Friday, March 12, 2010

Education is not all about collecting ‘A’s

Glorify the few and encourage the many

These days each time a public examination results are released we are in a dilemma whether to congratulate those students and their parents who did extremely well but fell short of the maximum As. Students who scored 8 or 9 As in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) do not seem to be happy at all so are their parents who expect nothing less than the maximum 10As.This is the result of our education system that is purely examination oriented with little or no emphasis on any other factors for a wholesome education.

Although there has been great deal of discussion to adopt a more holistic attitude to education but no concrete measures have yet been implemented towards that end. In fact the Education Ministry’s implementation of the new grading system for SPM last year, whereby the grade A was further subdivided into 3 categories namely A+,A and A-,may be counterproductive as now students and parents will be pushing to score not A (distinction) but A+(super distinction) in every subject.

The practice of listing top students in the SPM which was stopped some years ago to avoid its unfavorable consequences among some students, who fared poorly, seems to have come back this year when the Education Ministry announced the top 10 scorers. The Ministry may have its own reasons for doing so but many are skeptical of its benefits on the students in general.
However we must congratulate these top scorers whose excellent performance were undeniably the result of long hours of hard work and sacrifice. We should really appreciate the zeal and determination of these high achievers for which they must be rewarded accordingly.

According to the new grading system A+ is the highest possible grade, which is awarded to a student who scored more than 90% in the subject. From the statistics released only 1.7% of the students obtained grade A and only 0.05% grade A+.However hard we may push our children less than 1% will obtain maximum super distinctions(A+).The vast majority are average scorers are ignored in the midst of all the jubilation and glorifying the handful of super elite students.

We should not overlook this vast majority 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. How do we cope with these large number students who will also want to further their education in the limited number of places in institutions of higher learning?

Many of these students come from financially disadvantaged families who could not afford the luxury of best tuition and special coaching when in school let alone pursuing their studies in private institutions. Their mediocre performance does not in any way reflect a lower level of intelligence. We should not only sympathize with them but also go all out to encourage them by offering help and guidance in whatever way we can.

All that matters in our education system, that overemphasizes academic excellence, is the number of As, whereas the personality and character of the person is irrelevant. Despite acknowledging these flaws little is being done to correct it. There are calls from all quarters for reforms in education but these remain very remote at the present as the political will for change is lacking. Until real change comes our students have no choice but continue to strive for straight As and our schools remain as places to collect them and nothing more.

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.

We offer our heartiest compliments to those who have done extremely well; they must continue to maintain their high performance. Those who did not do that well and fell short of their expectations must not give up but strive a little extra and they will be there. Those who did badly they should not lose heart but remember many great men and women were failures in school. It was the failures that made them rise up to become great later in their lives.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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