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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Reader's Comment on Current Examination System

Ranking: 5 Students

Posted by Chong

A reader with the nickname SPM Boy has just left a great comment expressing his personal opinion on SPM examinations and our current education system in Malaysia. The comment is so thought-provoking that I think it deserves a post of itself so that all readers especially email subscribers will read it and perhaps share your views.
Being a candidate of SPM '06 myself, I follow with profound interest, the avalanche of both public and professional views expressed following the glare of the national limelight upon the country's top scorers. As much as it has elicited publicity, the announcement of the results has, too, seen the engenderment of much disquiet apropos to the true nature and orientation of our examination system. Nevertheless, where are we actually heading in the rat race for straight A's?

An illusion of immense and destructive proportions is percolating irrevocably within our education system with much reverberations whose ripple effects are yet to be manifest, albeit already felt in the air. One that appeals to the egoistic nature of students, evermore justifying grounds for taking an extraordinarily excessive amount of A's. Take, for instance, the recent trend of fifth formers taking up extra subjects for their SPM examination. Upon sober reflection, when has this trend actually emerged?

Noteworthy is the fact that such a trend did not manifest in the late 90s, at least not until the acquisition of A’s of a surplus amount elicited public attention and highlight. Since then, the race for A’s has seemingly been on an inexorable, exponential rise. It has even been regarded as a record to be held. While such phenomena may signify a justifiable and even perhaps, a postive revolution in our education system, care must be taken lest the purpose of the examination be distorted and veiled. Indeed, the current emphasis on academic performance heralds a looming, though unforeseen catastrophe to be unfolded disastrously within the nation in the distant future. Then, human capital will be no more than a functional asset to the country whose work serve the sole raison d etre of its mechanical existence.

The race for A's finally over then, will take on another subtler form of race anew, one of personal judgement that may well herald an unforeseen era of prejudice, based not on the real individual, but rather, his or her paper qualifications - ultimately, the identity of the bearer, on which either ego resides, hurts dwell or discontentment lingers. With regard to the former, the race for supremacy and superiority over the rest, will take on a new unprecedented dimension. The glory of achievement, as well as the scar of failure, will inevitably remain perpetual throughout the course of an individual’s life. From a national perspective, the course towards which our education system appears to be heading, seems more dangerous than it is promising.

Is our current evaluation of individual achievement based on straight A’s an embodiment of justice? Does a scholar who obtains straight 10A1’s merit more attention and consequently take precedence over his or her “less perfect” counterpart who secures 10 A1’s and an A2? How then, is the government’s top 100 SPM scorers list organized?

Our examination system, sad to say, is not one that seeks a holistic approach of assessment. Perhaps it’s time to adopt a new education policy. Take, for instance, the History test in SPM '06. To have an immeasurable, seamless ocean of information and facts compacted for evaluation into a mere 2 and a half hour test (History 2nd paper) whose nature of assessment is therefore measurably constricted, is tantamount to stuffing a tonne of flour into a paper bag while expecting to secure its contents. The random selection of topics for the test no longer exemplifies a wholesome, overall picture of the subject fit for evaluation. For example, much to many a students’ disappointment, Chapter 6 of the form 4 history syllabus did not appear at all in the 2nd paper of the History exam. A colossal chapter indeed, it required much memory work which, in effect, became wasted when the 2 and a half hour test completed, especially taking into consideration its religious nature of facts which is naturally alien to most non-Muslim students. The unfair random selection of topics for evaluation is compounded by the paradoxical fact that the topics aren’t really that “random” after all; some candidates had had the privilege of hindsight beforehand, having been given so-called “tips” that turn out to be true. Little is left to the imagination as to the source of such reliable information.

I look forward to a day when examinations no longer dominate the hearts of the young ones, spared thus of the heartache we experience at the present yet driven by a source of motivation of a different nature. A future whereby paper qualifications do not solely represent individual ability and efficiency. Beyond the examination, after all, lies a life yet to be lived.

Do share your views on our current examination system by leaving your comment.

Chong's Note: I broke the comment into paragraphs for easier reading.
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Comments
10 Comments

10 comments:

  1. Only recently too have i began to notice how much attention the media is giving to students who obtained lots of A's. Newspapers especially, which used to be fun reads have now turned me into a green-eyed monster with all the limelight they shine on these 'no-life' geniuses (that's my excuse for not being able to do as well).

