UPSR scrapped: What now, parents ask

AFTER 30 years of having the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) as the main milestone of a student’s primary school completion, parents have understandable concerns about what will happen now that the exam has been abolished.

Out of 1,014 parents who responded to our recent survey, half of them thought that UPSR should remain.

Many felt that removing UPSR would take away an important end-goal which keeps students motivated to learn.

On the other hand, the 355 parent respondents who agreed with abolishing the UPSR believed that the decision would support children’s holistic development, while shifting away from the effects of an exam-oriented system such as teaching to the test and exam-related stress.

Fifteen percent of respondents were neutral but one question that was on everyone’s mind was: “How can we as parents measure our children’s progress without a standardised examination?”

Parents, school leaders, and teachers addressed this during a recent discussion on school-based assessments, which will be used as the main form of assessment now that UPSR has been removed.

School-based assessments (Pentaksiran Bilik Darjah, or PBD) was put in place by the Education Ministry has been carried out in schools since 2016.

PBD consists of ongoing assessments carried out throughout the year during teaching and learning to gain information about a student’s learning progress.

Teachers may assess students through observing their participation and evaluating their oral or written work during activities, projects, or presentations.

Students are then assigned a Performance Level between 1 to 6 to reflect their level of mastery of each learning unit.

Based on the ministry’s plans, the description of a child’s mastery as measured through school-based assessments is meant to be reported to parents twice a year.

Parents, however, are concerned about not knowing their child’s learning progress, revealing that there is a gap between the plan for school-based assessments on paper and its implementation on the ground.

In addition, there also seems to be a gap between what schools measure and what parents know about school-based assessments.

Need for clear communication

Overcoming these gaps will take proactive steps by everyone who has a crucial part to play in a child’s education:

— First and foremost, it is vital to have clear communication between parents or caregivers and schools on the implementation of school-based assessments;

— Parents should be well-informed of their rights to facilitate the implementation of teaching and learning in schools;

— Parental engagement and community empowerment must be established to ensure the long-term effectiveness of school-based assessments.

Taking these steps will call for schools, teachers, and parents to play an active role together. In some schools, effective engagement between parents and teachers has been carried out through a clear focus on communication and providing multiple opportunities for engagement.

Before the implementation of school-based assessments, schools may schedule a parental engagement session to explain more about it and how it will be implemented in classrooms.

Throughout the year, teachers and parents should maintain regular communication to keep parents informed of their child’s learning needs and progress. Schools should also ensure that parents are given a report from ongoing assessments at least twice a year with details of their child’s progress, strengths, and areas of improvement.

The role of parents

Trust and accountability between schools and parents are key in ensuring that children are assessed fairly, given appropriate learning targets, and receive effective learning support.

Both schools and parents have to recognise the roles and rights of parents, as stated in the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013 - 2025. Parents have the right to:

— Set their children’s learning target by working more closely with the teachers.— Provide feedback on the quality of teaching and learning experienced by their children.

— Provide input via Parent Teacher Associations (PIBG) to improve matters such as teacher and curriculum quality by being fully informed of the school’s current performance.

When parents are fully aware of these rights, they can play an important role in keeping schools accountable.

Raising the quality of education together

The goal of enabling all children to receive quality education relies on the whole school community. Key actors in our education system, from policymakers in the ministry to local education offices and schools, have a crucial role in proactively bridging the gap between schools and parents –especially in communities which do not have equal access to information and resources, or the ability to participate in education because of socioeconomic barriers.

More inquiry and discussions will need to be carried out to examine how our education system may ensure that school-based assessments are carried out to high standards in schools throughout the country, and how parents and communities regardless of socioeconomic background will be engaged equally based on their rights as stakeholders in education.

With that said, when parents and the community are empowered to provide valuable input and take action, this collective endeavour can go a long way in raising the quality of education within a community.

This period during the pandemic has shown both the necessity and the possibilities for what can be achieved by communities working together in the spirit of #kitajagakita – when those who are able to, extend their support for those who lack resources.

In the past year of school closures, we have seen many examples of local communities from Perlis to Sarawak working together to deliver learning packages, set up community learning hubs, or volunteering to teach so that children do not lose out on learning.Every parent, teacher, and community member plays an important role in the education of our children.

Clear communication between parents and schools, increased awareness of parental rights, and empowerment of the whole school community to get involved and work together, will steer us towards raising the quality of education for all our children.

BOLD Parents and MYReadersNon-governmental organisations

*BOLD Parents is a parent empowerment initiative that aims to improve and innovate education while MYReaders strives to ensure that every child is able to read.

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