THE issue of heavy school bags burdening our primary school pupils has been an issue for some time. No workable solution seems to be in sight yet.
Perhaps we need to get more feedback regarding the problem. Interested stakeholders should share their thoughts on the issue. Being a former educator, I have made my own observations and deduction on the matter. The problem seems to have a more severe affect on pupils from vernacular Chinese schools than pupils from national schools.
Moreover, it is pupils from the bigger Chinese schools in urban areas who carry the heaviest load. Their counterparts in smaller, lesser-known schools in rural places, seem less affected.
The Education Ministry’s analyses of performances of UPSR in recent years of schools in all streams do not indicate any significant and worrisome discrepencies in performances between pupils from the different streams.
Also, the gap in performances between urban and rural pupils is narrowing. This includes urban and rural Chineses schools.
In view of the above observations, perhaps the “myths” that link the use of workbooks with exam performances, can be dismissed.
When there are more workbooks, children are required to cart heavier bags to school. However working on more workbook exercises do not necessarily translate into better exam results.
Workbooks seem to find their way mainly into “lucrative” schools where enrolments are high and parents certainly more affluent.
If workbooks are to fulfil their proclaimed function of helping improve poor performances, they should be “heading” to smaller schools in our rural or suburban areas.
The ministry has provided free textbooks for all subjects to pupils. These textbooks contain work exercises too.
There are also the past-year UPSR papers which can be used as revision material. In addition, there are also ministry-approved online websites that pupils can access if they want “workbook-like” exercises and practices as homework.
If teachers work on these learning materials and resources with their pupils, their classroom times can be fruitfully utilised.
Such resources, in my opinion, are sufficient for a pupil to master any subject and score well in their exams.
Purchasing workbooks or refraining from doing so, should therefore be the perogative of parents. Schools should adopt a “hands-off” policy as far as auxillary subject workbooks are concerned.
LIONG KAM CHONG