UPSR (Primary school assessment test) was abolished for good after the Education Minister took into consideration views expressed by various stakeholders such as parents, teachers, students as well as unions and associations during meetings held nationwide, “Education Minister: UPSR exams to be abolished; PT3 is cancelled this year” (The Star, April 28).
One of the obvious benefits of the abolition is restoring the fun of learning to primary school pupils, especially those in Year 6 who usually feel a certain level of anxiety come September when the exam is held, “Abolishing the exam can bring back the joy of learning” (The Star, May 3) and “Making learning fun again” (The Star, May 5).
But the pupils’ resilience and diligence should be maintained lest they become lackadaisical in their acquisition of knowledge. To do this, school-based assessments of the pupils’ progress at every level of their studies must be judiciously implemented. Continuous evaluation would provide valuable feedback on the pupils’ strengths and weaknesses before they progress to their next stage of learning.
It would also provide schools with a benchmark for the performance of their learners.
Currently, evaluating the progress of pupils is challenging as lessons are disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many schools, including primary schools, are closed when Covid-19 cases are detected, and lessons have to be conducted online, where learning depends on having sufficient gadgets and access to the Internet.
So, the distribution of 150,000 gadgets to 500 schools by the Education Ministry must be expedited for B40 or low-income families and students in schools in remote areas.
Competency in Bahasa Malaysia for pupils in vernacular schools, particularly in Year 5 and 6, is crucial as it determines whether they can progress to Form 1 or stay back and do an extra year in transitional or Remove Class (Kelas Peralihan).
Currently, learning three languages – BM, English and mother tongue – takes up almost half of the pupils’ learning sessions. Each session lasts 30 minutes. There is precious time left to learn the other nine or more subjects weekly.
Priority should be on the learning of BM at Year 5 and 6, as the minimum grade, D, in both comprehension (pemahaman) and writing (penulisan) is a prerequisite for enrolment in Form 1.
Learning time for other subjects besides Science and Mathematics should be reduced and more opportunities be given to mastering BM, as pupils are generally poor in this subject when compared to their counterparts in national schools.
The emphasis on BM should be extended beyond UPSR.
The transitional phase from using Mandarin in primary school to BM in secondary school has generally been tough for some 80% or more of students who chose to continue their education in public secondary schools.
To sum up, learning in the last two years of primary school should prioritise mastery of BM and fewer subjects should be taught. Civics, Moral Education, Art and History could perhaps be combined into a single subject similar to Amalan Bahasa Malaysia in Remove Class that comprises Mathematics, Science, History and Geography. This would allow students to have fun learning and acquiring knowledge at their own pace in a conducive environment.
TING LIAN LEE