GOOD scores, no life skills. This has been the thrust of the Malaysian education system thus far, much to the detriment of the youth.
The exam-oriented education system distorts motivation and learning by overemphasising the importance of scores as outcomes and measures of students' abilities.
Students lack personality and creativity, and are not qualified enough to fulfil future careers. Heavy rote learning makes students tired of learning and in worst cases, some even develop psychological problems.
As a lecturer of a foundation programme, I teach Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia school-leavers and quite frankly, it is sad to witness the students' deterioration in thinking and solving problems.
The exam-based system grooms students to focus on extrinsic goals and task completion that finally results in excellent grades, minus the creative skills.
Being an educator, I find the exam-based system enables students to obtain knowledge quickly and secure perfect scores rapidly.
However, in my classes, students do not dare to talk with me because of the lack of confidence and intellect to justify arguments.
They are used to having blind faith in authority -- both teachers and textbooks. Research on academic motivation has shown that a focus on extrinsic goals such as exam scores and task completion undermines intrinsic motivation, interest and persistence.
The bane of it all is that graduates of an exam-oriented system are very dependent on their parents and teachers, and are not willing to do things themselves.
One core reason for having an exam-oriented system is the selection for university entrance. Therefore, what is needed is a more comprehensive selection mechanism.
First, we should concentrate on regular grades; all grades will be evaluated, including college entrance examinations. This long-term assessment will make students treat every exam seriously.
Secondly, if students are made to take college entrance examinations several times a year, it would avoid students playing below par.
Thirdly, use a continuous assessment system. Not only the score, but also all the abilities will be used to evaluate a student. This will help avoid instances of student scoring high grades but having low abilities.
The Malaysian government wants to nurture a workforce with comprehensive abilities but under the exam system, graduates who are good in exams will be chosen.
They will be unwilling to ask questions and provide advice as they have been groomed to obey others.
These graduates just concentrate on theories, but they do not know how to use them in reality. All these drawbacks cause "high score but less creativity", which will finally hinder Malaysia from becoming a true economic power.
By R. Murali Rajaratenam, Kuala Lumpur
Source: The News Straits Times Letters to the Editor 11 March 2012