Archive for the ‘Assessment and Evaluation’ Category

Is education a journey or a race?

Sunday, October 15th, 2017
In today’s competitive world, the rat race starts early. Excellent grades in academic subjects are the primordial benchmark that sets kids apart from their peers. FILE PIC

UPSR, SPM, STPM, GCE — just a few of the acronyms haunting many young minds at this time of the year. Young minds and their parents alike.

Remember the days when everything was a race? First to reach the bathroom in the morning, first to down their Milo, first to call shotgun for the ride to school. First to sit on the swing at recess, first in line for canteen lunch. First on the school bus to secure the best seat and first to reach the front door and ring the bell. A happy childhood consisted mostly of healthy competition among friends and siblings, a race to be the first in all things that, from an adult’s perspective, don’t really matter.

Most children gladly put their competitive mind to rest between recess and lunch. Pupils used to run out of the classroom, not into it. Hardly anyone pushed and shoved to be the first at the blackboard and try their luck at a complex math formula. Oh, happy childhood days. Not the most ambitious of times, but happy days, nonetheless.

So, what happened? Instead of a rambunctious crowd, today’s pupils march in single file from their parents’ cars onto the school grounds, born down by a school bag so big and heavy that the child who carries it could easily find space to sit in it herself. If Malaysian schools run two sessions per day, a fact that absolutely boggles the outsider’s mind, where are all the students that have the other half of the day off?

Why are they not playing outside, in their front yard, in the neighbourhood park? Why are they not hanging out at the local mall or mamak stall? Where and when are today’s children being children, where are the nation’s teens being pubescent?

Youngsters have no time to be childlike, or rebellious, or sullen, or dreaming, anymore. Youngsters are at tuition. They are at tuition centres that have popped up all over the country like “mushrooms growing after the rain”, to borrow a local saying.

In today’s competitive world, the rat race starts early. Excellent grades in academic subjects are the primordial benchmark that sets kids apart from their peers; the yardstick that determines a parent’s measure of success at their job as a progenitor.

Academic excellence is a must in secondary school; it is even the norm in primary school. Parents and guardians send their scions for after school tuition up to seven days a week. Gymnastics and piano lessons are squeezed in somewhere in between.

The “Asian F” is a very real notion. It is the widespread understanding that an A- is not good enough. The pressure on school children and their parents is growing to unhealthy proportions.

At the same time, many life skills are thrown overboard in a constant effort to be the best among the best. Professors in tertiary education lament the fact that they lecture classes of exceptionally well-instructed students who don’t understand what further education is all about. Students are bright and diligent, but they don’t know how to think critically, how to build an argument, how to debate, or how to work towards a solution as a team.

If parents and schoolchildren willingly submit to the burden of pushing for always better grades, it is in an effort to be best prepared for the real rat race, the demands of modern career perspectives.

However, it seems that academic excellence is not the whole ticket. Employers undoubtedly look favourably upon perfect scores. But, recruiters also look for attributes such as individuality, drive, passion, curiosity. These aren’t skills learned in the classroom, nor in a tuition centre, no matter how well intentioned the teachers and tutors might have been. These character traits are fashioned on the playground, on a football field, in a band, even while playing video games.

At first glance, this argument might come across as irresponsible, dismissive of academic values, rebellious even. It is not. It is simply an attempt at widening the scope of modern education.

A healthy education should be a marvelous journey, not a race. It is a plea for restoring a childhood that leaves space for learning how to fail, in order to better succeed, a childhood that is given the opportunity to grow at one’s individual pace.

It is an appeal, to give children the chance to spend time in a meadow, so that they know how to stop and smell the roses when they grow up.


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Sarawak’s Ranking Based On Public Exam Result Worrying – Michael Manyin

Friday, September 8th, 2017

KUCHING, Sept 6 (Bernama) — Sarawak’s position at 13th ranking based on the average overall student passes in public examinations is a cause for concern for the state government, said Education, Science and Technological Research Minister Datuk Seri Michael Manyin Jawong.

He said the ranking needed to be improved to at least 10th position so that Sarawak would not continue to be left behind in education compared to other states in Peninsular Malaysia.

“What is more worrying is the very low average passes in Science and Mathematics subjects, at only 23 per cent compared to the national target of 60 per cent,” he told a media conference after holding a dialogue with members of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly on the proposed merger of schools with low enrollment here today.

He said efforts to improve the passing rate of students in Sarawak, especially in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects were vital to enable students from the state to compete with others at the university level.

