What comes to mind as we reflect on the recent UPSR fiasco is the need to bring about change by instilling the right values.
THANK You students for your hard work, patience, resilience and strength in sitting for the UPSR examination papers. Thank you, also, teachers and parents for your support, commitment, patience and understanding.
My gratitude goes out to all of you. From students being stressed-out, parents disappointed over having to postpone or cancel family plans, and teachers demoralised because of uncalled-for allegations against them, this issue has touched all Malaysians.
As a father, grandfather and someone with vested interest in the education system and its future, I share your feelings.
I have asked myself, why has this happened? Why would people leak the examination papers and some others so keen to spread them? In any case, it is the children who become victims.
In searching for answers, a few have come to mind. Perhaps it’s due to an over-emphasis on examinations, or a rewards system for schools and teachers which is based on examination results.
Maybe because we as a society, place too high a value upon the number of As, or maybe, just maybe, somewhere along the way there has been a desensitisation or tacit acceptance that it’s “normal” to feed students exam questions.
Whatever the reasons or causes, this has to be fixed and addressed.
The starting point is the value system in which we as a society operate. Education includes — and I must add very importantly — instilling correct moral values.
Copying and cheating is wrong and one must understand that there is zero tolerance for such behaviour. This must be emphasised and enforced, and I’ve recently stressed this in Parliament.
We need citizens who uphold good values and it starts with internal reflection as to who we are, what we stand for, and what examples we want to set for our children. This applies to everyone, including me.
Secondly, we must send the message that integrity is important. The integrity of teachers, examination syndicate officers and all those involved in the process are at stake. Society must condemn the perpetrators and support the efforts to bring the issue to justice.
Equally important is to uphold the integrity of our national examinations.
Some had questioned the need for the resit, as students will still move on to secondary school.
The point here is that students have studied hard for the UPSR; they deserve the opportunity to sit for the examination without the taint of leaked papers.
Definitely, it’s not the students’ fault that this happened. As such, support, encouragement, and motivation from parents and teachers are important.
I view this as a powerful learning moment for our students about life and overcoming adversity.
Next, it is important to make clear that between examinations and education, the latter must be prioritised. This can be achieved through a conducive education system.
I vouch that this is happening. For instance, through the School Based Assessment (SBA or PBS) initiative, we have been moving away from an exam-centric system over the last three to four years.
Similarly, through a Finland-esque approach, we are taking in only the best to become teachers. This and initiatives such as Teach For Malaysia help us enhance delivery in the long run.
The Ministry is also strengthening technical and vocational education and training (TVET) to reduce the dependency on pure academics and A’s.
In facilitating this systemic change, our higher education system is being revamped and improved. Higher education offerings are being diversified through our universities, polytechnics and community colleges.
Less emphasis on examination results occur when parents and students are able to see diverse pathways into higher education and vast economic opportunities thereafter.
Essentially, the full spectrum of the education system is undergoing change to facilitate this shift in values and priorities.
What we need is society’s support and faith, and time to see it through.
The UPSR paper leaks reinstate the importance of the ongoing changes.
This has also been an important period of reflection of our priorities and values, and I am heartened by the debates taking place in society.
In conclusion, my commitment to see reforms for a better education goes beyond my position in the government. One day I will no longer be around but my granddaughters who are a few years away from primary school will be. I do this for them and their future friends.
This is the fifth in a series of articles for this column which appear every fortnight. It will also see the contributions of Deputy Education Ministers Datuk Mary Yap and P. Kamalanathan who will share their views on various education-related issues.