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Friday, September 27, 2013

Education Issues Again - No More UPSR, PMR


Did you know that some tuition centers are already seeing a drop in the numbers of students enrolling for tuition classes? This is happening in the pre-UPSR and pre-PMR age groups. 

The reason is parents and students are preparing for the time when both the PMR and UPSR will be abolished. The PMR will end in 2014. Not clear when the UPSR will be abolished but many parents are feeling less "urgency" over their kids education.

Our generally lepakking school kids are now going to lepak even more in school. We are still a Third World country. We are not Finland yet - which has the best school education system in the world (they dont have anything like the UPSR or PMR but they do have many, many other things that we dont do).

To digress, you must understand our modern history. Did you know that as late as the early 70s, schools were being built in the rural areas which did not have enough students. There were plenty human beings living in the villages but parents did not always send their children to school. Schools, urbanisation, working according to time schedules were still new fangled ideas.  

In a largely agrarian society (which Malaysia was at that time) the concept of working according to a clock on the wall or delivering something exactly on an agreed date was not relevant to many people. People just did not understand the concept too well.

Many adults at that time were still illiterate or had basic reading and writing skills. The grandparents generation were most definitely illiterate.  So even in the 70s, sending kids to school full time was a new fangled idea for parents.  

Dr Mahathir even said that when he became the PM in 1981, he realised that Civil Servants were coming to work late in the morning and leaving for home early at 3PM.  Working 9-5 was still new for many people. So Dr M introduced the 'punch clock' system. This made sure that Civil Servants worked a full day. (This was among the reasons many people - especially the Senior Civil servants at that time who drank whiskey and played golf during office hours - did not like Dr Mahathir. They started calling him an upstart, dictator and such.)

Ok back to education -  it was the same schools and the education system that has brought so much positive change to the country. It was a very, very good education system that we had in this country until the late 70s and early 80s. And it was an exam based system. 

It was not broken. Why did we try to fix something that was not broken? Or why did we break something that was working so well and then try to replace it with something that is broken? 

In a still developing country like ours the UPSR, PMR and SPM have served as periodic "disciplining mechanisms" where students (as well as their parents) are programmed from early on to prepare for "challenges". 

The UPSR, PMR, SPM and STPM etc are indeed major challenges. And it is an effective measure of everything - a national level yardstick by which we can measure how much our kids are learning, if the teachers are doing their job, if the school system is functioning well plus more. 

They really serve to tell the young of their directions in life. Those who sail through can set their sights over the horizon. Those who are faltering can take remedial measures. (Tuition is one of them). 

Plus it jerks the kids into the real world - you have to prepare for your exams. They are major milestones of achievement. Kids have to prepare themselves and appreciate the idea of planning and preparing. 

To get through your exams, you must develop interest, motivate yourself and learn to use your time efficiently. Even for those who do not do too well in their exams they learn the value of examinations and the type of discipline needed. And they will remember this when the time comes to raise their own children. I think my wife and I were able to pass this idea along to both our sons and to our foster child as well.

So an exam based system - in a society where our parents or grandparents may have been illiterate and where formal education has only been available to the masses since the 70s - has helped a developing country like ours very well. 

Now all these are being removed - except for the SPM.  I think this is not good for the country. 

We are told there will be a standardised 'School Based Exam' - but we have always had that for a long time. It is nothing new. And in most schools their exams are always more challenging than the public exams.  

Yes Finland does not have an exam based system anymore but they are Finland - among the most socially advanced countries in the world. Singapore has apparently revamped their education curriculum three times but again that is Singapore - the wealthiest country per capita in the world today. We are neither Finland or Singapore. 

Even with the exam based system - there are complaints that teachers have been lepakking and not really teaching. (One urban legend - a teacher tells her pupils, "awak semua yang pandai saya tak payah mengajar, yang bodoh pula tak payah belajar"). Imagine a system now where there are no more public examinations - with which we can measure the progress of the young on a nationwide scale.  The teachers and kids will be lepakking even more. 

The old Malay saying, 'kalau guru kencing berdiri, anak murid akan kencing berlari' comes to mind. (There is plenty of wisdom in the old Malay sayings ok. Do not understand the wisdom of the land.) 

The influx of religion into the education system has also severely restricted the development of intelligent thinking in schools - among both teachers and students.  Things are set to get worse.  

Would you like to share your thoughts on this? We need ideas. Good workable ideas. 

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