Moving education forward
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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