THE high-level Education Revamp Committee will review and deliberate on nine areas in our education system.
"Curriculum and assessment" is one area. It is appropriate and right that they are grouped together for discourse purposes since they are very much intertwined.
Students' mastery of what is being taught to them (the curriculum) needs to be evaluated from time to time (the assessment).
The results of the assessment in turn influence the further development of the curriculum.
In this letter, it is intended to touch on two issues which I believe are dear to all educators and merit the attention of the committee.
Firstly, the practice of streaming students after Form 3 into Arts and Science needs a re-look. We should instead consider having a single General stream for all.
At this early stage of their education, students should be exposed to a more general and broader curriculum rather than a compartmentalised and narrow one.
Streaming them academically into Arts and Science should be done only in Form Six/Matriculation/Foundation classes.
Lest we fear that our Form Four and Five students may lose their edge in the pure sciences, we may take cognisance of the fact that much of the "preparatory materials for higher learning" now being taught to Form Four and Five pure science students can be carried forward to Form Six/Matriculation/Foundation science courses.
Moreover, the introduction phase of these courses always repeats or revises materials presently taught to the Form Four and Form Five pure sciences students.
On the other hand, Arts stream students need to learn more science than they are doing now.
All students in Form Four should go into a single General stream where the science syllabus is broader than the present science subjects in the Arts stream.
At the same time, the General stream science syllabus will be spared the "preparatory materials for higher learning" found in the present pure science syllabus. This way, everybody gets to learn enough science and there is still sufficient teaching-learning time left for other subjects.
With the General stream in place, students would be able to gain a better understanding of the different subjects before they make the decision to specialise.
With the impending abolition of the PMR (Penilaian Menengah Rendah) examination, the curriculum people in the ministry can begin to redesign and upgrade the whole curriculum and syllabus for secondary General Science from Form 1 to Form 5.
Secondly, the Education Ministry is set to introduce school-based assessment (SBA) at all levels of schooling.
It is a policy in the right direction and, therefore, should be supported. However, teachers must be assured of the practicality and effectiveness of SBA.
A prominent aspect of SBA is for students to carry out individual and/or group projects that culminate in report writing. This is part of the innovative approach to drive students to think creatively and critically.
If the subject specialists at the ministry plan separately for their subjects, the tendency is they will come up with each subject having its own requirement for projects and reports.
It results in students and teachers having a very heavy load of projects and reports to do and to supervise and assess respectively.
Ironically, this sheer abundance of projects or reports may be the very thing that would kill the zeal and interest for innovation and creativity in both students and teachers.
This may also lead to plagiarism and plenty of last-minute slipshod work just to complete the projects or reports before the school term closes.
Shouldn't projects or reports be across the curriculum?
I would propose that projects be optimally divided into three categories: languages-literature, sciences-mathematics and arts-humanities.
This way, a student needs only do at most three projects, either individually or in groups per school term or per school year.
This will make SBA practical and effective.
Let's work towards a common curriculum and an optimal assessment.