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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