What if I told you that the road to a primary school system without a “centralised exam” is one which is paved with good intentions, great theories but not pragmatic.
As early as 2016 there were calls for the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) for Year Six pupils to be abolished. The calls are getting louder today, under the guise that we should be looking at the Finnish system and be less exam centric.
The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) supports the proposal to abolish Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) for Year Six pupils.
“We came to this conclusion because a lot of pressure is placed on teachers to get their students to score,” said its president Kamarozaman Abd Razak .
“Pupils who score As are not necessarily better than those who don’t. A lot of emphasis is placed on pupils scoring As, but not on producing those with critical thinking skills . ”Assessments can be based on six different rungs. Pupils are graded on how they understand and perform in a particular subject, said Kamarozaman.
“We want students who are competent and not robots who just memorise answers,” he said. “The school-based assessments idea would be a move in the right direction, as it places the grading power with the school and teachers. They know the pupils’ strengths and weaknesses better,” he added.
Additionally, the union’s secretary- general Datuk Lok Yim Pheng emphasised that there should still be an assessment held in schools, even when there is no more main exams. “Instead of having examinations which focus on grades, we should have a school-based assessment,” she said. (thestar, Tuesday, 29 Nov 2016) https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/11/29/its-a-good-move-to-abolish-upsr-says-nutp/
The reality of our world is that it rewards those who manage to perform to a higher standard. A running shoe, designed with good intentions and great ideas but not able to perform on the track is left on the shelf.
In Malaysia we over-emphasise examinations and our examination system blatantly promotes a habit of “exam question mastery” through past year papers and drilling. Like a child that has a bad habit of not wanting to do homework, we shouldn’t be taking away the homework.
We should engage with the child, work on the core of the child and the values that give rise to the undesirable behaviour. Chances are that the homework is not interesting enough to engage the child.
So like the examinations, improve them.
Shift our forcus away from the simplistic questions that ask a student to label and describe, these questions encourage rote memorisation anyway. Redesign our questions with higher order thinking skills like analyse, conclude, provide an opinion and justify. Add ethical dilemmas and real world problems into the mix. Make the assessments relevant and meaningful.
Assessments, the feedback from them and particularly external ones play an important role in the development of a child. To determine his place in the world, to provide a clear goal and to recognise those who have put in the effort so that others may follow. Strife, failure and hard work are the key ingredients to developing a child that will thrive in our Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world.
The world isn’t going to hand out a free lunch. Our children have to be prepared for that future.