MOST adults in this country have undergone the British education system where written exams and assessments are mandatory. This practice was deemed the only way a student could be tested and evaluated to allow progression to the next level before culminating in the student’s graduation.
However, in the present scenario, with lockdowns and online teaching and learning, I believe there is an urgent need to re-evaluate mandatory standardised written tests and move towards assessments based on project work.
After being an educator for 17 years, I have come to realise that assessing a student’s performance based solely on written exams is archaic. Our education system’s focus now should be on “preparing kids for life”. Hence, assessments based on project work is the logical way forward.
Take Finland, for example: it has no mandated standardised tests in its education system, apart from one exam when students reach the end of secondary school. And by world standards, Finland’s school system is very successful.
I am very aware that such a major shift in Malaysia’s education policy in the short- or medium- term may be near impossible and would mean going back to the drawing board. But it is possible in the long term, perhaps under the next Malaysia Education Blueprint beyond 2025 if the authorities take the first step now in realising this goal.
In chapter seven of the current blueprint (2013-2025), under “System’s structure”, there’s already a roadmap creating multiple pathways through waves one to three which could allow for a gradual transition from a focus on written exams to a greater emphasis on project work. Our students should gradually move on to doing more project work assessments compared with written exams.
The Cambridge IGCSE’s (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) Global Perspectives O Level subject assesses students based on 65% project work and 35% written work.
I find students are less stressed and eager to perform tasks with this approach. Doing project work on relevant topics exposes students to critical thinking skills such as research, analytical work, goal-setting and drawing conclusions among others.
The Education Ministry could work on this approach while engaging with the relevant stakeholders such as the National Union of Teaching Profession, parents’ groups, other teachers’ organisations and various academic groups and personalities to draw upon their expertise before embarking on this approach.
MICHAEL S. ANTHONY