Among the factors identified that contributed to the decline are poor education facilities, lack of teaching and learning resources, lack of qualified teachers for specialised subjects and a less competitive learning environment.

As such, he said his meeting with the Barisan Nasional assemblymen today was to discuss on how to overcome the problem among the students.

The Ministry of Education and Department of Education were also urged to provide better and adequate education infrastructure besides teaching staff who were specialists in certain subjects such as Science and Mathematics.

Manyin said currently there are 1,454 schools in Sarawak, comprising 190 secondary schools and the rest primary schools, with 1,020 schools being classified as in deplorable state and another 415 in a critically deplorable state.

At present 651 schools in Sarawak had student enrollment of 150 or less while 1,004 schools had less than 30 students.


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Success in life not defined by exam results.

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

AFTER every major public school examination, we see a media frenzy and much talk about the high achievers.

Pictures of the “superstars’ and their impressive results in exams such as Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR), PT3 (Pentaksiran Tingkatan Tiga), Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) and Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) are always splashed across our dailies.

The SPM is a major examination for secondary school students and seen as a the first big hurdle. Students are under pressure to do well in the examination.

The outcome of SPM paves the way for college and tertiary admissions.

Students who excel are offered scholarships and grants to pursue degree programmes in prestigious foreign institutions.

So, students are from the start, under tremendous pressure from their parents and teachers to score a string of As in the SPM.

Last year, over 8,400 students scored all As (A+, A & A-) while 102 scored A+ in all subjects.

The super high achievers represent less than 2% of the over 450,000 students who sat for the SPM last year.

The celebration and adoration for the super achievers in the media is justified because these exemplary students were able to excel in each of the papers they sat for.

It must also be noted that not all students are academically inclined. So, not all students can score a string of As in school or major examinations.

Some students are physically, emotionally and mentally challenged and learning or studying is not their forte. Students who did not do well in SPM may feel down and dejected.

Many parents and students think that scoring As in any examination can lead to automatic success in life.

Somehow it has been ingrained through our emphasis on the examination system that scoring As can guarantee an individual a good life and success.

So does it mean that students who do not excel in their studies will not be successful?

Success is subjective and it differs from one individual to another.

It is difficult to define success. To some, success is equated with having big houses, driving fast cars and having lots of money.

However, to others, success is about having a job which is able to provide one with the comforts of life – food and a roof over their heads.

Yet to others, being successful is being healthy and happy.

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Mahdzir: Parents too fixated on academics

Saturday, December 24th, 2016

CYBERJAYA: Parents’ fixation with As are making them neglect their children’s holistic achievements under the Pentaksiran Tingkatan Tiga (PT3), said Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid.

“It has become a culture across the board in our society to achieve (as many) As (as possible).

“When the PT3 results are announced, reports on all four assessments – physical, sports and co-curricular activities as well as a psychometric – are released, but no one looks at these assessments as everyone just wants to see how the child has performed in their academics,” Mahdzir told reporters yesterday after witnessing the signing of a note of understanding between the ministry and the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit.

The two parties are looking to upgrade the ministry’s data centre into a Public Service Data Centre.

Mahdzir said the ministry would work towards improving communication with the public in fixing the public’s perception that only academics counts.

“This is the future of our education, where holistic assessments are carried out instead of having exams like in the past,” he said.

“Maybe we need to change the way the PT3 results slip look,” he said, adding that this was because the first slip a student receives is that of their academic assessment followed by the other three.

He said on Monday that PT3 was a holistic assessment of students based on continuous assessments by the school, which is responsible for the administration, marking of examination scripts and release of the results.

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Testing and supporting struggling students

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

The Education Ministry has come up with a test that assesses pupils with learning difficulties and helps them define their strengths and skills, to move on to the next level.

THE Year Six boy carefully counts the change and hands the money to his “customer” on the other side of the counter.

The “customer’ has bought some popiah from his “stall’ to have for her mid-morning break.

Just behind him is his teacher who observes the transaction. She takes note of the cash he has as the boy puts it away in the till.

The teacher’s presence at the “stall” is to grade her pupil for his basic counting ability and his interactive and conversational skills with his customer.

Her rating of the pupil is a requirement that has been outlined in the Pentaksiran Alternatif Sekolah Rendah (PASR).

Introduced in February, the PASR is an assessment to gauge pupils with learning disabilities who have between six and eight years of schooling. It is similar in concept to how mainstream Year Six pupils are gauged in the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR).

