AS a primary school teacher with over 27 years of experience, I was overjoyed to hear that the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) has been shelved. It is a move that is long overdue.
Over the years, I have seen the gradual but unmistakable shift in parents’ attitudes towards the Year Six examination. For many of them, the exam was the be-all and end-all. As a result, many parents unnecessarily pressured their children to perform well in it.
In other words, the parents were projecting their desires and ideas onto the minds of 12-year-olds. This was particularly telling as the exam neared – it was usually held around September. They would sign up their kids for “UPSR camps”, some of which are rah-rah sessions or money-making scams camouflaged as exam preparatory “seminars”.
These were wrong on two counts: It sent the wrong message to our children that grades are the be-all and end-all and it robbed children of the joy of studying. Do we honestly want our children to be “zombies” who ace exams by rote learning? Isn’t it more important for children at that age to develop social skills, or heighten their sense of curiosity that adds joy to what learning is all about?
Over the years I have seen how my students’ key developmental skills were impeded by the emphasis on the UPSR. When speaking, they don’t make eye contact, they don’t speak confidently, they are not as articulate as their seniors used to be and their interests in extracurricular activities have dimmed.
While the availability of gadgets like handphones or tablets is partly to be blamed, the over-emphasis on exams is another reason.
Imagine, many SJKCs used to hold extra classes after official hours ended for Year Six students. And many students would go for private tutoring after that. The physical, mental and emotional exhaustion for these kids who ought to be enjoying life could be crippling.
I am not saying that public examinations are not important. They are an integral part of education but there is no need to subject our children to unnecessary burden and stress that will impede their personal growth.
Exams like the SPM are still necessary. But for now, abolishing the UPSR is the right move and kudos to the Education Ministry for that!