DOES a perfect Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) score guarantee a student’s future and his/her ability to face the challenges of the world?
Of course, having a good CGPA score is crucial for students to get an award or a scholarship to further their studies or even to get an exemption for study loan, but does it guarantee a place in this competitive world, which demands more than academic excellence?
The hard-and-fast technical and theoretical knowledge students learn in the classroom is only a part of what’s necessary to land them a job. Today, employers are becoming more concerned with what they call the “skills gap” in graduates.
They’re concerned that the young generation does not have the necessary “soft skills” to meet demands in the workplace.
Although a strong background in traditional “hard skills”, such as writing, mathematics and science, will always have its place in academic and career worlds, an increasing number of employers are looking for prospective employees with “soft skills”.
Soft skills include the ability to adapt to changing environments and the willingness to learn through experience.
These are applicable across multiple disciplines and careers.
Soft skills cannot be learned through a single subject as many higher education institutions are trying to do; it is something that needs to be exposed at an early age by qualified facilitators, coupled with good parenting.
As such, it is important for our students to develop and master the soft skills in the early years at kindergarten and primary school before they enter secondary school, university or college.
Some of the soft skills that students should have are a pleasant personality, honesty and integrity, teamwork, communication and interpersonal skills, ability and creativity in problem-solving, time management and good leadership qualities.
The new integrated cumulative grading system proposed under the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2015-2025 (Higher Education) will assess academic performance, as well as values, community service and leadership qualities.
The integrated grading system is said to be able to create more marketable and competitive graduates. However, the system is new and it may take some time for the effects to be seen.
At the same time, all education sectors and stakeholders need to work together and develop comprehensive and effective plans to produce graduates with enough skills to face the harsh realities and challenges of the working world.
Learning is not about getting As
EXAMINATIONS occupy a central position in Malaysia’s education system. School examinations have been the subject of criticism over the years and the move to reform them has caught the attention of local educators and policymakers.
Pupils see them as a necessary evil — something unpleasant but tolerated — in order to move on to the next stage of their educational journey.
The ability of a young schooler is decided by an examination, where scoring As has long become their only aim, and also of their parents and schools.
Society expects students here to produce a string of As in every examination. The shocker of this year’s UPSR (Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah) results was that the number of As scored by our 12-year-olds dropped greatly when compared with last year’s figures.
Only 4,896 pupils scored straight As, or 1.11 per cent of the 452,721 pupils who sat the exam this year, as opposed to the 38,344 pupils who aced it under the previous format last year.
It was not just parents and their children who were shattered by the outcome, but teachers as well.
And now, Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid has announced that the decision on whether UPSR will be abolished and replaced with a school-based assessment system will be announced next year.
The timing of the announcement is surprising. It came right after the UPSR bombshell.
Apparently, the rationale for the reform is that Malaysia’s examination system needs to be on par with that of other countries which have switched to school-based assessments.
The ministry is looking at South Korea, Finland and France for ideas on how to implement it here.
Pupils’ psychometric skills, and co-curricular and academic achievements form the essentials of the school-based assessment approach.
The commotion over the recent UPSR results shows ignorance on the whole purpose of learning.
Collectively, we are responsible for the focus on exams. When a pupil scores As, he gets first-class treatment, but not so when he scores less. But, it is not necessarily true that those with As will be successful in life because no one can predict the harsh realities in the big bad world.
Yet, we choose to ignore this. The essence of education goes beyond performing well in examinations. Suffice to say that education is meant for the all-rounded development of a person.
For that reason, the education system must strive to make learning enjoyable. The present system forces teachers to spend most of their time assessing learning, rather than assisting learning so that the young will appreciate the pursuit of knowledge and understand what they learn.
To abolish UPSR so soon after a new format was introduced will only disrupt the learning process and invite new problems.
What needs to be done is to set realistic goals and move away from stressing straight As. If at all, there is a need to abolish UPSR, do so in stages and allow pupils and teachers time for the adjustment. The impact of a “rushed” decision will do more harm than good.