The PASR objective is to assess pupils’ aptitude for numbers, their ability to interact with others and learn a skill.It also aims to measure the achievement and the development level of special needs pupils using an integrated assessment approach which encourages meaningful learning by using skills that can be applied in real life.

Prior to the PASR implementation, pupils with learning disabilities did not have any alternative to cater to their learning needs.

In fact, there has so far been no centralised assessment at all for special needs pupils.

While no single test or evaluation can capture a child’s full spectrum of strengths and challenges, an assessment like the PASR helps teachers gauge their pupils to some extent.

Examinations Syndicate Alternative Assessment Development Sector head Mohd Satar Ramli says the Education Ministry wanted a fair way to assess these pupils.

“We explored and studied the assessment instruments used in foreign countries and found that they had modified their mainstream syllabus to suit the pupils’ needs,” he adds.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid (second from left) presents Khoo Jenny (second from right), a special needs student from SK Bukit Rahman Putra, Sungai Buloh, with her PASR certificate. — File photo

“We didn’t want to modify the national syllabus for special needs pupils just for the sake of doing so,” he adds, saying that the ministry wants to make sure the assessment report has a purpose in helping and defining the pupil’s development to the next level.

He says the ministry is taking a “gentle approach’’ as the children are sensitive.

In 2016, 2,550 pupils from 738 schools took the PASR.

One of the ways the ministry is using a gentle approach for this assessment is to do away with grades.

Instead, candidates are given a competency level ranking.

“They are either “not competent”, “competent” and “more than competent”.

Under the PASR, there is no “fail” or “distinction”.

“We are not judging them by grades, neither are we trying to sugar-coat and give false impressions,” he adds.

“This is what we call an authentic assessment.”

“The ministry believes that if a candidate is rated “not competent” in a skill, but continues to be taught and guided, he can become competent in that skill.

“We also do not want to draw comparisons among candidates as this will cause competition and that is not what the PASR is about,” he points out.

A comprehensive report is also given at the end of the assessment.

The PASR provides a holistic and comprehensive overview of what a child has picked up in primary school, says Mohd Satar.

Mohd Satar says that the candidates will receive a physical activity, sports and co-curricular assessment, and psychometric assessment reports as well.

Those who sit for the PASR must be from national, national-type and schools with special needs classes and integrated schools that are following the Primary School Standard Curriculum (KSSR) Special Education also known by its Malay acronym KSSRPK.

Only children who have completed the KSSRPK Level 2 can sit for the assessment.

Examinations Syndicate Alternative Assessment Development Sector assistant director Ku Azman Tuan Mat says candidates must also be in their final year of primary school, and since they have learning disabilities, they are allowed to take the exam between the ages of 12 and 14.

Assessment instruments

Mohd Satar says that the only thing “centralised” in the PASR is the assessment instrument and the scoring rubric used.

The PASR consists of two integrated assessment instruments carried out at the school level, better known as school-based assessments.

Pupils are given eight weeks to complete the instruments known as Special Project (ProKhas) 1 and four weeks to complete ProKhas 2.

ProKhas 1 consists of Bahasa Melayu, Mathematics and Life Skills carried out for eight weeks throughout July and August.

All the subjects are integrated and assessed concurrently through an activity.

Life Skills can be divided into four areas – farming (perkebunan), cooking (masakan), animal husbandry (penternakan) and sewing (jahitan).

For this year, the cooking assessment was based on making, marketing and selling popiah, and it was held in conjunction with Entrepreneur’s Day at the schools.

It is kept very flexible for these pupils as the teacher has a choice of assessing all four life skills or choosing only the best score.

Pupils with special learning needs undergo the PASR at the school level when they finish their primary education. — File photo

“It all depends on the candidate’s capabilities,” he says, adding that the life skill taught to the child would also depend on the facilities available in the school.

He adds that it does not matter how much popiah they sell but rather, whether they can communicate effectively, measure the ingredients correctly, follow the recipe taught to them and count the change meant to be given to their customers.

“What we want to measure is how they fare – whether they can read, write, speak and count correctly, as well as the knowledge, skills and values demonstrated in the 20 constructs in a holistic and integrated assessment,” he adds.

“They need to talk to their customers, they need to design a poster with words to promote their product — these are ways we assess their Bahasa Melayu skills.”


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New format to suit blueprint needs

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

The UPSR results cannot be compared to the results of previous years because there has been a change in the format this year, said Examinations Syndicate director Datin Nawal Salleh.

