I REFER to the report, “How far have we come since 1957” in the Malaysia Educational Blueprint supplement of The Star (Sept 12) where it was stated among other things that “International assessments suggest that Malaysian students’ performance is declining in absolute terms”.
The progressive decline in the academic performance of our students over the years (compared to international standards) was in no small measure due to the methodology of grading student performance in examination subjects — based on “National Average Grade” — i.e. on the average performance of students for the particular subject for that particular year.
If the performance of the candidates sitting for a subject in a particular year is good, then the National Average Grade for that year will similarly be high — as it is calculated after the grades are awarded to the subjects.
The grades obtained by say, a few students with the same level of knowledge of the subject, sitting for the examination of the same subject at different years will vary depending on the National Average Grade for the year in question.
On a year when the National Average Grade is high and most of the students achieve high academic standards in the subject, the grades obtained by the student in question will be low, and it will be high for the year when the National Average Grade is low.
The National Average Grade makes many students, parents and teachers happy with the results. However, as it is not a consistent and fixed indicator of the actual level of mastery of the subject achieved by a student, regardless of the year the student sat for the examination, it can lead to a gradual decline of academic standards and academic excellence.