Monday, April 8, 2013

No need for school-based assessments


A RECENT letter published in your paper stated that the school-based assessments should be given a chance.
However, such assessments could easily lead to abuse.
In the first place, what is the standard or measurement used to assess a child? If it is based on the child’s personal progress, then it is subjective and there will be multiple standards of competency.
The writer of the letter Thomas Kok, believes that there will be enforcement by district, state and federal education officers to ensure the validity and reliability of the assessments.
However, let’s be practical — there is very little likelihood of officers actually going from school to school to ensure that the assessments have been carried out professionally and without abuse.
In fact, even in the monitoring of schools by the Inspectorate of Schools, it has never been possible for them to cover all schools and all subjects every year!
Remember, we have rural schools which are not easily accessible!
At the same time, some teachers do allow room for negotiation to “adjust” grades when students feel they are victimised or if their answers and scores are wrongly assessed.
This is not something new as there are many instances in the past where students have quizzed teachers on their low scores which in turn had some teachers relenting.
The writer also applauds the abolition of some public exams like the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR), which he says remove stress from the students.
However, one should look at real life. Stress is present everywhere.
In the working world, everyone needs to perform, to attain the goals they set out to do and to be competent, otherwise they might not stay employed.
There is no reason why public exams like the PMR should be detrimental to the well being of teens and other school-goers.
Rather, it is the education system and how parents regard exams that make them (exams) “unpalatable”.
In the selection for government residential schools and scholarships for tertiary education, examination results do make a difference.
With school-based assessments, there can be contrived grades to get some children into desired boarding schools.
It strikes me as contradictory that the education planners have decreed school-based assessments, and at the same time make it compulsory that students attain a pass in English and History.
All this does not make sense.
Oral English and Science practical exams will now fall into the category of school-based assessments.
What will the results be like? We listen to mangled English spoken by our homegrown students. Some even refuse to utter any English words.
Many students have even been robbed of many science practical sessions because there are teachers who skim through or avoid certain difficult topics essential in the Science practicals.
The students lose out on a global level as they will not be as competent in the laboratories compared to students from other countries.
Extra-curricular activities and sports have been managed even with public exams.
As long as the principal does not sacrifice the physical and social development of the students for academic excellence, the students will have a balanced education which is what our education philosophy is all about.
There is a need to encourage young people to achieve the best, to discover their potential and to persevere when they fail at the first try.
With school-based assessments, we have removed this challenge. This means we will not be able to follow the maxim — Our Utmost for the Highest!
School-based assessment and public exams have their place in a healthy educational system.
So far, universities everywhere have held our education system in high esteem and have given scholarships to our students based on their performance in our public exam system.
In fact, some years ago, a representative from a Canadian university, so impressed by Malaysian students and especially the exemplary results of a female student who hailed from Kuala Lumpur, visited the school she attended in the heart of the city.
Does it not go to show the faith others have had of our schools?
Whatever we do, we have to be careful that we do not bring our education system into disrepute and lose the international recognition and respect that we have received and enjoyed so far.
OLIVIA TEOH Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Sunday Star, 7 April 2013

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