Monday, October 1, 2012


A while ago when the MOE proposed that exams be abolished and be replaced with the PBS (School Based Assessment, I thought it was a good idea. Almost a year on, am not so sure any more. The Form 1s are not supposed to have any exams and I think it might not be the best thing for them. The class assessment somehow isn't quite the same. Teenagers ought to get used to being challenged... and I think PBS doesn't quite do that. There is no real sense of achievement attached to it.

I am beginning to feel that it's UPSR which should have been abolished and not the PMR. Teenagers are not like younger kids. They need to be pushed. Not having exams at primary level might be better cos it removes the pressure of scoring 'As'. It gives teachers more breathing room to inculcate the love for learning; although we need really good teachers to do that.

I think many parents might be waking up to a nightmare of sorts when their kids get to Form 5. Cos that's when they're going to find out how inadequate their kids are.

Assessments are good. It's just that after looking at how everyone has been rushing through them this year has made me realise that the teachers seem more concerned about making sure the evidence that the assessments have been carried out are there. After all, when audit is carried out, that would be how they measure the running of the PBS.

The preliminary National Education Blueprint has noted that only 50% of the lessons delivered are not done in an effective manner. I've been wondering what constitutes 'effective' the last couple of weeks. Information is readily available. The Internet made sure of that. Lessons come into our homes. There are just so many resources out there these days and they're quite readily available. All you need is an internet line and an attitude.

I have been on Coursera for 2 weeks. In 2 weeks I learned a lot. An email from Prof Jeremy Aldeman to the course participants made me realise something... he wrote that someone had approached him and commented that the videos were not as engaging as attending his lectures in person. Today, that remark was reinforced to me in my English class.

I teach this Form 4 class where majority of the boys are well-known for their ability to doze off or just not pay attention. But this morning, somehow, my lesson with them drifted into history. I incorporated History into my English lesson and I used one sentence as the starter... All roads lead to Rome. An interesting Q&A ensued after I managed to get the students to see the implications of roads leading to a single point... And we wandered into entertainment, gladiator fights to the death, our spa as compared to the Roman bath houses....and of course the glory of the Roman Empire. Today became one of those rare days when I had everyone's full attention. Every single one of them!!! And the reason was simple. They felt engaged. That's what is required of teachers these days... the ability to engage students and make them see the relevance of learning something.

PBS or School Based Assessment is supposed to make learning more meaningful. It's supposed to keep track of individual student's progress; so that no kid gets left behind. Assessments, graded according to bands are keyed into an online portal under the NKRA initiative are supposed to enable parents and teachers to keep track of the progress. It sounds good on paper...Well, it's been a few months we've had this thing running and most of what I've been seeing is this mad rush to make up for evidence for lessons taught early of the year; about 5 months worth of them. So what many teachers have been doing is they give out sheets of papers for students to do so that they can key in the grades. And much of everything else has suffered as a result. Paper evidence, not real teaching (or learning) is the key preoccupation now.

The existing system is mired with the usual problems. The ranking and reward systems, labelling of schools, etc, etc have all created this mad chase for them. Education becomes performance based; just that it's not the individual student's. Statistics becomes of utmost importance. We chase those because every percentage point means a position gained or lost. And rewards are based on those statistics. Statistics are not supposed to lie but these days I think we've discovered creative statistics so that we can paint a picture of success.

It's just one of so many things that have gone wrong in our midst... skewed system as a result of skewed practices stemming from skewed values. We are totally skewed!!!


SM Ting said...

At the moment, my main concern is to finish all the bands....the things that are done in English PBS hardly covers the syllabus for Form 1.

No time to drill grammar...only did one summary, essays...three or so. No time to go into the basics with the kids at all.

Worried for my son...he's so relaxed. Knowing how PBS is conducted in my sch, I'm not surprised if his sch is worse than mine.

Woe to this generation....Thanks so much to our MOE n minister for big innovative, creative ideas.

AJ7 said...

And your school is way better than mine. I do minimal PBS and more classroom work. It's not fair to ask the teachers to complete the year's evidences when we only got the directive in July. By the time we got moving, it was already August. So, guess what everyone has been doing since then? PBS... mindless worksheets.

Die, die also hers....

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