Explaining the sudden drop in UPSR 2016 results on Friday, Nawal said that the UPSR format was changed to suit the aspirations of the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2015.

The format had remained the same for the past decade, she added.

Parents and pupils were upset with the results but Nawal pointed out those who scored straight this year were clearly “outstanding” and that set them apart from the rest of the candidates.

One of the aspirations of the Blueprint was to produce students who had thinking skills and this had been clearly reflected by those who scored straight As.

“They had strong thinking skills (in science), were able to elaborate and articulate well (in the language examinations), and could demonstrate clear steps when tackling mathematics questions,” she said.

On Thursday, Education director-general Tan Sri Khair Mohamad Yusof said that a total of 4,896 pupils scored straight They were 1.1% of the 440,782 candidates who sat for the examinations, compared to 38,344 or 17.7% out of 337,384 candidates last year, under the old format.

She said this year’s UPSR candidates were the first batch who used the new KSSR (Primary School Standard Curriculum) from 2011.

The UPSR is a centralised examination that is based on the KSSR, she reiterated.


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Over emphasis on grades, a worrying trend

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

IN our society, the worrying trend among young people is the pressure to score all As in their examinations.

Teachers, headmasters and parents are equally to blame. Schools tend to place a high value on school results.

A famous Scottish politician, Johann Lamont, once said ‘Schools are not exam factories for the rat race.’ I couldn’t agree more.

There are many programmes and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) at schools to achieve and fulfil. The planned programmes are intense and packed. Teachers have to toil hard to deliver the exam tips and input. The pertinent question is, if the student scores all As in the exam, does that mean he is a genius?

Life is so competitive. Some parents like to compare their children when it comes to school results. What are they trying to prove? Every child has unique traits and character.

I have seen some teenage students who struggle to study and confine themselves in their room just to please their parents’ dreams to score all As in the exam. These students do not know anything else outside of the world apart from the facts and figures in the textbook.

When it comes to language learning, many think that by memorising the facts in the textbook, it is sufficient to sit for the exam.

Truthfully speaking, when I had a conversation with some students, their grammar and vocabulary are limited.

As an educator, language learning, be it Bahasa Malaysia or English, is not acquired by memorising. We have to read extensively.

When I sat down with one of our famous writers, Uthaya Sankar S.B recently, I asked him the secret of his writing ability in both Bahasa Malaysia and English. He eloquently told me that his passion for reading was the ultimate secret for his successful career. He has also carved a name in the writing industry. I admire his capabilities in speaking and writing in Bahasa Malaysia. In a nutshell, reading is a habit and students should practise it.

Some of my former students whom I met spoke about what they went through to get good results. Some feel they have lost their childhood fun by studying so hard.

Childhood must be balanced as some parents get their children coached at home too. This will cost them but as long as their children do well, it is fine with them. Children also need to go out and connect with nature. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Just imagine sitting and reading most of the time without going out. This can even affect our health.


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Testing time for parents

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

It is not students alone who feel the heat of exam pressure, but mums and dads too.

WITH the SPM examinations starting tomorrow, tensions are at an all-time high. Students sitting for this exam would have spent countless hours doing worksheets, going through past exam questions, burning the midnight oil and cramming in as much as their brains can handle. And, you can bet these students are highly stressed.

But exams are not only a testing period for students. It can also leave parents more anxious and stressed than their wards.

The Daily News and Analysis, an Indian newspaper, reported that come exam season, psychiatrists spend more time counselling parents of children sitting the exams rather than the students themselves.

This is because more and more parents end up having sleepless nights followed by extreme stress, anxiety and depression. All this lead to endless arguments and quarrels between family members.

“I remember quarelling with my husband a lot during the PT3 examinations!” said J. S. Hsu, a 43-year old mother from Malacca.

Anxious parents wait outside a school gate as their children take the entrance examination to enter high school in Chinas Anhui province on June 25, 2008. - AFP

Anxious parents wait outside a school gate as their children take the entrance examination to enter high school in Chinas Anhui province on June 25, 2008. – AFP

“He wasn’t bothered about the exam. I had to cook, clean, wake my son up to study and made sure he did his revision. I had to constantly be on my toes. I was so tired and angry that my husband didn’t care and wasn’t helpful,” Hsu added.

Another mother, Prema Ponnudurai from Kuala Lumpur, said: “The anxiety a parent feels as a child sits for a major examination is unbelievable. I had sleepless nights during the UPSR week, but my daughter slept blissfully without a care in the world.”

And many parents would go to great lengths to ensure that their child does well in their exams.

