Yes. Everyone despises exams. Teachers loathe exams (having the duty to mark a mountain of exam papers). Students detest exams (having to study interminably to ace an exam).
Parents worry about the results of exams (exams determine the future of their kids.) Recently, in the New Straits Times report, “When exam fever hits” (Nov 1), the word “exams” was defined by Dr Charis Geevarughese as the traditional way of evaluating the retention of information taught to students.
Of course, the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination is underway and, according to Cathie Wu in the report, the overemphasis on examination results have led to many children experiencing psychological disorders like panic attacks, heightened anxiety and depression.
She reiterated that Western countries focus on areas that interest their children, while in Malaysia, we just concentrate solely on examinations.
Thus, exams place considerable undue stress on students.
Many people doubt the effectiveness of an exam because it merely tests the rote learning of facts.
In the United Kingdom, students have to complete their GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) and Advanced Level (A Level) exams before pursuing their tertiary education.
In the United States, students are required to do well in their Scholastic Aptitude Test before proceeding to universities.
If Malaysian students think that sitting for the SPM is an ordeal, think again.
In Finland, students have to go through the Finnish Matriculation Examination before entering higher education. According to Amanda Ripley (an investigative journalist for The Times),
Finnish students have to brave three excruciating weeks doing their exams lasting 50 hours.
Teachers escort students to the toilet to ensure there is no cheating.
The Finnish language exam takes two days to complete.
On day one, students have to analyse several challenging texts and write short essays about each text in six hours.
On day two, students are required to write a single long essay in six hours.
Examples of the essay topic are, “Why is it difficult to achieve peace in the Middle East?”; “I blog, therefore, I am.”
Hence, the rigours of SPM pale in comparison with the Finnish exam.
The word “exam” is defined by the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English as a spoken or written test of knowledge.
Thus, an exam is a test.
In life, we face a wide variety of tests, be they exams or other things.
When a person is called by a would-be employer for an interview, it is a test of his or her ability to perform the job competently.
When you are called to give a speech to an audience, it is a test of your speaking proficiency to convince the audience.
Even when you mix around at a party, it is a test of your social graces.
You will fail the test at the party if you are not able to follow the social etiquette required by society. A test can be as traumatic as it is challenging.
Let’s face the reality in life.
We cannot run away from tests or exams in life.
The SPM is just a stepping stone to other tougher tests in life.
If our young students cannot handle the stress of the SPM, how can they cope with other daunting tasks or tests in life?
Many doubt the effectiveness of an exam because it merely tests the rote learning of facts.
Some experts even say we should forget memorisation and place emphasis on higher-order thinking skills.
But every creature cannot live without memory.
Imagine travelling in your car to your workplace and back home without the ability to recollect your memory of the route to and fro.
Imagine our students failing to recall the multiplication tables and having to do their advanced math in an exam.
Imagine your pet losing its memory of you as his master.
That would be a grim prospect.