Friday, March 29, 2013

No PMR...

I think we really need to rethink this no PMR thing for our 15 year olds. The whole idea sounded appealing when it was first mooted... no exams so that students will not be too exam oriented. Well, going into the second year of its implementation, I have my reservations and wonder too whether it's really the best thing for our kids.

First there is the problem of credibility. How credible actually are the school based assessments? On paper they look very nice, with students placed in bands according to their abilities. But in reality, the assessments aren't all that accurate. Classroom size is still too big and teachers are still too burdened with many unnecessary duties which simply take their attention away from their core duties. Co-curricular activities and other extra duties draw their attention away. A subject teacher should just teach and do just that. And excessive and long meetings too drain their energy.

The present ranking of the schools too have caused a rat race of sorts. Points are awarded for co-curricular excellence and it's only normal that school heads want to see their schools climb up the ranking. I've seen how students missed classes for weeks because they needed to practise for upcoming competitions. I've heard how administrators shush the complaints of teachers who bring out such matters. I've observed the degradation of the teaching environment through 'noise pollution' from school bands affect the learning of the school population... And after weeks of missing classes, the kids lose their focus in their academics. These days, I think parents have to be really watchful of their kids who join co-curricular activities which demand lots of their kids time. It's easy for them to get lost in their own raging hormones as well as the fun moments.

Co-curricular activities are good. But it's so easy to get lost in action these days. Teachers are less bothered to watch out for the kids. Everyone feels that the tuitions that the kids are taking will see to it that they are okay academically. The thing is, I think tuitions have become their Waterloo of sorts sometimes. The knowledge that they have tuition has also caused the kids to become complacent. Many students don't pay attention in class these days. One of the things I noticed when I went to my new school is how much they talked and talked and keeping them quiet took a lot of effort. When I look around, I noticed that it's the norm. The students are generally poor listeners and they are bored too.

The good classes are bored because many of their teachers feel that they aren't making much difference or getting their attention. The average classes get buried in their over confidence that the tuitions they are taking will see them through. In the end, the education system becomes stuck in a quagmire of our own doing.

Many teachers resort to giving the assessments to their students to be taken home to complete. Some kids take home stacks to be done. And then they are those who just give answers straight on the board for the students to copy. I am sure if one were to really dig around, one would many other methods of getting the assessments done. I am not sure whether such practices are in the minority. Given that teachers are tied to a syllabus it's also hard for them to find the time to carry out the assessments too.

Anyway, what I feel is many are going to find out that kids will be learning much less. It should be the other way round because the the freedom from the stress of examination is supposed to make learning so much more relaxed. Ah... just one more way how our first class education system works!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Perception...

Time flies and moves on regardless of everthing.... but then again it's just our perception that seems to give it a speed... whether or not, it flies or crawls. When one is busy and occupied, then it flies. It crawls especially when we are lonely or have very little to do....

Have not been writing. The procrastinating bug has been making itself very at home plus there seems very little time these days. And there are still so many things I want to do. And time is running short... well, I guess that's also another perception. And I find myself thinking even more, wondering about ..... many things. Perception is coloured there too...

Being remembered... . Was looking at my FaceBook just a couple of days ago and I notice that it has very much taken over how we live our lives. So much of our lives are on it now, put up for our friends (and friends of friends) to see. But sometimes I wonder too how much of the things on it are just facades. In the old days, we used to have this idiom - "Keeping Up With the Jones". I wonder too whether FaceBook has caused us to try to keep up with more people. And I wonder too whether the rat race has gotten bigger and wider! One gets peeps into everyone else's life. Again... are they more for facades???

We remember people who want to be remembered too. FaceBook kinda reminds me that. It has also taken over the need to remember things like birthdays for us. It serves as our reminder. It reminds us of the things we say. It's pervasive. It makes it hard to forget because it is displayed for as along the storage is there... What I think is nice... to be remembered despite not being put up on FaceBook. Today if I were to put up my birthday on FaceBook, I'd probably get loads of wishes. But if I'm off... the few wishes that I receive would probably mean that I'm in their heart and thoughts. Which counts? Some might say numbers mean more....

One more thing on perception... An article I read yesterday... If a guy's room is messy, he will praised because he will be deemed not bothered by mundane things. He will be praised for being focussed on his task, job... that sort of man-and-his-responsibilities kind of thing.... and not on frivolous matters like clearing up. Now if it's a gal that has a messy room, she is deemed to be 'lam-nua' (lazy). She is judged for her inability to keep a room clean. Interesting, isn't it, how we view things? The same messy-ness, different gender and we get different perceptions. Regardless of the great leaps in women's emancipation in the last few decades, gender perceptions are hard to change.

Been 3 months too of change for me where work place is concerned. Teaching is more fun and though there is difference in the work culture, human nature remains the same. If it were any different, I supposed I'd be an alien on another planet. But then again, that might just be another perception.

Friday, March 1, 2013

9 Tuitions A Week

That was what one of my Form Four Student said to me earlier this year when I asked them how many tuitions they were taking! And I think it's a crazy number! These kids take around 11 subjects and they are taking tuitions for practically every subject. Out of a class of about 40 students, there was only one brave soul who was  not taking any tuitions.

What does this show? That we are super competitive? That they have such little faith in the school teachers? Or is it because tuitions will motivate and push them more? I don't really know for sure. What I see is almost everyone jumping onto the bandwagon of tuitions.... each trying to outdo the other. Each claiming that they can't survive their SPM without tuitions...

Seven days in a week... 9 tuitions. Five days of school which ends at 2.00 p.m. In some schools extra classes prolong school hours till 3.30 p.m. or even later. And 9 tuitions! I guess that leaves very few hours at home... Kids seem to lead busier lives than adults these days. Yet I wonder whether they are any better off with all these extra cramming sessions...

I teach English. Yet I find that most of the students can't write critically. Many lack motivation to study on their own. Critical thinking skills are a rarity. What are aplenty? Ability to regurgitate, requests for notes.. Learning is via memorizing facts... which I feel is not helpful these days. Need information? There's Google.

My gal comes home with Maths questions on addition, subtraction, multiplication and division - big numbers. And she spends her time working out the calculations on paper. This in an age where we have calculators to do those menial tasks for us. Problem solving questions are far and few. And when you come come across such questions, they are usually very simple. By and large, our the minds of our young have actually bee very dumbed down.

Students' world view are very narrow. Text books are outdated. Instead of sparking their imagination with new frontiers, we continue to limit their horizon with minuscule local issues. This in an age where our world behaves like a global village. Talk to our kids and you find many of them ignorant of many things. They remain cocooned in this little kampung of ours....  remaining very much the jaguh kampung that all of us are familiar with.

Our children lack the independence and the ability to learn on their own. I wonder too whether we'll be able to inculcate into them the need to be lifelong learners, for which a high degree of independence is required. Cos majority of the kids I see today tell me that they need tuition in order to do well....