Friday, March 16, 2007

Education not all about excelling in Exams only

Are we producing the students with the right attitude?

The release of the results of SPM and STPM recently produced the typical euphoria among the successors and a depressive and somber response among those who succumbed miserably to the flawed system. Despite numerous call from various parties and the even the education minister pledging revamp in the system, nothing seemed to have changed.

We witnessed the happiness of those students who scored maximum As. We should all congratulate them for the achievements which were the result of long hours of hard work and sacrifice. We should really appreciate the zeal and determination of these high achievers.

There were those who grieved just because they fell short of the maximum by just a single A. Then there were those who lamented they could not obtain their targeted 17 or 18 As.

There was the competition between parents who were all out to ensure their children out-do those of others. They did not hide the expressions of frustration and jealousy when their children lost out in this unhealthy competition by a single A. In some instances the difference was just between A1 and A2. We all are aware that some of the children were severely reprimanded even after obtaining 8 or 9 As.

Then came the sudden decision by the Director General of Education Datuk Dr Ahamad Sipon not to name the best student for the year. According to him this is because all the top scorers have their own strengths and weaknesses. Yes it is a right decision which should have been made before the results were announced and not after the winner is known. In the first place there should not be such an award as it would only further encourage the “A syndrome” which has become the hallmark of our Education system.

This is also the first time we have come across falsifying result slips. We saw reports of a father and son who claimed to have obtained 24 1As for their SPM examination. How and why did this occur? How many others are in possession of such false results slip?

In the midst of all the jubilation and glorifying the handful of elite students, we overlook the vast majority, many from the lower income families, who obtained just average results and a equally large number who just managed to scrape through with a pass. There are also many who miserably failed their examinations outright. We should not only sympathise with them but go all out to encourage them in whatever way we can.

Today school examinations have become like a race where we go all out to spend large amount of time, money and energy to ensure our children win with flying colours.It is a pity that this race is not a fair one as it is weighted against to those who are monetarily handicapped and cannot afford the exorbitant fees for tuition.

It has become a practice of our media to over glorify those who score maximum A’s in their examination but neglect those who despite their disadvantaged position manage to get above average results. They encourage the notion that collecting maximum A’s, is education and life are all about. This practice of the media aggravates the ill effects of the already examination orientated education system of ours.

We must realize that these top scorers are just a small percentage of the total student population. The majority are the average scorers with 4-6A’s.However much we encourage and coax our students, only a few will become maximum scorers and this is a fact of life we all have to accept. Our country is not going to be ruled by these few brilliant students but by the mediocre majority.

These high achievers must be rewarded accordingly, but it is equally important to ensure the others are also taken care. It is more important to encourage the majority to excel in things for which they have a liking and aptitude. Opportunities must be made available to these students as well.

By over glorifying these top scorers, tremendous psychological pressure is placed on the majority to ape them. This causes a great amount of stress on students in school these days. Those with average or even above average result are made to feel useless and a failure in school. From experience we know that success in examination does not necessarily guarantee success in life.

Every school should have qualified counselors to educate and help students overcome the trauma of examinations. Even those who fail miserably should not be discouraged. They should be shown other opportunities available to them, in which they can excel.

Are our students, including the top achievers, really prepared to face the challenges of the global world where competition is based purely on merit? Are they instilled with the values of moderation and tolerance of inter-ethnic relationship that are so vital for the peace, harmony and prosperity of the nation? Are they instilled with the right passion for whatever career they may take up? These are some pertinent questions for our policy makers, educationists and most important we,parents.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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