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Monday, March 15, 2010

Flaws of chasing As

THESE days each time the results of a public examination are released we are in a dilemma whether to congratulate students and their parents who did extremely well but fell short of the maximum As.

Students who scored eight or nine As in SPM do not seem to be happy at all. So are their parents who expect nothing less than the maximum 10 As. This is the result of our system that is purely examination-oriented with little or no emphasis on other factors for a wholesome education.

Although there has been a great deal of discussion to adopt a more holistic attitude towards education, no concrete measures have yet been implemented. In fact the Education Ministry’s implementation of the new grading system for SPM last year, whereby Grade A was further subdivided into three categories, namely A+, A and A-, may be counterproductive as now students and parents will be pushing to score not an A but an A+ in every subject.

The practice of listing top SPM students, which was stopped some years ago, seems to have come back this year when the ministry announced the top 10 scorers. The ministry may have its own reasons for doing so but many people are skeptical of its benefits.

According to the new grading system, A+ is awarded to those who scored more than 90% in the subject. From the statistics released, only 1.7% of the students obtained Grade A and only 0.05% Grade A+.

However hard we may push our children, less than 1% will obtain A+. The vast majority of average scorers are ignored in the midst of all the glorifying the handful of super-elite students.

We should not overlook this vast majority who obtained just average results and an equally large number who just managed to scrape through with a pass.

There are also many who failed their examinations miserably. How do we cope with these large number students who will also want to further their education in the limited number of places in institutions of higher learning?

Many of these students come from a humble background. They cannot afford the best tuition or special coaching. Their mediocre performance does not in any way reflect a lower level of intelligence.

We should not only sympathise with them but also go all out to encourage them by offering help and guidance.

It seems that all that matters in our education system is the number of As, whereas the personality and character of the person is irrelevant. Despite acknowledging these flaws, little is being done to correct it. There are calls from all quarters for reforms but these remain remote at present as the political will for change is lacking.

Until real change comes our students have no choice but to continue to strive for straight As and our schools remain as places to collect them and nothing more.

DR CHRIS ANTHONY,

Butterworth.

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