THE scrapping of the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) exam and the reaction that came with it, brings to mind an anecdote I read about a group of students pulling a prank on their university’s teaching faculty on April Fool’s Day.
These students had posted a note on the staff notice board informing that the telephone company would carry out maintenance work to address complaints on fuzzy connections.
Accumulated dust inside the lines, it claimed, were found to be the main cause. To expel it, air would be pumped through the lines pushing the dust through the holes of the telephone receivers, so everyone was to place the receivers inside a dustbin.
The next morning, the office cleaner found that seven professors had placed their phone receivers in the bin.
The story may or may not be true but the moral is obvious. One may be academically accomplished, but still easily fooled.
It is general knowledge that faulty wiring, electrical interference or other technical issues are to blame for fuzzy connections. Certainly, not dust.
This is an example why one reader supported an education system that encourages young learners to explore the world and learn the skills they need in life, especially in the areas of reasoning and thinking instead of one that primarily focuses on rote learning and how to answer exam questions.
Unfortunately, his opinions were not shared by a large population who believed that exam results were an indication of one’s level of intelligence.
How deep this obsession has wormed its way into our society’s psyche was revealed when my eldest son was looking to enrol at a tuition centre in preparation for his PT3 exams, which has now been cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
To a question on how the lessons would be delivered, the receptionist replied that the centre’s owner had a reliable source who would give a clue on what type of questions would be coming out.
Universiti Malaya Education Faculty senior lecturer and teacher-trainer Dr Zuwati Hasim said in terms of learning, it was more important to develop pupils’ interest — through teaching materials and lessons that were prepared in advance — to help them gain a better understanding of the subjects taught.
She supports the move to scrap UPSR owing to the fact that it created a lot of stress for children as well as teachers and parents.
I remember my own experience of the Standard Five assessment test before it made way for the UPSR exam.
At age 11, when I came back with only 3As, my late father compared me with a cousin who scored the full 5As, remarking that she was more clever than me.
Looking back, I admit that I did not spend much time on revision, especially on subjects that were taught in a habitual manner — where the teacher would read out loud the contents of the textbook word for word.
To stoke my interest in learning, my father got a National Geographic subscription for me to improve my general knowledge. To brush up on my English and Bahasa Malaysia, we had the newspaper vendor deliver Reader’s Digest and Gila-Gila, a local comic, to our home. My Bahasa Melayu teacher was opposed to the latter but admitted that my Bahasa Malaysia had improved.
This is why I wholeheartedly agree with Universiti Utara Malaysia School of Education senior lecturer Dr Muhammad Noor Abdul Aziz who said:
“Let’s invite fun into schools again and allow our children to be really engaged in activities, play and pick up skills as they grow, instead of forcing them to sit and answer exam questions.”