MORAL and Islamic studies have been part of the national curriculum for primary and secondary schools for many decades. Both are core subjects assessed in the SPM examination and contribute towards the overall academic evaluation of the students.
One question that needs to be seriously asked, however, is whether it is essential to assess students for these subjects via the conventional examination process.
Having obtained A1 in Moral Studies in SPM more than a decade ago, I have to admit that I benefited little from the examination other than improving my memorising techniques.
It still does not make any sense to me how knowing the definitions of moral values or matching a situation with the correct moral values can transform a student to a noble person, which is supposed to be the aim of the subject.
Having to study multiple subjects, Moral Studies merely augments the stress of a student sitting for an examination. To make things worse, this subject has a rigid schematic approach when it comes to the examination, thus further defeating the purpose of the subject especially when open-mindedness happens to be one of the values taught.
Abolishing the Moral Studies examination might be a step in deviating from our current exam-oriented education system. The syllabus should be redesigned to include social work, reading inspiring biographies and watching videos/documentaries about self-discipline or history showing how morality affects humanity.
Instead of having a “dry” learning session, classrooms can be made more interactive by engaging students to discuss the motivation and inhibition they possess to instil moral values in their routine. In addition, students can be guided to keep a diary where they can note and monitor the moral values they have applied in their daily lives. These techniques can help the students to have a better connection with and personal experience of the moral values being taught, thereby achieving the purpose of Moral Studies.
As for Islamic studies, I may not be in the position to comment on how the classes are conducted since I’ve never attended one.
However, I would like to hear from my Muslim friends whether this subject should be an examination-based subject or just a core learning subject without the need for any assessment. Probably, the assessment can be an option for those interested, i.e. those who aspire to have a career in religion, while the rest can just focus on applying the Islamic principles that are being taught.
As knowing and learning are two different acts, examinations can only assess the former but not the latter, which is subjective in nature.
As such, having examination for Moral and Islamic studies, which essentially deal with attitude and application rather than the knowledge itself, has little value in intellectually shaping the students.
It is hoped the Education Ministry would come up with new approaches to enable students to reap the full benefits of the effort, time and money spent on these subjects. Dr Sathya Narayanan Patmanathan The STAR Home Opinion November 1, 2016