Monday, May 14, 2007

Working to create a wholesome education

Revamping is more complex than abolishing examination

The Malaysian Examinations Syndicate’s (MES) proposal to abolish the two major public examinations – the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) in Year Six and the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) in Form Three has created much debate among Malaysians.

Of late our education system had come under severe criticism of being too exam orientated resulting in the production of book-worm students who are unable to come out with critical thinking. These criticisms had even prompted the education ministry to come with plans to revamp our education system to make it a tool for the wholesome education of our children.

The suggestion to abolish public examinations (UPSR and PMR) in Malaysia and replace them with a form of standardized assessment developed by the Ministry of Education may be seen as part of that revamp.

The plan to abolish centralized examinations is a very drastic move and naturally Malaysians of all walks of life are very concerned and fearful whether it is a right move. As long as anyone can remember such examinations has been the key feature of our education system that had produced many outstanding personalities of international stature. It is also the key to success of the nation in the various fields and taken the country to the present respectable position in the world stage.

Despite the drawbacks of centralized examinations, they are nevertheless part and parcel of not only school life but throughout ones working career. It may not be an ideal and foolproof method of gouging the capabilities of an individual but it is one easily available tool for this purpose. Abolishing this would only be denying our future generation of this tool.

Centralized examinations are necessary not just locally but also for ensuring and maintaining international standards. It is the only way we can compare ourselves with those more advanced than us is any particular field.Standardized assessment at local levels while being effective may not allow this comparison with those better than us.

The real problem is not with the examinations themselves but rather the over-emphasis on them. There is a need to strike a balance between achieving academic excellence on one hand and sports and other extra-curricular activities on the other. We did that reasonably well in the sixties and seventies but over the subsequent years we lost out on sports and other extra curricular activities, resulting in a highly academically polarized system.

Overcoming these flaws in our education system is a very complex problem that needs extensive planning by the experts in the field. We should not be taken away by an over- simplistic solution to this rather complex problem. There is also a need to look closely, without prejudice, at other leading countries that have succeeded before us.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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