PUTRAJAYA, July 27 — Political parties and educationists want the UPSR and PMR public examinations retained, an Education Ministry dialogue was told today.
Representatives from political parties like DAP and MIC and non-governmental organisations such as the Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) and the United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia (Dong Zong) said that today’s meeting of about 40 representatives saw a chorus of reservation against abolishing the two public examinations.
“Majority do not agree to abolish both,” said Dong Zong representative Dr Lai Hoi Chaw today.
“Majority also thought this exam system has to be modified,” he added, (UPDATE) saying that creative content should be increased in the examination system.
Lai, the deputy director of the Malaysian Independent Chinese Secondary School Unified Examination Committee under Dong Zong, said that Dong Zong rejected the UPSR move until the government proposed a detailed alternative student assessment system.
“We do not agree to abolish UPSR immediately until we know more about the alternative formula,” Lai said, adding that the group would also decide on the matter of PMR when an alternative assessment system was proposed.
Lai also demanded for the school-based assessment proposal by Malaysia Examination Board director Datuk Dr Salbiah Ismail at the discussion today to be made public.
Salbiah’s proposal included creating an internal school assessment system and a guided methodology on how to conduct assessments up to the Form 5 SPM level, as well as implementing “psychometric tests” on students’ emotions and character, said DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua.
Pua said Salbiah’s proposal showed that the Education Ministry seemed to have decided to scrap the two public examinations even before talks were completed.
Education Director-General Tan Sri Alimuddin Mohd Dom said last week that a report on the roundtable discussions would be submitted to the Education Minister by the end of August.
The ministry’s first official roundtable discussion took place on July 19, and was attended by over 120 educators, district education officers and teachers’ unions representatives.
The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP), the Sarawak Teachers’ Union, the West Malaysia Malay Teachers’ Union, and education academics reportedly favoured replacing the two public examinations with school-based assessments.
However, PAGE chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said that her organisation favoured retaining the two public examinations because a school-based assessment system was open to abuse.
“If we were to rely on school-based assessment, it is subject to manipulation, leaks, favouritism. A national assessment is independent,” said Azimah.
“Most (in the discussion) were in favour of keeping both (examinations), but with the adjustments of making it better,” added Azimah, pointing out that the focus of the current examination system on rote should be replaced with more open-ended questions.
Academic Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Abdul Rahman Arshad also called for the rigid examination system to be revised instead of abolishing UPSR and PMR.
“We must change the nature of the exam. You don’t demolish everything,” said the University-College Sedaya International chancellor.
“A good number are for adjustments to be made,” added Abdul Rahman.
MIC representative Tan Sri Professor T. Marimuthu said that his party was against scrapping the UPSR and PMR examinations, citing concerns of a school-based assessment system that is open to abuse.
“We are concerned about teacher load and teacher bias in a school-based assessment,” said the MIC education committee chairman.
Marimuthu added that the MIC wanted UPSR especially to be retained and for the government to address the pressure faced by UPSR students.
“Any change must be based on informed research. I am not sure what research has been done on this,” said Marimuthu, adding that majority in the discussion wanted to retain the two public examinations.
The DAP is also against scrapping the UPSR and PMR examinations and claimed yesterday that students performed better when subjected to public examinations as shown by international research.
“If the government is insistent in proceeding, as it appears to be, to scrap the exams, do a pilot project first,” said Pua, adding that the government should compare those who took public examinations and those who did not after several years.
“The consequence of scrapping exams for the whole country at one go is a highly risky move. We call for the (Education) Ministry not to repeat the mistake of PPSMI,” said Pua, pointing out that Putrajaya had proceeded with implementing the policy of teaching science and mathematics in English despite public reservation but was forced to abolish it a few years later.