O YOU who have attained to faith! When you are told, ” Make room for one another in your collective life”, do make room: [and in return,] God will make room for you [in His grace].
And whenever you are told, “Rise up [for a good deed]”, do rise up; [and] God will exalt by [many] degrees those of you who have attained to faith and [above all,] such as have been vouchsafed [true] knowledge: for God is fully aware of all that you do.
AL – MUJADALAH (11)
The Cabinet decision to limit the number of subjects for SPM to 10 from next year is a wise move. The Minister of Education must stand by this decision and not be swayed by the ten percent of students and their supporters who think that genius is quantifiable.
These young Malaysians, encouraged by enthusiastic parents and teachers and artificially boosted by media attention, have grown to believe that the 20 As on their SPM certificate mark them as superior academic achievers who deserve more than a special consideration in the queue for tertiary education. It has become the bargaining point for financial aid and scholarships and other accolades they think they deserve.
So much so, these exam geniuses and paper chasers are threatening to sideline the average Fifth former who sits for the 9 or 10 subjects recommended in a balanced school curriculum. So much so, those who score 9 or 10 As are no longer regarded as outstanding because the others have given more of their time and effort to double their As.
The danger in subscribing to the belief that excellence in education is quantifiable is that it will only perpetuate an education philosophy and teaching methodologies where the assessment of academic performance is done purely by examinations. School tests and government examinations using multiple choice questions are easily scored but are they a reliable measure of academic excellence?
As a beneficiary of the Malaysian education system at primary, secondary and tertiary levels I would like to say that my peers and I have fully benefited from a system that provided a good balance between the academic and the co-curricular. We went through a system where academic subjects were handled as expertly in the classroom as Physical Education was in the school field. Our subject teachers were as enthusiastic about History and Economics as they were when we participated in inter-school sports and debates.
There was of course the school loyalty and pride when students did well both in the academic and co-curricular arenas but there was none of the glamour and sensationalism that accompanies the release of UPSR, SPM and STPM results today.
There were of course the smart alecs and geniuses among us who went on to achieve excellence in their post-graduate studies and careers but they have remained grounded and well balanced individuals.
As a retired educationist involved in language education in secondary schools for 7 years and in a public university for 24 years, I would like to add that excellence in education does not lie in the string of As one collects but in the thinking and rational beings that the national education system nurtures. Provided the system does encourage the students to think and reason!
It is time to revamp the evaluation system in Malaysian schools to include continuous classroom assessment and project work, and co-curricular activities where students are given ample opportunities to interact and communicate face -to-face with their teachers and peers.