PETALING JAYA: Scrapping the centralised Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) exam is a positive move that will make learning fun again and lead to a more holistic development in children, say educationists.
Describing it as an “unnecessary” exam that has created a lot of stress for children, teachers and parents, Universiti Malaya Faculty of Education senior lecturer and teacher-trainer Dr Zuwati Hasim said UPSR was one of the daunting “high-stake exams” that primary pupils should not have to be burdened with.
“What is more important at primary level, ” she said, “is to develop interest in learning.
“Instead of having high-stake exams, we are better off ‘humanising’ assessments to ensure pupils and teachers benefit from the outcomes.
“Abolishing UPSR can lead to an environment that promotes continuous teaching and learning through the promotion of formative and summative assessments, ” she said, adding that school-based assessment (SBA) and classroombased assessment (CBA) were more beneficial than an exam-driven system.
Without UPSR, teachers will be able to focus more on teaching effectively, knowing the needs of their learners, and preparing teaching materials and lessons to help their pupils understand better, instead of just getting them ready for the exam.
Schools and teachers must be given more autonomy to decide on what is best for their learners in line with the curriculum.
Assessments could be standardised across state and zone levels, Zuwati said, but the workload of teachers must be reviewed if SBA and CBA were to be effectively implemented.
“Many parents are sceptical about SBA and CBA. They are afraid that there is bias involved when their children are being assessed.
“But teachers are professionals. There are various ways to eliminate bias, such as inter-rater marking, close parent-teacher collaboration where learning outcomes are regularly shared, and continuous teacher training, to ensure assessments are done objectively, ” she said.
Zuwati said mutual respect and open communication between parents and teachers was crucial in ensuring that assessments were done well.
“Parents should put their trust in teachers and teachers should be open to suggestions from parents, ” she said.
On April 28, Education Minister Datuk Dr Radzi Jidin announced that UPSR would be scrapped.
The move, he said, was part of the government’s plan to create an education system that did not focus on exams.
Implemented to test a pupil’s ability to read, write, perform basic arithmetic and reason, UPSR was a component of the Primary School Assessment Report (PPSR) which included classroom, psychometrics, physical activities, sports and co-curricular activities.
From now on, Year Six pupils will be evaluated through an enhanced SBA that has been practised since 2016, before they proceed to secondary school.
Universiti Utara Malaysia School of Education senior lecturer Dr Muhammad Noor Abdul Aziz called on parents to embrace the changes.
He said the current “examination mindset” did not support children who were lagging behind in their studies.
There have been numerous reports and incidents of pupils becoming stressed and depressed over exams.
Sadly, some even ended up harming themselves or ending their lives, he said.
“Years of being stuck in an exam-oriented system have taken a toll on many because children tend to compare their achievements against their peers.
“Exams make it seem like those who don’t score do not deserve to be in school. This could lead to dropout cases escalating.
“We should worry less about exams and more about whether learning is taking place in schools, ” he said.
He said the abolishment of UPSR should come as no surprise.
Muhammad Noor added that the national assessment in the primary schools started its paradigm shift when exams for schooling children aged seven to nine were abolished and SBA was introduced.
Teachers have since been trained to assess pupils in the classroom to reduce stress over exams.
“They have been trained and they are professionals. We should trust them to guide our children like how we trust doctors with their prescriptions.
“The ministry’s curriculum development division and the Examinations Syndicate have been continuously training and providing online resources for teachers to apply SBA in schools, ” he said.
SBA, he explained, referred to the assessment of pupils based on whether they were able to perform certain tasks rather than whether they could answer a set of standardised questions even when they were feeling under the weather.
“With SBA, pupil’s communication and collaborative skills, knowledge, creativity, confidence and characteristics can be gauged through projects, presentations, drama performances, experiments, journal entries, individual reports and portfolios, whereas exams only reflect their intellectual capabilities, ” he said, adding that SBA was more transparent and easy to understand.
The move to abolish UPSR gives teachers more autonomy and empowers our educators to bridge theory and practice.
Teachers, he added, were trained professionals and capable of producing pupils with values that were in line with the National Philosophy of Education.
Muhammad Noor urged parents to embrace the decision to scrap UPSR and allow our children to learn.
“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, ” he said.
Educationist Prof Tan Sri Dr T. Marimuthu said the education culture in the country was “very exam-oriented” and that it was important to change people’s outlook and attitude towards assessments.
He emphasised that exams were not the be-all and end-all of life and that going to school should be enjoyable instead of being burdened with exams.
Special education teacher Dr Muhamad Khairul Anuar Hussin said abolishing UPSR would allow pupils to develop and grow according to their respective needs and abilities.
“This is because every child is different and unique, ” he said.
By consistently leaning on exam grades and scores, he said pupils were stressed from filling their time with tuition and revisions.
“It robs them of their childhood. Having a standardised exam for special needs pupils isn’t fair either.
“Assessments are important but it is equally vital to see how it impacts pupils’ future holistically, especially special needs pupils who are more skills-based, ” Muhamad Khairul said.
Retired teacher Samuel Yesuiah JS Moses said the ministry’s decision should be applauded and welcomed.
“Pupils sit for six to eight papers depending on whether they are in national or vernacular schools.
“Even university students do not sit for so many papers in their term exams – imagine 12-year-olds doing it over a five-day period, ” he said.
He said the word “examination” itself conjured fear, anxiety and pressure even to adult learners.
“Exams take the joy out of learning. Teachers and parents were giving too much emphasis on UPSR – extra classes, workshops and countless mock exams were the norm.
“Some schools even use time periods for non-exam subjects like Art, Music and Physical Education to drill pupils on UPSR subjects.
“Even those in Years Four and Five were pressured to prepare for the exam as their results determine the key performance index of the schools and teachers, ” Samuel said, adding that SBA was a more comprehensive assessment of the child’s full potential.