UPSR and PMR and the exam oriented education system

The current raging discusion over the abolition or continual of UPSR and PMR has garnered quite a space in the media and the netizens. The NST runs letters to the editor on the subject almost everyday. Two rouds of roundtable discussions has been conducted by the MoEd. Judging by the responses the nation is still divided on the issue. The pro and contra supporters almost similar in numbers or maybe there is a slight shift towards the abolition in recent weeks, especially after the Exam Syndicate director put forward the SPK concept.

Personally I had nothing against UPSR and PMR (well except on the quality of the graphics and diagrams which have not changed since time immemorial – that’s another story). We mut look at how we evaluate our students performance as a whole as per the system of education in this country. The MoEdu has introduced slew of evaluation and appraisal mechanism to complement the UPSR and the PMR to make the system more complete. We take cognizance of the fact that it is almost impossible to completely measure the affective and psychomotor portion of a child development, but with the introduction of aptitude tests, PKBS, PAFA and 10% cocurricular marks, the measurement in totality is quite comprehensive. The trouble is us – parents, media, teachers, public at large who treated the UPSR and PMR as if they are be all and end.  and the other portion of the measurement and appraisal got drowned. And yet we blame the education system to be too exam oriented. If we stop and examine the system thouroghly, it is not the system that is exam oriented. The syllabus is there to cover all sorts of aspects of the required knowledge, but we forced the teacher to complete it within six months so that the school can prepapre the students for exams which would be based on the  said syllabus.  The syllabus never said anything about completing its coverage in record time. Imagine one little question slightly out of synch with the syllabus, there would be a huge hue and cry over the matter as if with that single question the students would die or suffer from all sorts of things. Parents would write to the media, the issue would be raised in parliament, the minister would be grilled in press conferences – all because one little question that strayed a bit from the syllabus.  So now who is so exam oriented, the system or the public? We always see the media splashing the news of students and schools who did well in the UPSR and PMR, I often heard stories of Principals and headmistress dreading to attend post UPSR or PMR meetings with the state directors or district education officers because they would be derided, scolded, humiliated and intimidated if their schools do not perform in the public exams such as UPSR and PMR. The system set by the Moed do not require them to do such things. The Ministry has stopped ranking schools and states according to public exam results many years ago, but some state directors and the media still are still doing it. So back to my question, who is so exam oriented, the education system or the public?

If you examine the reasons given by the pro group, one of the reason is that UPSR and PMR is making the system so exam oriented. If you look at the document mandated by the Schools Inspectorate aptly called Standard Kualiti Pendidikan Malaysia (SKPM), nowhere it says schools that did well in public exams are deemed quality schools. Again, is the education system exam oriented?

Then there is SPM, also a public examination mechanism, why don’t we abolish that as well? After all the mechanism, style, and purpose is similar to UPSR – to measure students academic achievement thus far. Maybe because SPM is a gateway for further education, I am afraid that will put extra pressure on students to do well in SPM, more so wth the government decision to award scholarship to students with straight As no matter what. How come we did not argue against that? this contrary response from the public sometimes give terrible headaches to policy makers. Despite the days of Government knows best is over, sometime it is extremely difficult to gauge what the public really want, more so the majority is still silent or had no means to air their voices. There is the tendency of listening only to the noisemakers. There is a danger of those who make the loudest comment, biggest noise, most articulative, most extensive coverage, would be heard, considered true and deemed correct and would be followed, irrespective of their correctness. What more with the silent majority were not able to make themselves heard due to reasons beyond their control. I see this happening, with the proponents of the return of the English medium (or at least the return of the PPSMI). They had the loudest voice, the resources and the means to convince the public that they are right and exert pressure to the government. But then again, how do we determine who is right?

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