Mov­ing ed­u­ca­tion for­ward

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP - BY NUR ADILAH RAMLI

FOR some, if not most stu­dents, study­ing can be a daunt­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. What scares them is usu­ally the ex­am­i­na­tion, or more pre­cisely, their grades.

We have tried to shift from the pen-and­pa­per sys­tem to a more holis­tic sys­tem in mea­sur­ing stu­dents’ per­for­mance.

Ques­tions in ex­am­i­na­tions are also de­signed to chal­lenge stu­dents’ think­ing; for­mats such as Higher Or­der Think­ing Skills, aside from Crit­i­cal and Cre­ative Think­ing Skills are in­cor­po­rated into ex­am­i­na­tions to de­velop stu­dents’ think­ing. But the ques­tion is: are we do­ing it right?

Take, for ex­am­ple, our grad­ing sys­tem, which is ob­sessed with num­bers. Grades are highly val­ued as they de­ter­mine stu­dents’ study paths. In some schools, only stu­dents who score at least 7A’s for PMR (now PT3) can get into the Sci­ence stream.

Some stu­dents deemed as “qual­i­fied” to join the stream might not be ex­cited by it. The rest with fewer A’s but a grow­ing pas­sion for Sci­ence, on the other hand, have to try their luck in other streams, which might not ap­peal to them.

The be­lief in the cor­re­la­tion be­tween grades and the abil­ity to cope with stud­ies has cre­ated a sys­tem in which stu­dents are dic­tated what they should be learn­ing. We might kill the dreams of the next Zuri­nah Has­san, the next Chef Wan, or the next Lee Chong Wei, when we dis­cour­age stu­dents from chas­ing their dreams.

But I un­der­stand the worry that we might not have enough tal­ented peo­ple in crit­i­cal sec­tors if we do not push the stu­dents with po­ten­tial to fill the empty seats. While that is a le­git­i­mate con­cern, stu­dents’ in­ter­ests must be pri­ori­tised.

In one of my classes, my lec­turer talked about some of the re­forms that my univer­sity plans to ex­e­cute. In one plan, stu­dents are given the lib­erty to learn sub­jects across fac­ul­ties. For ex­am­ple, a med­i­cal stu­dent can study po­lit­i­cal sci­ence.

The re­form would en­cour­age stu­dents to learn what they like other than what is of­fered by their cour­ses. The plan has ac­tu­ally been in place, but the fol­low­ing re­form is what makes the dif­fer­ence.

Not only are stu­dents al­lowed to ven­ture into other cour­ses, they are also not re­quired to pass the sub­jects of the ad­di­tional cour­ses; it is only if they pass the sub­jects that their grades are recorded. I be­lieve that if we want to in­stil the learn­ing habit in stu­dents, we should di­vert the fo­cus from grades to the learn­ing process it­self.

Some would ar­gue that with­out grades, stu­dents’ per­for­mance can’t pos­si­bly be mea­sured. It’s true that grades, to a cer­tain ex­tent, re­flect stu­dents’ ca­pa­bil­ity, but mak­ing stu­dents achieve a cer­tain grade shouldn’t be the ob­jec­tive. As much as pos­si­ble, we should pro­vide the plat­form to stu­dents to show­case their tal­ents.

In another class, a lec­turer spoke about how classes should be con­ducted.

Stu­dents need to be asked stim­u­lat­ing ques­tions which move away from con­ven­tion­al­ity. The lec­turer nar­rated what another teacher did in her English class. She split her stu­dents into two groups based on gen­der. Both groups had to ar­gue about polygamy. Break­ing the stereo­type, the boys were as­signed to dis­cuss why they dis­agree and the girls to jus­tify their agree­ment with polygamy.

We do not have to con­fine a sub­ject within a text­book. English can be taught through the dis­cus­sion on polygamy; Maths can in­clude the study of hous­ing loans; Sci­ence can dis­cuss the is­sue of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion; Is­lamic Stud­ies can have dis­cus­sions on the sec­tar­ian di­vide be­tween Sunni and Shi’ite. At the end of the day, we want the stu­dents to think of is­sues of real con­cern.

Nur Adilah Ramli is study­ing English Lin­guis­tics and Lit­er­a­ture at the In­ter­na­tional Is­lamic Univer­sity Malaysia. Com­ments: let­ters@the­sundaily.com

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