    But then again, who came blame them.. If people in society weren't the ones who enjoyed reading how many A's are humanly possible to obtained, the media wouldn't really care either. It seems that A's don't only benefit the students who got them but the parties who cash-in on their success too.

    It's a vicious cycle really.. The students get the A's, the media tells of the A's. Other student's want to get A's so that the media can tell about them and it goes on and on and on. Need i say more?

    Even if the media didn't get involved, there are loads more of parties who encourage this 'A'-ddiction. Since primary school, we have been told at least a million times that A's get you places. Nothing more... just A's. The media only justifies this. They got on TV didn't they? [sounds like a joke but TV is HARD to get on]

    One thing that's really important to note though is.. only the 'imperfects' who aren't satisfied with their results will ever complain about the education system. Those who regularly get straight A's (A1s that is) couldn't give a d*mn just as long as their A's don't go away. [most at least - some go crazy after a while XP]

    I look forward too to that day.. but i bet it'll be a long wait before anything changes. At the rate we're going, the only thing that could solve this is to abolish exams once and for all [OMG, that's a good idea! :P].

    Okay, got to go. Need to catch up on life that left me behind during ALL those exams.. LOL

    p.s. WOW, your english rocks! Had to use the dictionary for a few words.. Seriously, did you just take your SPM? Cause if you did, i 'malu' already.. XD

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  2. You swallowed a dictionary! There can be no other explanation for your (sometimes rather random) sprinkling of obscure words in your very *ahem* dramatic post. Don't take this as criticism, though. You made many good points.

    Yes, it is true that the quest for more and more 1As to prettify (its not a real word) that precious SPM results slip is becoming over-the-top. However, I feel it is also inevitable given the Education Ministry's lax stand on capping the number of As that can be taken in the SPM. (Deputy PM D.S. Najib commented in the newspapers last week that there was no plan to limit the number of subjects one took in the SPM, although he did feel that 17 subjects are "too much").

    This subject (A-grabbing) was even mentioned by my PASTOR in his sermon. That's how hot a topic it is nowadays.

    I personally don't think there's any point blaming the students who take 16,17,18, or 100 subjects in the SPM. Granted they are kiasu but they are only thinking of their future when their extra As can help them stand out from the thousands of other scholarship applications sent in their year. I would say they are quite bold to take the risk too and definitely studying so many subjects would take its toll on their free time, mental health and co-curricular activities. They've already paid their dues, studied and memorised their brains out, so let them reap the rewards.;p (My only objection is to those who take up Science in addition to Physics, Chemistry and Biology. That A has no meaning and actually cheapens their achievement because ANY pure Science student could sit for it and get an A without much study. Every time I see 'Science' on a list of subjects that an A grabber took, it immediately diminishes my respect for him/her.)

    You can call it a form of educational capitalism, if you like. Poor people in rural areas who have little access to internet study resources, reference books, libraries and good tuition teachers suffer while rich or middle-class urban kids (especially those who go to competitive schools!) exploit every means available, by hook or by crook, to get their As and win a scholarship (eg: tuition centres offering exclusive tips for the SPM paper at a price) One way to combat this is to provide better educational facilities to the rural areas and enforce stiff punishments for examiners who leak out questions. I for one would volunteer to be an enforcer, after the 'geram'ness my friends and I felt knowing that some people knew the questions in advance.

    No education system is perfect but perhaps we should be looking at alternatives if Malaysia is truly sincere in it's goal to produce visionary, intelligent, innovative and proactive leaders. Because the way it's going now, all we're producing are textbook memorisers, reference book regurgitators, tuition worshippers, and academically-uninclined people who just give up on school altogether.

    Conclusion? It's a mean world of academia out there, but persevere: those who are talented and determined always get there in the end:) SPM is only one step on the ladder to getting a high-flying job, becoming a doctor, (insert dream here), so don't blow it out of porportion!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was getting suspicious too about those 'chunted' words.. [rolls eyes] Either you swallowed a dictionary (which i had a hard trying to do) OR you used a thesaurus! LOL

    Yay... now i'm happified (not a real word either XD) cause i found an excuse for my relatively mediocre vocabulary.

