Creative and critical learning can be done at the primary school level if teachers are creative enough in their teaching. This can also include thinking skills that can lead to the discovery process and innovation among students.
Learning is fundamentally the discovering and understanding process of a subject matter taught. This is best done when students have passion for the subject.
The learning process is so unique that students can approach it in many ways. There is no single method of teaching or learning that could be applied to all students in any classroom set-up.
It varies, depending on the ability and the mental or cognitive processes of students and, fortunately, most teachers, are aware of this. Our brains are uniquely built in that individuals are differently tuned to the many types of teaching and learning processes.
Basically, students can have either more inclination for the arts or the sciences. There are some who have the aptitude for both.
We observe in the classroom that some students prefer to do things to discover and understand a pro cess. They understand, discover and learn through experimenting. This in itself is a learning process and involves the creative process of the mind. This creative process which is already innate in some students can, however, be further enhanced through proper support by teachers.
There are some students who prefer to do thorough reading before they can comprehend the subject matter. In most cases of this nature, they do rote learning out of fear of examinations. It’s only after the examination is over would they spend time thinking over what they have learnt or memorised. At the end of the day, they are still able to understand what they have memorised. It just takes a little longer for them to realise the importance of studying in a creative and critical manner.
We also observe students who are rather quiet in class – less interactive, but attentive. These students should not be penalised as they learn the subject in a passive manner but they are still able to discover something at the end of the lesson. Their creative and thinking processes are actually at work, although it is done in a reclusive manner.
There are also students who are eloquent and are able to express themselves well in class but when it comes to expressing their thoughts in writing or doing things in the practical sense, they fumble. On the contrary, there are many who cannot speak well or are rather shy to do so but can express well in the written form. In both cases the creative process is still at work, and learning has actually taken place.
So let’s not be obsessed with all the learning and teaching theories we have been exposed to while being trained as teachers. A good teacher should be judicious enough to understand the various ways students learn and should accept these variations among learners. Teachers should not penalise students just because they approach learning in different ways or insist that students must follow the type of learning the teacher is familiar with.
FROM an educational viewpoint, allowing teachers to be actively involved in politics is a very bad move.
First and foremost, teachers are government servants. Their duty is to serve the government of the day.
There is now a large number of graduate teachers and many of them are in primary schools. This means they can be found in the remotest of schools in Sabah and Sarawak. If they are not there yet, they could be posted there.
The Chief Secretary said at one time teachers had played an important role as community leaders in the political scenario. Their numbers are large; most of them live within or close to the communities in which they work.
Among the rural people, teachers are still a respected lot and can influence them.
Teachers in politics will spend much time politicking with the hope of getting rewards at the end of the day, e.g. promotions.
Obliged to return a good turn, politician-teachers could get promoted into positions they do not deserve due to lack of merit in their professional duties.
All these happened in the past when "teachers played an important role as community leaders in the political scenario". The education system would lose out. Do we want a repeat of history?
Will teachers be allowed to be active in opposition politics? What would happen to teachers in "sensitive" areas, e.g. rural Sarawak, who are inclined towards the opposition?
Will school heads who have political leanings towards one or the other parties tolerate teachers in their schools who have the opposite leanings?
Where will these politician-teachers be during election season -- giving ceramah and neglecting school duties with impunity or spending more time in the schools to the chagrin of their political masters?
For the National Union of the Teaching Profession not to see the wood for the trees and support the move is very short-sighted.
The secretary-general's view that the voice of teachers on issues would be heard more at the political level and that they should be given the opportunity to play a constructive role in politics is not acceptable.
It is the teachers' unions that should be having dialogues, seminars, etc, with their members and experts in the field on issues such as the public exams issue and then make representations to the government.
However, unions today seem to be averse to doing serious studies on issues and making strong, expert representations to the government.
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.