Plagued with difficulties from the time of its implementation three years ago, the recent review of the PBS has brought some cheer to the parties concerned.
TEACHERS’ voices and disenchantment with the school-based assessment (PBS) has finally been taken into account.
Things got so bad that a group of teachers showed up at a rally last month to protest against PBS with many saying they were not afraid of the repercussions of joining in the protest.
Now that the dust has settled, the hard work will begin. Announcements on the reduction of up to 80% of the teachers’ workload has brought much cheer.
Although teachers have been told that they can input data in their own time, there must be clear guidelines from the Education Ministry on how this data is stored.
How will the information be backed up? What happens to students’ records if systems crash? Students themselves have expressed fears of being treated like “rats in an experiment”.
Tough questions indeed, but which need to be answered. The next few weeks will be important as the ministry unveils the guidelines and makes its explanations to teachers who will need to put them into practice.
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had on Tuesday announced that teachers will no longer have to key in data online.
Instead, they will enter the information into an offline system for their own records, as well as for parents who request the information.
“The data will be kept in the school for the teachers and parents to see and for reference purposes,” he said.
The school-based assessment system (PBS) has been plagued with problems since it was implemented three years ago.
It was introduced in primary schools for Year One pupils in 2011 and Form One students in secondary schools in 2012.
Under the system, students will be assessed from time to time for all subjects, and will be given grades from Band 1 (the ability to recall information) to Band 6 (the ability to have higher order thinking skills and knowledge).
Apart from teaching and assessing their charges, teachers are required to key in online the grades and the learning outcomes of every student.
Despite the additional tasks required in evaluating students, teachers have been most frustrated at the delays in feeding data into the computer system. In fact, there have been countless instances when data entry was at a standstill. School authorities blamed it on the faulty computer system.
Parents had also complained about the lack of transparency or standardisation in the system, others are also saying that their children had become “lazy” because they no longer had to “study” for an exam.
Acknowledging the difficulties faced by teachers, the Education Ministry later announced that the PBS had been put on hold.
Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said the process of how teachers are assessing students must be reviewed from start to finish.
“Teachers need help. There must be a foolproof formula for teachers to emulate to ensure that all loose ends are ‘neatened’. At the same time constant monitoring on the ground by an independent body is imperative for its success.
“There must be checks and parameters to ensure that there is standardisation and that teachers are conducting the assessment uniformly across all schools,” she added.
Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, said the ministry was concerned about the issue of the implementation of the PBS, which was raised by the teachers.
He announced some key changes that would be effective from April 1.
Besides keying in data, in the past, teachers also had to use a Standard Performance Document (DSP) to keep track of the students’ academic achievements. This involved recording a large number of “descriptors and evidence”.
Muhyiddin said that under the rebooted PBS system, the DSP had been simplified to become a Student Learning Development Guide.
Teachers will teach using the national curriculum that is developed based on a theme, topic or skills for subjects that students must master. After that, they will assess the students’ learning development based on their own observations and evaluations with reference to the guide.
“Teachers can record the students’ mastery levels when it is convenient and use their own methods,” he said, adding that these records would depict the students’ learning progress and could be shared with parents.
“With this, teachers are no longer burdened with the collection of data and evidence of student work,” he said.
He added that if parents wanted to find out more about their children’s achievements, schools could prepare an achievement report by conducting monthly tests, as well as mid-year and year-end examinations.
National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) president Hashim Adnan was sure teachers throughout the country would be happy to hear that they no longer had to wake up in the early hours of the morning to key in data.
“We are very happy that this matter has been resolved. It’s been made very clear that teachers no longer have to use the online system,” he said.
Congress of Teaching Services in National Education president Datuk Jemale Paiman hoped the Government would release a set of guidelines for all ministry officers and school administration to ensure standardised implementation.
Malaysian Federation of the Council of Headmasters chairman Ruslan Madon said headmasters would ensure that the improvements in the PBS would be implemented fully.
“The focus of the teachers should be on the classroom,” he said.
As part of the old PBS system, teachers were also required to prepare a Student Development File and Transit Record.
They will no longer have to do this. Instead, student learning development can be recorded as and when the teacher is able to.
The ministry will conduct training for teachers to improve their skills in examining student responses.
Education director-general Datuk Dr Khair Mohamad Yusof was reported to have said that teachers can now record the mastery level of students in their own time, using their own methods.
He said the recording process will reflect the development of students during teaching and learning which can then be related to parents.
Dr Khair said briefings would be held on the implementation concept before PBS was launched on April 1 for officers from state education departments, district education officers and teachers.
Teachers, he added, will also be trained to mark students’ answers.
Noor Azimah said that measures must be put in place to ensure that the data was recorded and kept on a daily basis and proper enforcement was in place so that teachers and students do not slack.
“As it stands we are not confident that the present system will work without the appropriate interventions. Otherwise our children are doomed and so are our teachers who are enslaved by such a system,” she said.
Muhyiddin said the Pentaksiran Tingkatan 3 (PT3 or Form 3 Assessment) would replace the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (see sidebar).
“Training is a key aspect in ensuring that teachers can carry out the assessment.
“The ministry will provide training so that teachers understand the assessment concept and practice it in the teaching and learning process.”
The ministry will also conduct training for teachers to improve their skills in examining student responses.
While the burden on teachers may have reduced, parents are concerned about the changes that have been made, which will roll out in about a week.
The new information about the PBS is daunting news for parents such as Nina Abdullah, who has a son in Form Three.
“I called the school to find out what PT3 is and the school is also in the dark,” she said, adding that she had even called the Education Ministry to get more information but was given the “run around”.
She spoke to someone from the “special team” handling queries on the PT3 – called the Wall Room (bilik dinding) – and even they were not able to provide answers.
“They kept saying ‘as soon as we know, we will put it up on the website’,” Nina said.
“What is going to start on April 1? What subjects are going to be assessed?
“Is it going to be a written exam? Or is (the assessment) going to be spread out over the year?” she asked, highlighting some of her most pressing questions, which she had not been able to obtain answers to.
Another parent Rani Chandra*, who has a daughter in Form Three, said that while she was glad that the workload of teachers will be reduced, “there are still many unresolved and worrying issues”.
“What is the content coverage and format?” she asked.
“Are students still expected to cover the Forms One and Two syllabi for assessments in Form Three?”
She also asked what the criteria for moving up to Forms Four and Five would be.
Toh Boo Huat who has a son in Year Six, brought up other concerns.
In response to the announcement that teachers would no longer have to save the information online, he asked: “What about backup of such data against disk failure, virus attack and so on?”
NUTP secretary-general Lok Yim Pheng said the Education Ministry needed to ensure proper dissemination of information so that there would be no more confusion among teachers.
Schools, she added, need to take quick action and inform parents too.
*Names have been changed.