    Okay, now for the serious talk.. Couldn't agree more about where more A's can get you.. I know of many college counselors who go something like "Wah, so many A's? So smart! SURE get full scholarship one."

    While i may get *jealous* (and give excuses like i have a life and they don't), I'm amazed how they could have juggled so many subjects (sometimes without any tutors) and even score an A1 for it! There's even this feeling of regret that i didn't 'try' taking more subjects like them. [LOL, can't tahan 10 subjects.. thinking of taking more]

    I don't know about the science thing though.. Eventhough i study the 3 specific sciences, i would feel guilty if i didn't study for my general science paper as well (if i took it that is)

    Didn't know 'tips' actually work! [should have got some :P]. I've got to get something straight though, would you ever reject tips given to you even if you knew they were true? Geram memang geram... but if it was from you instead of others who had the 'opportunity', what would you do?

    After all this discussion on wanting change, I'm starting to get afraid that i might not adapt well to it. Especially now that i have the choice of choosing an American based program (instead of a UK one which is just like STPM - study study), how would i actually do when i get graded on coursework and assignments. I mean, all this time I've been thinking that this kind of assessment would be much less stressful but what if i suck at it (not much experience + i always did better in exams compared to projects i did in school)?

    [sorry if you don't get the above paragraph... i think too much]

    "those who are talented and determined always get there in the end:) SPM is only one step on the ladder to getting a high-flying job, becoming a doctor, (insert dream here), so don't blow it out of proportion!" - What if I'm not creative and determined enough? What if my step on this crucial part of this ladder is weak and unsteady? Stupid thoughts running through my head...

    Ciaoz!

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  4. I still don't get it. Why does the government do not take action against those who provide tips to the candidates? I will be taking my spm this year and I'm seeing my friends rushing to buy 'tips'... I do not want to cheat and be dishonest, only to regret later. It is not even fair for those candidates in the rural area or those whom are financially disabled.

    Although I have to agree that getting all A1's is all that matters nowadays...

    It's just so sad that our education system is destroying the younger generation, for we do not know what is really important in life...
    Family? no. Moral values? no. Unity? no.
    Straight A1's? YES! YES! YES!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Many have thoughts just like 'SPM Boy', but a lot of them do not have such finesse in expressing themselves.
    The comment made by 'SPM Boy' is a little bit, over-refined, but not to a point of gaudiness, for the general viewing and palpation of the subject.

    Well,
    I get what you are trying to say, dude. You ain't alone.

    The media perpetrating reports like overrating the "The Straight A's Trend" is to me, a crime, that should be stopped.
    These blatant cries of the media is getting me doing my medications again.
    But we shouldn't blame them entirely for their ignorant behavior that could cause distant tremors, for that ignorance comes from the failures of the education they had.

    Publicizing topics like these, would cause immeasurable amounts of damage to the nation's progression.
    People will start to forget, not by choice but by force, the significance of gettin' educated. In other words, the damn purpose of education.

    I bet you all must have asked yourselves sometime in your schooling days these,
    "Why the hell do I have to study subjects that I know that I'm not going to use later in my life?!" ;
    "What's the purpose of reading this, and that?!"

    And it seems, answers provided by people who are brainwashed years by years by the media, is nonetheless generic, and needless for me to repeat it here in a small comment box.

    According to a handful of philosophers and educators, the likes of Confucius and Socrates, education must have it's practicality towards one's aim.

    If you're going to pursue a career in law, mastering language, decent common sense, and logical thinking is crucial, and other scholastic subjects like advance maths and the like, would play a lesser role in obtaining needed qualifications for this pursuit.
    Before you make any conclusions, let me clarify that I'm not saying that having such noncrucial skills is a bad thing, since such knowledge "might" be useful and open more doors of opportunity.

    The education system here, that we have right now, is not a holistic approach to the needs of the people.

    I've seen too many people, who are with high intelligence, or are adept with certain non-academical skills and knowledge, tend to be left out and be discriminated, or shunned by the mainstream society, who are "enlightened" by the "mainstream" education, and whom bears a petty "mainstream" mind.

    This country, never appreciates the honest, skillful, intelligent, professional workers and people from either collars.

    This, indeed, is a compliment to the Malaysian Educational System.

