Tuesday, December 08, 2009

“A” syndrome detrimental

Balanced education essential for nation building

A friend of mine related an alarming incident during the release of the UPSR results recently. A parent who came with his son to collect the results was so upset that he obtained only 4As and 1B that he left the son in the school without saying a word. The poor boy was so upset that broke down and wept and had to be consoled by a concerned teacher. We can imagine the anguish of the little boy who despite having done extremely well is being reprimanded by the parents. Such incidences are not uncommon these days where parents expect nothing less than the maximum As in every examination.

In this regards we welcome the move by the Education Ministry to improve the teaching standard and quality in primary schools as announced by its minister by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. Its plans to do this by deploying teachers who are degree holders may be sound but it must not underestimate the value of experienced and committed non-graduates teachers. However Malaysians in general remain sceptical whether Muhyiddin really means what he says. A lot of talk has been ongoing for umpteen years to revamp the ailing education system but no concrete results have come out of all that.Politicization of our education system has brought disastrous consequences to its standard and quality that was the envy of our neighbors.

While it is right to push for quality education starting from primary schools it must stressed that quality in this case does not mean just obtaining straight As in the examinations particularly in the UPSR. Quality education at primary level should be one that caters for the overall, balanced and comprehensive development of a child during its formative years. It is terribly important to instill good values in the young minds of these children at an age they are most receptive. Passing examinations is important so are the acquisition of an inquisitive mind, good habits and civic mindedness.

It is unfortunate that our education has become so examination-oriented that from the time the child goes to school he/she is pushed very hard to achieve maximum As in school exams and the UPSR. The parents want nothing less than straight As. They spend large sums of money to send them for the best tuitions in town sometimes for multiple tuition. The whole day the child is involved in studies and homework. There is hardly any time for play that must be what a child in primary school should be basically doing.

Children in primary schools should spend time in at play and interacting with one another. This is particularly important in our country with a diverse ethnic population. It is in playing, eating, living or even praying together that they cultivate the close and unbreakable bonds between one another.

Learning should be made more fun by mixing it up with games and informality. It should stimulate their young curious minds and encouraged to ask questions not reprimanded for doing so. Emphasis on character building and moral values should begin in primary schools and continue into secondary levels. The right value system should be taught to all children in primary schools so that such values become deeply embedded in the lives at a very young age.

Our obsession with the ‘A’ syndrome has resulted in our nation losing out in sports at international level which were once our pride. We are producing students who are good in exams but poor in the much-needed skills related to reasoning, thinking, problem-solving and decision- making. Moral values have become irrelevant in the quest for As.

The future of our nation depends very much on what and how we teach our children today. 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.

A good and quality education should be able to answer these three questions in the affirmative whereas a system that emphasises only on As will deny the future generations of all these right attributes that are so essential for nation building. That will be detrimental and disastrous to the future well being of the nation.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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