22 June 2010

Too much pressure in Malaysian school system

So, that's what the Education Man is saying now.

There's the UPSR for Year 6, PMR for year 9 and SPM for year 11. And most everyone takes these exams oh so seriously! Even though when you think about it, who cares what you scored when you were 12 or 15 years old? Yet the amount of expectation and pressure piled onto our kids to excel in these exams are tremendous.

While our Education Ministry is now mulling the possibility of abolishing the UPSR and PMR, let me tell you about an interesting development in Perak in the public education system.

The Perak Education Department, or I am told it is the District Education Department for Kinta Utara, has in its exam-oriented wisdom decided to implement a "controlled-school" system. 17 primary schools in Ipoh have been given the privilege to be called controlled-schools, and with it the power from 2011 to demand that all students entering year 1 must possess satisfactiory mastery of the 3Ms (reading, writing and math). These controlled schools will require kindergartens to provide "report cards" for children wishing to enter the schools.

After entering the controlled school, the pressure cooker saga continues. The controlled school is empowered to remove students from the school if in Year 3, Year 4 or Year 5 the student does not achieve a Grae C (50% and above) for the core examinable subjects. This means that there is no certainty that a student can remain in his/ her chosen school after Year 3, as each year the controlled school will review the year-end exams, and the student may be asked to leave the school if his/ her results are not up to scratch.

Imagine the uncertainty, the pressure on primary school students to perform academically just to stay on in the school. Imagine the disruption to the child's education, not to mention his/ her social development and connection to friendships already developed from Year 1 to 3 should the student be compelled to leave the school. And not to forget, the label of being a "failure" and having to leave a controlled school to go to a "school for failures"!

So the Perak Education Department wants to segregate Ipoh schools into "brilliant schools" and "for the dumb ones"? I just don't see the rationale. And I sure hope the Perak Education Department did its homework, research, focus group discussions, invite feedback and opinion before it embarked on this insane education policy.

I also spoke to an officer in the Ministry of Education in Putrajaya about this matter, and guess what? Hey! It's ok, each state can do as it pleases with its education system. That's real united, uniformed and 1Malaysia, isn't it?