    There are a lot of fields and changes that we could all benefit from to discuss that I'm not willing to spend time on articulating, right now.

    In conclusion,
    what we need is, the acknowledgment of that our education system is unable to create a qualified and productive workforce that is crucial for the reason that need not be said, or else, you'll say it's a cliché.


    *Note*-Pardon the order, typos and grammatical errors, coz' I'm in a hurry, the absence of a spellchecker, and my writing system is based on the streets.

    ReplyDelete
  6. SPM is just a test. You deal with and you move on. It's just a stepping stone.

    For me I only take 9 subjects( back in 03) and I aced it. I'm now in top 20 university in the states.

    My advise is rather wasting energy taking 20++ subjects, just take the required amount and really do well in it and with your extra time get involved with activities. That's what count anyways.

    When you're already chosen for the interview you know you're on the same par with others in education. The activities that makes you pop out.

    Oops I am getting out of topic but oh well, spm is just a test. It doesn't matter now when I look back at it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi there! A really interesting read! Looks like i'm an 'old folk' leaving a comment here (i took my SPM in 2000 followed by STPM).

    To tell you the truth, SPM and STPM are only exams, testing your memory and in very minor incidences, challenges your thoughts. I've passed the stage (during STPM) to score straight A's or strive to be the perfect scoring student. Why? Because it isn't the grades that get you a grand job but your attitude and character. Yes, some of those straight A scorers get an easier path eg scholarships, interviews within the first week of sending out job applications etc. But, even if you didn't do well (straight A's, that is) in your exams, MOST employers aren't interested in your score, they're interested whether you can contribute to the company and stay in the company.

    I know most of you at this stage are worried or concerned over the 'A'-ddiction (love this!) but hey, just do your best and the reward will come. It may be later but work hard, focus and be excellent (not perfect), it'll come!

    I agree that the education system is a bit 'off' in Malaysia - that's why i decided not to study in the local uni (despite getting the course i wanted - unexpectedly). I'm not condemning the education system, it has its good points. Our country is young compared to many other countries and still needs adjustments in ALL its areas over time, not just the education system (It's just whether people would want to DO the adjustments :P). If you got the patience to wait for this country to slowly improve, stay or else, just get out. Mind you, the education system in other countries have their own flaws. And also their media. So, just 'jaga' yourself and do your best. Just ignore all this hype on the media about straight A scorers. You'll go nuts just listening to them.

    ReplyDelete
  8. thanks for the post. it actually helps me getting an A1 in English.

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  9. To all readers,this is my first time reading other peoples comment on examination.Actually,myself as a student i think UPSR,PMR,SPM,STPM are not necessary.Moreover,students who are going through these examination have been through a lot of pressure and stressfull times.Clever students sometimes may study day and night for the examinaton.To what i have witnessed,this boy named Paul(not real name)is a secondary student at a school.He is going to sit for his SPM examination for the next mont.During the trials examination he managed to get 2nd top scorer around the state for the trials.Altough the results were already good enough to score for SPM,his mother was upset.So he prooved his mother by staying 24 hours a day non-stop.Two weeks before the examination he was then a person not going to school but ended up in a mentally-ill hospital.The doctor said that because of the pressure and stress he went through everyday he was then mentally ill.All this is caused by the examination.So what i am trying to say is students must not stress themself up during exams such as the trials.Even the poor UPSR student who failed exams can also go through suicide attempt.There are many cases like this mostly all the suicide attempts are caused by failure in examination.So government should think a better way to stop the big examination and just continue with the normal ones.At the end of their studies government can count their total marks and send them to the u"s.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Actually I think we should not condemn students who take many subjects in SPM.In the highly competitive study environment of ours, these students just want to have more easy access to the scholarshpis they applied.They may not have enough financial aids to study in private college.So, what they do is to take as many subjects as possible so that they can stand out above the rest in applying scholarships. I had met some of these top scorers who did not get PSD scholarships even though they got straight A1 in SPM.Pitiful,isn't it? After they had gone through years of hard works, but still,they can't get the scholarships.Even some people who scored less A than them can get the scholarships.I am of the opinion that government and should review its ways in selection of scholarships applicants so that only deserving ones can get what they want.Selection of applicants based on merit systems and inter-personal skills should be able to curb the problems of "A-addiction".

    ReplyDelete

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