In Beijing, a mother reportedly called the police when her car broke down while she was driving her daughter to school.

“It was 8.10 (am), with just 50 minutes left before the exam. I told myself I must pretend that I am calm so my daughter wouldn’t panic,” the woman told China Daily.

As there were no taxis in sight, and she was running out of patience, she phoned the police who arrived five minutes later and escorted her daughter to school.

Last year, there were newspaper reports and pictures of parents in eastern India scaling the outer walls of school buildings to pass cheat sheets to their children, who were taking their 10th grade examinations.

Ponnudurai (far right) says that parents formed their own suppotr group and even hung out at the school canteen during the UPSR week.

Ponnudurai (far right) says that parents formed their own suppotr group and even hung out at the school canteen during the UPSR week.

What followed was not to be unexpected – the 600 high school students were expelled for cheating.

Malaysian parents may not go to such extremes, but they employ different approaches, especially for major government assessments, such as the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR), Pentak-siran Tingkatan Tiga (Form Three Assessment or PT3), Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) or the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM).

During the UPSR examinations in September, Ponnudurai would drive her daughter to school, then spend some time with her in the canteen before accompanying her to the exam hall.

Report Card System In Schools To Be Improved – Mahdzir Khalid

Monday, June 20th, 2016

KUALA NERANG, June 19 (Bernama) — The report card system on students’ academic achievements will be improved to narrow the difference between urban and rural students, Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said.

The move, he said, was aimed at improving the achievement of rural students, which had not been as satisfactory as that of students in urban schools.

“If we are to look at the graph on the academic achievement of rural students, it is still low and the ministry has to improve the report card system from time to time to improve the performance of rural schools.

“We have 134 district education offices (PPD) and they have carried out various incentives like giving prizes to students and schools with good performance,” he told a media conference after presenting aid to the less affordable here yesterday.

He said the ministry also wanted to see competition between the genders, which currently showed that the girls were better that the boys.

Mahdzir said the ministry would request the PPDs to submit reports on the performance of schools under their respective jurisdiction in a move to get the schools to resolve theirs.

Meanwhile, in his speech, Mahdzir said it had been the ministry desire to have a single morning session for all schools.

However, due to shortage of classrooms in secondary schools, but too many students, some schools are forced to have morning and afternoon sessions.


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Tips to boost performance in exams

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

EXAMINATIONSEXAMINATIONS in general are tough, more so major public exams that gauge our understanding and knowledge of subjects and topics we’ve learnt over a period of time.

One dreaded subject is Additional Mathematics.

Everyone seems to shake their heads in despair when they hear of the subject.

It is said to be tough. Only a few pass the subject with flying colours and there are many who scrape through.

Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that the number of candidates taking the subject in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), is declining year after year.

This is more evident in the recent past as the Add Maths standard was raised making it even more challenging for SPM candidates.

The news about a student who committed suicide last year after realising that he had done badly in the Add Maths paper only saddened us.

As an Add Maths teacher, I was shocked. While I agree that obtaining a good grade isn’t always easy, one must have the mindset and the ability to remember formulas to ace in the subject.

I would like to share some tips below that are bound to impact students in a positive way not just for the Add Maths, but for all subjects before and during an exam.

• Enthusiasm

If you like what are you doing, you will give your best shot and never give up easily. Also, it will increase your understanding in the subject. Explore every single method and be focused for you will certainly succeed.

• Positive thought

Studies shows that if a person truly believes in something, it will happen. If you keep thinking your day is going to be a good one, chances are it will turn out to be a great day. The same applies when you’re sitting for an exam. Think positive and keep motivating yourself saying you will get through it. Remember, being a successful student is all about having the right state of mind.

• Think out of the box

Most of the Add Maths questions in the exam are designed with the objective of allowing students to apply their knowledge and come up with the correct answer. But these questions are also created to test the creative thinking ability of students. The questions require students to analyse the information. This is what HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills) is all about. Usually, this type of question will be in the form of diagrams or geometrics. So, be creative and always think out of the box.

• Never give up

Persistence is what students need. Many students give up especially when it comes to Add Maths. But what you need is to keep trying. Think of some of the greatest mathematicians like Fibonacci (from Italy) or Ramanujan. (from India). They were persistent in what they were doing and eventually carved a name for themselves in the field.

• Believe in yourself

Successful people are the ones who always put their heart and soul into a thought or idea to make it work. Bear in mind that there are people out there who may take advantage of your insecurities, so have faith in what you do.


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