Redefining the purpose of schools after UPSR scrapped

Growing up with two elder siblings who were always smarter than me was no easy feat.

You can imagine the comparison made in chasing those grades they had.

For example, when they had all A’s in their UPSR, I was expected to score the same, no less. Or when they had their Form 3 exams with all A’s to get into the Science stream, I too was pressured to follow their path.

But I was different. I was never exam-oriented. I never could study and cram everything taught just to sit for one major examination which always seems to determine “how good we are”.

Needless to say, I never scored all A’s in any of my major exams.

When I learnt that the Education Minister Datuk Mohd Radzi Md Jidin announced UPSR has been abolished, I think I let out a small cheer.

It took a major pandemic to overhaul our education system and to make them realise that exams kill creativity and interest in learning, especially among younger children.

Traditional education is built on exams and scores as the main indicator for a child’s success. But life isn’t all about exams.

We should take advantage of this disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic and re-evaluate our reliance on exams.

Teachers no longer need to focus so much on trying to finish the syllabus and to cover all the topics for exams. Instead, they can use their creativity to teach and nurture these young minds to spark an interest in learning and understanding.

Students might actually have time to ask their teachers ‘why’ or ‘how’ instead of busily writing down notes to memorise and regurgitating it out later. Lessons would be more engaging and fun when they actually understand the concepts.

But without exams, how are we going to measure our children’s academic performance?

Radzi had said students would be gauged based on classroom assessments. It can also be done through project-based assessments, tests and quizzes.

What about projects based on art, science or even start-up ideas? This too would empower and nurture young minds to creatively express themselves.

Learning should be fun and students should not be stressed out in trying to score A’s in major exams.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that exams should be gone altogether, but perhaps, less emphasis would also help deter children from developing stress in the long run.

While paper qualification is important, just that alone will not determine success. There should be focus on soft skills such as creativity, problem-solving, leadership and teamwork.

What is the point of being the smartest in the room when one cannot think critically or does not have good communication skills?

There must be a balance.

While education gives us an edge on technical skills, these skills can be taught eventually. But it is the soft skills that separate an average person from a great one.

Japan has done a great job by focusing on character-building. Finland focuses on a holistic approach and teaching through play. Instead of standardising exams, their education system centres on preparing children for the real world.

We should look towards these countries. Perhaps, when our children are able to learn in a more relaxed environment, we can encourage creativity and impart character-building development such as good manners and empathy.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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