HERE has been much debate on whether the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) and Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) examinations should be abolished, as proposed by the Education Ministry.
Some have argued that these exams should not be abolished as they serve as a means to select the best candidates for entry into boarding schools such as Mara Junior Science College (MRSM).
As an ex-MRSM alumnus, I am aware of Mara's abilities to select candidates for MRSM entry without the need for these exams.
Are there then special interests behind this opposition?
Invariably, one must consider that the special interests would be driven more by economics and not by concern about the impact on the quality of education.
There is much money involved in the retention of an exam-centric education system.
At least two areas of business in education would immediately suffer from the abolishing of the UPSR and PMR exams.
The first is the publishing sector. The demand for compilations of past year papers and revision books would vanish overnight.
Their concerns would be compounded by the fact that the past year papers' market is probably the most lucrative for them, seeing as little effort or cost would be needed to develop content!
The second business sector would be the private tuition sector.
Private tuition is now big business, with full-time tuition teachers being employed by full-fledged tuition companies, even franchises, specially focused on students scoring high grades in major exams.
As a parent, I have little care for the fate of these businesses, as long as my children gain more from any change in the education system.
However, I would be concerned if these businesses, or others that would be similarly affected by the abolishing of UPSR and PMR, end up exercising undue influence on the government's education policies.
All businesses are at the mercy of changes in government policy.
The right way for businesses to react is to predict the impact on customer demand and strive to turn the threats from such changes into opportunities.
Actually, rather than abolishing these two exams, I believe a better way to enhance the quality of public education is to simply improve the quality of our teachers.
Nevertheless, I suspect similar business interests would be quietly opposed even to that, as proper teaching at school would also potentially negate the need for past year papers or other supplementary teaching.
Such opposition would be irresponsible, not only in terms of business ethics, but also common morality, as surely the future of our children surpasses what many would see as common greed.
AKHRAMSYAH MUAMMAR UBAIDAH SANUSI
Source: NST Letters to Editor Saturday, July 31, 2010, 08.23 AM Examinations: Business interests at risk?