It’s the learning experience that adds up, not a maths test

Student activity

Worrying about exams is quite common among school children particularly in the exam-oriented society we have.

Most of the time, when we talk about stress of exams, it would be referring to our children who would be sitting for major public exams such as UPSR, PT3, SPM and STPM.

But when such stress and anxiety come from children as young as seven, it should be a cause for concern.

Last month, my son who is in Primary 1, was studying for his Science assessment and he was telling me how worried he was about not being able to do well in his paper. By that he meant nothing less than 95 or beating his nemesis classmate who drives the competitive standard in his class.

Bear in mind, the government had last year abolished examinations for pupils in Primary 1 to 3 in an effort to move away from overemphasis on academic results and to restore the principles of School-Based Assessment System. They however, still have to do weekly tests and regular assessments in class.

For many years, the culture of standardised examinations has taken centre stage in the assessment of students. Every year, there is an amplification on which school does better in public examinations, hence, putting more pressure on students to do better academically.

With so much talk about mental health recently, it is no wonder how our younger generation is developing mental health problems due to stress. The Education Ministry’s Healthy Mind Programme 2017, released last year, revealed Malaysians aged 13-17 are critically suffering from mental health problems.

It stated that one in five suffer from depression, two in five anxiety, and one in 10 stress.

The National Health and Morbidity Survey 2017, conducted by the Health Ministry’s Institute for Public Health found that the state of mental health among Malaysian adolescents had reached a worrying state.

The survey on students’ problems found that 50 per cent of 120,420 students faced personal problems that included exam stress, 29 per cent faced family problems, 11 per cent faced issues with friends and 10 per cent faced problems with their teachers.

Hence, it is important we need to focus more on the mental health and emotional well-being of our children. Times have changed. The government recognises this, but it still takes time for parents and students to go with the change.

While I understand that exams may be necessary in learning, perhaps there should be less emphasis on results and more on project-based tasks to pique their interest, draw their creativity and to develop higher order thinking skills.

On my part, I have never placed emphasis for my kids to excel well in school, just as long as they make the passing grade in their subjects. My only hope is they enjoy learning and participate in classroom activities.

While I agree that competition drives us to become better, I also think that everybody is different and that I have never expected my own kids to excel in their studies. Just as long as they understand what the teacher is teaching, ask questions when they don’t and enjoy the learning process.

It is the learning experience which our children will remember. The experience and relationship they have with their teachers and classmates which will go the distance.

Life skills such as social etiquette and communication would come in handy when they are older. While schools may assume this should be taught at home, I personally feel it works both ways.

Just think of it, in job interviews, potential employers would be assessing your communication skills and not asking to solve an add maths problem.