January 18th, 2016

More to life than exam grades

IN the second issue of stuff@school out tomorrow, we asked our teenage writers to reflect on their academic journey and our society’s grade-based culture. The following is one of the articles that stood out.

Published on Mondays, stuff@school is written by teenagers for teenagers. It is dedicated to current affairs, pop culture and short stories.

stuff@school’s teenage writers are participants of our year-long Starstruck! Young Writers programme.

To read more of their articles, sign up for stuff@school through school subscription of The Star. Or, call the toll free number 1-300-88-7827 (Mon to Fri) 9am to 5pm.

"Grade misconception: Tian Huey believes in working hard and achieving ones goals, but cautions against getting caught up with ones grades."

Visit www.stuffatschool.com.my for more information. Or, join our online teen community at www.facebook.com/stuffatschool.

THE notion that good grades equal a good life is largely adopted by many in this part of the world. It makes me wonder if these people care about how unhealthy this can be for a person’s mental growth.

On the contrary, the main concern for them is one’s mental capacity and ability to memorise and regurgitate knowledge.

Thankfully, I grew up in a family that does not believe in such a notion. We are a “try your best” kind of family.

I honestly think that good grades aren’t the most important thing in the world. Coming from a Chinese vernacular school, I have experienced the brunt of a grade-based culture.

If you were lucky enough to attend private schools with a Western-style of teaching, your journey into the world of education was probably not as harrowing as mine.

All I remember of my six years in the primary school are daily piles of homework impossible to finish before midnight, stressful exam days and strict no-nonsense teachers.

Of course, I’m writing from my own personal experience.

I grew apprehensive of the grade-based system. I did not have an eidetic memory like some of my classmates and I just was not an academic person.

I tried my best but still wasn’t up to par. I went about primary school with mediocre results, listening to the monotonous drone of teachers telling us we would not succeed without As.

This is why when I was enrolled in an international school, I had a mild culture shock. My classmates had all received enjoyable, constructive education that emphasised on growth in all aspects – not just academics.

Since then, I began to question our grade-based culture. Don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly believe in working hard and achieving goals, both academic and otherwise.

But it’s a different matter altogether when you get caught up with that letter that appears on your report card.

In the words of the brainy Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery.”

I used to think my grade defined my worth – that without an A, I was a lesser person. Everyone around me acted that way, so it rubbed off on me.

I used to be scared that I wouldn’t be successful in life just because I couldn’t get an A.

Teachers used that as a scare tactic and many of us believed them.

These days, my grades are the best they have ever been. I honestly feel that it is because I am studying things I genuinely enjoy and want to do well in.

There has to be more of an incentive to do well than just a grade.

Some people are just not the type to excel at school, and that’s okay. Some people are terrific in academics and that’s okay, too.

Being a terrible person is not okay, but getting a B is alright. Your success and worth cannot be determined by the grade you get.

To sum up, I agree that grades are somewhat important, but it is not all that matters.

See Tian Huey and 17 The STAR Home News Education 17 January 2016

How teachers see teacher assistants

IT was reported that the Education Ministry will be recruiting teacher assistants to relieve teachers of clerical, administrative and non-teaching duties.

I believe teachers will welcome this news. I chatted online with teachers to find out their views on this matter.

Here is what some of them said: “THE idea of teacher assistants has been discussed by policy-makers in the ministry for many years.

“My school follows this practice. A form teacher, for example, has another teacher as his assistant.

 “Two or three years ago, when I was a form teacher, I had an assistant form teacher. “I did everything a form teacher needed to do. The assistant only helped me to mark class attendance when I was not in school, but I was seldom away.

So, if the job specifications are not stated, it will make little difference.”

“I AM the school examination secretary.

If co-curricular activities are taken care of by non-academic staff, the burden on teachers will be reduced.
I key in passwords to access websites of examination-conducting bodies when I register candidates, and submit results of exams and other records.

“Confidentiality is important. So, I am advised not to allow my assistant to help me with this.

As a result, my assistant only takes care of the logistical part of exams.

I help him whenever we need to arrange the exam hall and classrooms.”

“I LIKE the way private colleges handle their co-curricular activities. It is run by other staff instead of academic staff or lecturers. That way, lecturers focus only on academic matters.

“In schools, however, teachers are trainers or coaches for sports, and instructors and judges in competitions. So, teachers ferry students to many activities.

Then, parents complain that teachers are not in class and that they have no choice but to send their children for tuition.

“If co-curricular activities are taken care of by non-academic staff, it will reduce the burden on teachers.”

Teachers want clear job specifications for teacher assistants.

Teachers know the constraints involved in certain tasks.

They hope to see a reorganisation and restructuring of co-curricular activities and responsibilities in school.

Teachers know best. It is wise to consider their views whenever we propose to carry out a school initiative.