Bring back previous system

For the first time: Students at SMK Ajil, Kuala Terengannu sitting for the PT3 exam last year. - File photo.

PT3 may not be the best way of gauging students in Form Three.

CHANGES to the country’s national education development plan resulted in the scrapping of the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR).

The exam was done away with in favour of the school-based assessment called the Pentaksiran Tingkatan Tiga or Form Three Assessment (PT3). A national exam based on the PT3 syllabus was held for the first time last year.

With that, students now face only two public exams in their 11 years of primary and secondary schooling – the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM).

The forerunners of PMR, the Sijil Rendah Pelajaran (SRP) and before that, the Lower Certificate of Education (LCE) were tough.

Failure in either of the exams meant pupils had to repeat or face elimination from school as they would not be promoted to Form Four.

This was seen to be harsh but necessary as academic standards had to be maintained.

These days, students are automatically promoted to Form Four regardless of their Form Three results.

Now with the abolition of PMR, pupils only sit for the UPSR before sitting for the SPM five years later.

Is this a wise decision? What is so bad or difficult about national exams that we want to limit them to only two?

Will we regret not testing students at mid-secondary level to help evaluate, control and improve performance of students?

PT3, is not the right substitute for Form Three students. It has only raised more questions.

Education is vital for a country’s progress and development.

A wrong education policy is bound to have negative repercussions on a nation’s workforce.

Such policies are also detrimental especially if academic standards are compromised.

School-leavers and fresh graduates who join the job market might have a rude awakening. Since they are products of a weak education system, they may lack the skills and competence of their peers.

Parents usually want to know how their children are faring at school. Their grades are important and are likely to be compared to that of students who’ve sat for national and international examinations.

It is also helpful as they can be streamed into the Arts or Sciences.

Let me reiterate that grades serve as a record of how students perform.

It also helps them on to the next level of the learning process.

National exams are also useful to teachers. The scores will tell them the areas they need to focus on. Exam results are also a powerful management tool for school principals to assess how different groups of students within the same age group or level perform.

This is in relation to their levels of attainment that may vary across subjects, performance of both male and female students and through ethnic backgrounds.

A principal may for instance use a national exam result on English to assess and measure the gap between male and female students in his school and compare that to the national average. He may then need to follow up with a review of the English text books and the methods of teaching, to stimulate greater interest in the subject among male pupils.

I am of the view that PT3 is certainly not the answer. Another exam, similar to the previous PMR system at mid-secondary school-level will perhaps be more relevant in determining a student’s academic path, be it in the arts or science stream.

  • The writer is a retired academic. He was previously attached to the Faculty of Business Management, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Shah Alam, Selangor. Email him at

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