited spaces.
Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammudin Hussein ought to know by now that our students are more exposed and very intelligent nowadays, thanks to the Internet. They have more access to information that we never had before. Schools and teachers should also evolve, change their outlook and method of teaching. Therefore, he must understand that the old ways of educating Malaysians have changed and a fresher, more vibrant approach is needed to reinvigorate our students to learn and our teachers to teach.

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